Downing has written a series of novels about Jack McColl, a spy working for his Majesty’s Secret Service during World War One. One Man’s Flag is the second in this series and picks up McColl when he is working in India for the British government.
In the first book, McColl meets and falls in love with Caitlin Hanley, an American-Irish journalist looking to make a name for herself during a period of momentous events including the First World War, as well as the planning and initiating of an Irish revolution against Great Britain. That book ends with Miss Hanley’s brother thwarted when involved with Irish separatists by her lover, Jack McColl.
McColl’s supervisor sends him to Ireland to look into the probability of an uprising during a period when England is involved in a major war with Germany. Jack and Caitlin, of course, meet again and find that their love continues, especially when it comes out that McColl made an attempt to help Caitilin’s brother escape.
Their adventures are recreated using an extremely well researched knowledge of events and places that existed during the period. Caitlin uses her American citizenship to visit Germany as a neutral, and actually gains her way very close to the front lines. It is her opinion, (and obviously that of David Downing,) that the people were very much with the military and the soldiers, feeling that their cause was the right one.
Her postings from the war zone assure her of success as a journalist. McColl, on the other hand, takes a trip to visit his brother who is serving on the western front in Europe. Downing, through the avenue of McColl, states the opinion that England had a cadre of incompetent officers leading their army. They tossed away lives by ordering massive charges against artillery and machine guns. And if the first charge failed, they would simply order another one. The comment is made that the loss of life approximated 5000 men a day, resulting in a stalemate of monumental proportions. Both sides worked to entice the United States to enter the war on their side and this second book ends at the end of 1916, with the widening war soon to include America.
Downing’s books are very clearly tailored to bring out the probable thoughts and opinions of an era now a century away from us. I have no doubt that these novels will allow readers to sympathize with people living and acting in those days.
11/15 Paul Lane
ONE MAN’S FLAG by David Downing. Soho Crime; First Edition edition (November 3, 2015). ISBN 978-1616952709. 384p.