Beersheba and “God’s Work”

Paul Daley (see previous post) wrote an interesting historical account of the Beersheba charge in today’s Guardian, which includes the following observation:

The charge, coincidentally, narrowly preceded the British war cabinet’s proclamation of the Balfour declaration in support of a Jewish state in Palestine. Such was the alignment of these pivotal moments in Middle East – and global – history that some evangelists and Christian Zionists have claimed that the light horsemen were somehow doing “God’s work” in re-establishing a Jewish homeland, as biblically prophesied.

This has always seemed utterly fanciful to me. While some horsemen certainly knew of the places they were traversing (Nazareth, Jerusalem, Bethlehem) from the Bible, there was nothing to suggest in the hundreds of letters and diaries I’ve read that any saw themselves as actively doing God’s work.


I find Daley’s view expressed in the above quote is extremely naïve.

It doesn’t surprise me that the participants would have no idea of what role they may have been playing in God’s purposes and their ignorance of it can’t be offered as evidence of the claim’s lack of validity. Man’s knowledge and complicity aren’t determining factors of truth.

Mankind increasingly sees history in political and cultural terms, driven only by man’s decisions and actions, that the future is in our own hands, governed by our own choices. Any thought of God or any Divine intentions are mostly ignored or ridiculed.

Even many who acknowledge God’s reality tend to sideline Him, making God more of a spectator than someone with an active interest in His creation. They overlook the possibility that he may actual have a very defined purpose in mind for this world and its inhabitants, and that man’s actions will not and can not change that ultimate purpose. Instead, God is more than capable of using any of mankind’s actions (including the evils of war) to move towards His purposes being realised.



As I wrote elsewhere:

Mankind wasn’t driven along an unavoidable predestined path to war. War came about through choices, freely made by sinful mankind. The extent of man’s sin was displayed in the horrific acts committed and the resulting conditions arising from those acts; some of which I’ve described quite graphically in an earlier post.

God did not cause or ordain those acts, but He was more than able to USE those acts to further His purposes. He is more than willing to give mankind over to the consequences of our own choices, and will even give us a helping hand in achieving or obtaining what we’ve chosen in place of Him. (refer Romans 1:24-32 and 2 Thess 2:11-12)

What mankind meant for evil, God could turn around for His good, to move a few steps towards the fulfilment of His eternal plans.



Beersheba, by Paul Daley

This was originally posted two years ago.

I thought it was worth reposting to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the event covered in the book.


BeershebaOn 31st October 1917, the Australian Light Horse played a significant role in the capture of Beersheba from Turkish Ottoman control. Paul Daley looks at a variety of views of the Beersheba battle and the Light Horse charge in his book Beersheba. The book’s subtitle “A journey through Australia’s forgotten war”, reflects the general national ignorance of this part of Australian military history.

The final assault leading to the capture of the small town and its wells was an unorthodox horseback charge across open ground towards the Turkish defensive trenches. A charge of that type was not the usual Light Horse tactic. They generally acted as horse born infantry, riding to a battleground, where they dismounted, leaving their horses in the care of a designated handler, and then acted as infantry on foot.

In the charge at Beersheba they remained mounted, and relied on their horses to get them to the trenches where they would engage the enemy in brutal hand to hand combat.

The_Lighthorsemen_DVDThe 1987 film The Lighthorsemen, based on the charge at Beersheba, shows the Turkish troops being thrown into confusion by the audacity of the Light Horsemens’ action. Expecting them to dismount as usual, the Turks were taken by surprise, making it difficult to set the range of their artillery and rifle sights.

Daley is a journalist, not a historian, so he takes a much more personal approach to his subject, visiting the sites associated with the battle and combining his own experience of the place with his historical research as well as investigating how others today have been influenced by the events of almost a century ago.

Those other people include:
Joe Hockey, the treasurer in the current Australian government, whose Armenian grandfather had the task of rebuilding Beersheba after the war.

Businessman Richard Pratt who financed the Park of the Australian Soldier outside of modern Beersheba to commemorate the Anzac role in the battle.

And Kelvin Crombie who at the time of Daley’s book was an Australian long-time resident of Israel. Crombie has a strong belief that the battle of Beersheba and the subsequent Anzac involvement that removed Palestine from centuries of Ottoman rule was part of a Divine plan that led to the re-establishment of Israel as a nation 30 years later. He notes that the victory was won on the same day that the Balfour Declaration was announced, promising Jews a homeland in Palestine.

