27 September 2016

Guest Post by Bram Connolly, author of The Fighting Season about reading and military fiction

Author Bram Connolly
Today's guest post is from Bram Connolly, author of The Fighting Season where he takes the reader deep into an authentic world of high-intensity combat few have experienced. Having served in the Australian Army for 20 years, he knows firsthand about war, mateship, violence and survival.

Here Bram Connolly explores how the realities of war are portrayed in books, the nature of military fiction, and how reading gave him a tactical advantage. Over to you Bram.

The very first book I can remember being given to read was Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. Written in 1820, this book sparked my interest in early British history. Thinking back, it was also when I realised that an author could take a reader on a journey. The images that played out in my head had been conveyed by someone in a different place and time. This concept of time travel for the reader forms the basis of how I write now.

It would be safe to say that English was the only subject I took seriously at school. There were some great books on the reading list: Animal Farm and 1984 (George Orwell), The Call of the Wild (Jack London), and All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque). The fact that I still joined the Army after reading All Quiet on the Western Front proves that its brutal lessons were lost on me. I came to understand the realities of war some twenty years later.

In my last few years in the military, the operational tempo increased. The imperative was for me to read books that directly supported my main goal: winning on the battlefield and bringing my soldiers home. The following books were crucial in my development as a Special Forces officer.

1. The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahedeen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War by Lester W. Grau 
This is mandatory reading because history does repeat. Understanding how the Mujahedeen operated and learning about what the Russians endured was crucial in knowing how the Taliban would respond to us being there too. Grau has written over a hundred academic papers and his research was thorough and probing. It’s safe to say that this book gave me an advantage tactically on the battlefield.

2. On Killing and On Combat by LTCOL Dave Grossman
These two books are essential reading for any leader who intends to take men in to battle. The psychology of how to kill is important to understand, but conversely the psychology of dealing with men after they have killed is crucial for their long term wellbeing. These books served as the basis for the lessons I developed to help inoculate my soldiers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Time will tell if it was effective. As a platoon we went to great lengths to ensure we discussed the events that took place on the battlefield and to contextualise the actions we had to take in order to survive.

These books have influenced how I go about my business now.

Finally, I believe there are two types of stories in the genre of military fiction. Both have their place and I am not espousing one over the other; that’s up to the reader’s taste or mood at any one time.

First, there is the escapism of well-written and well-researched second-hand accounts created in the mind of the author. This style of book is full of Hollywood explosions, complex combat scenes where everything and anything is possible and the characters are designed to be loved and loathed. Then there is authentic military fiction that brings intimate knowledge about the tactics, weapons and explosive effects and raises questions of morality. This is witnessed truth, raw and realistic. 

Given my military background coupled with my area of academic study, I see the latter style of authentic military storytelling as my responsibility. The books that I have read in the past, some that I still treasure, have been a major influence in how I now go about this.

Happy reading,

Bram Connolly
(Click here to read an excerpt of The Fighting Season).

Author Bio
Bram Connolly joined the Australian Army as a seventeen year old and rose through the ranks to retire from Special Forces as a Major in 2011. In a distinguished twenty-year career (over fifteen years in Special Forces) Bram was deployed to Somalia, East Timor (twice) and Afghanistan (twice). In 1997 Bram was selected on Australia’s first course for service as a commando. In 2002 he was selected on the first course run for domestic counter terrorism outside of the Special Air Service Regiment. He spent five years as an operator in the Tactical Assault Group and was the Officer in Charge of Selection for Special Forces before departing from service life. Bram was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for leadership in battle in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Bram Connolly is now a writer and stay-at-home dad to his two sons and recently completed a Bachelor’s degree in international relations, majoring in societies and peace studies. He lives in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates where his wife works as a human resources executive for a global company.

Would you like to comment?

  1. Enjoyed this read. Thankyou. I'm not sure I'm ready for another military read just yet as I've gone through a few these last few months, but I will add to my list. I always find it interesting to read what authors have been a reading,don't you?

  2. Thanks May, I love finding out what authors have been reading too. Glad you enjoyed the post.


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