First published: Cassell, 1942
The third of Bush’s wartime detective stories, following TCOT Murdered Major (1941) and Kidnapped Colonel (1942). This one is set in a Home Guard training school. The ‘Fighting Soldier’ is Captain Mortar, a swaggering Pistol of a man, broad shouldered and bull necked. Although Travers likes him, the ‘professionals’ detest him, and tempers rage. Someone sabotages a Northover projector with chewing gum, nearly killing Mortar with a Mills bomb; another instructor is almost blown up; finally murder. The puzzle isn’t Bush’s strongest, but Fighting Soldier provides an entertaining picture of camp life.
Notable also for its strongly democratic sentiments – a sense that class distinctions should be irrelevant, and we’re all in this together.
- Wharton: “Damn all their blasted snobbery! I’m a democrat, that’s what I am. This is the people’s war; not made for the benefit of a few goddam brass-hats.”
- People of what they are pleased to call my class have often regarded me as eccentric because I hate convention; but convention, to my mind, is only an outward and visible sign of snobbery and class distinction.
- Thank God, I am not cursed with intellectual arrogance; men, not brains, birth, and breeding, are the things that matter more than ever.
- There, I thought, went a visible witness to the virtues of democracy. Those 250 men, of ages from under 20 to anything up to 70, drawn from every trade and profession and represented by every social class, showed what free people were prepared to do in their own defence. Those 250 were the representatives of 250 towns, villages, and hamlets, in each of which was a Home Guard battalion or company or humble platoon, ready for Hitler if ever he came.
- Colonel Topman (Camp Commandant): “Well, between ourselves, Government influence. This Labour element, you know. Lacking in discipline, and full of intrigue.” What could one say to a man like that? A war on, and his rule of measurement was still the dear old Conservative Party.
Times Literary Supplement (Maurice Willson Disher, 19th December 1942): Misgivings may be felt when Mr. Bush begins another of his series of military murders with similar characters in similar settings. Sooner or later the trick, we fear, will give itself away. But all chess problems bring the same dramatis personæ upon the self-same scene: the lack of irrelevant variety enhances the skill in the handling of the plot. So with The Case of the Fighting Soldier. Travers is now posted to a Home Guard school where a member of the staff (called “fighting” because he has always led an unquiet life) is killed, and Wharton comes from Scotland Yard to investigate. Like the Murdered Major and the Kidnapped Colonel? Yes, but whoever puts this book down unfinished is no true crime enthusiast.