Literary Review: W. A. Harbinson - One Thing To Know
Paperback Cover - Iconic Voices

W. A. Harbinson

Iconic Voices

Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform / W. A. Harbinson, 2012/10/31

ISBN-10: 1479318957
ISBN-13: 978-1479318957

Paperback, 538 pages
Dim: 20.3 x 13.3 x 3.1 cm

Also av. as a Kindle e-book

Available from:

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Date Reviewed:


One Thing To Know

A highly ambitious war novel on a truly epic scale, One Thing To Know is best-selling author W. A. Harbinson's first work, re-published after long and undeserved years out of print, and under the author's original title. It was first published by Corgi Books, London, under the title Instruments Of Death in 1973, and in the US as None But The Damned by Pinnacle. At the time, it received some rave reviews. Robin Moore, the author of The French Connection, hailed it as 'The greatest war novel since Mailer's The Naked and the Dead.' A foreword details its interesting history.

The first draft of One Thing To Know was completed when the author was at the tender age of twenty-one. Having had no direct experience of WWII - the author was barely four years old when it finished - the novel is meticulously researched. It reveals a maturity and emotional insight well beyond the author's age.

The story of one Johnny Ramsden, a soldier, and his dubious best friend Beatty forms the main vehicle through which the story unfolds, though we also get to see the war from the civilian side through the eyes of Ramsden's family and others. The epic unfolds from the eve of the war to its bitter end and immediate aftermath.

Already in this first work, Harbinson's mastery of story telling is abundantly evident and makes for delightfully riveting, if often uncomfortable, reading. Few of the characters survive as likeable, although one can empathise with most of them. War is ugly, and Harbinson makes no attempt to disguise this or euphemise it or the effects it has on people in any way. He is brutally honest.

This is not the story of some clean-cut 'Pvt. Ryan' singularly, single-handedly winning the war Hollywood style. Far from it. One Thing To Know is the story of one soldier and of the many, of people caught up in a terrible, ugly, brutal war, told 'down and dirty' as it ought to be told.

In spite of its epic scale and length, I found it impossible to put One Thing To Know down and felt completely compelled to read it beginning to end in one roller-coaster ride of a session. It is a remarkable, and remarkably mature, work, and one that will bear and receive repeated reading.

It is a great pity that W. A. Harbinson's One Thing To Know has been out of print for so long, and a doubly great delight that it is available once again. Surely, a 'must read' at every level. I am decidedly with Moore, except to add that probably it also was, so far, the last true great war novel. A phenomenal work, and a phenomenal read.

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