Apart from the Beersheba battle itself, Daley also uncovers a less glorious aspect of Anzac history, a post war revenge attack on an Arab village in which many of the male villagers were murdered as a reprisal for the killing of a New Zealand soldier by an Arab in the nearby military camp.

Beersheba was a turning point and was followed by a chain of victories that led on to the surrender of Jerusalem to British forces, then on to Damascus in Syria and the eventual, overall surrender of the Ottoman Turks at the end of October 1918. Less than two weeks later, four years of war ended with the armistice declared on 11 November.

Australian Light Horsemen, and the view from the Mount of Olives

Australian Light Horsemen, and the view from the Mount of Olives

A Face in the Crowd, Lynda La Plante

A Face in the Crowd is the second story in the Prime Suspect series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison and is more or less a “novelisation” of  the TV episodes.

I saw the TV version first and found the book was a very straight, unembellished retelling of a murder investigation that is complicated by racism, both real and assumed. When workmen discover a plastic wrapped body, buried behind the house where they’ve been working, racial politics, exploited by vested interests lead investigators to conflicting conclusions and tragedy before the truth emerges.

I read it at this particular time because I wanted something relatively un-taxing that I knew I could read quickly. All of the Lynda La Plante books I’ve read so far have been “page turners” so I was confident this one would be too, and would give me something I could easily get through in a day or two, this book being shorter than the others I’ve read.

While it served the purpose mentioned above, overall it was a disappointing reading experience, adding nothing to what was told in its original screen format, apart from reminding me of its intriguing story . Someone who hasn’t seen the TV show in recent years might appreciate the book more than I did. However there’s quite an interesting preface to the book in which La Plante writes briefly about her involvement with the Prime Suspect series.

I still have a few more of La Plante’s Anna Travis series left to read, as well as the three Prime Suspect prequels featuring the younger Jane Tennison. The latter also has a TV association. The first book Tennison being adapted into the TV series (Prime Suspect 1973) that set me on my first steps into the world of crime fiction. In that case, with the book being written before the series, I’m confident of a much more rewarding read than with the book featured above.




Broadchurch: series 1

The TV series Broadchurch has been something I’d thought about watching for some time, and my recent journey into crime fiction finally brought an end to my procrastination.

I’m glad I finally made the time to watch it.

When the body of a young boy is found on its beach, the small community of Broadchurch has to face up to its unpleasant secrets. But will the truth be found before the community self-destructs, and could the truth lead to more pain than the inhabitants could imagine?

Beautifully filmed, brilliantly acted and a very atmospheric musical score.

Here is the haunting song from the credits.

Beyond the show itself, there are some interesting links to the long running, iconic British TV series Doctor Who.

Chris Chibnall the creator and writer of Broadchurch starts his tenure as Doctor Who’s new showrunner with it’s next series. But the links between Broadchurch and Doctor Who extend beyond Chibnall.
Broadchurch featured three actors who have (or will) play the title character of the Doctor: David Tennant (10th Doctor), David Bradley will feature as the returning first Doctor in the 2017 Christmas special, and of course Jodi Whittaker is the well-publicised 13th (and first female incarnation) replacing Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor.

Additionally Arthur Darville played Rory, one of the Doctor’s companions, during the tenure of the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) and Olivia Colman played a small role in the 11th Doctor’s  first episode.

Colman was also rumoured to be a contender for the role of the 13th Doctor, prior to the official news that her fellow Broadchurch cast member had been given the role.

Steven Dunne: The Reaper, and Writing a Novel

Steven Dunne is another author who locates his work in Derbyshire.

Previously I posted a video of Sarah Ward and Stephen Booth talking about their work. Those two writers set their stories in the rural north of Derbyshire, Dunne uses the city of Derby itself.

During my childhood I lived in the south of the county, about 15 miles from Derby. Trips to the city were rare. My specific memories are vague and they either centre on shopping trips or the area around the Baseball Ground, the former home of the Derby County football team, where I was taken many times on Saturday afternoons.

As for the north of the county, I recall two day trips where we ended up at Matlock Bath. The original destination had been Buxton, but navigation was never my dad’s strong point. Often we set out for one place only to arrive somewhere unexpected.
While we didn’t get to the place we intended, at least I got to see a lot of the countryside.

reaperI’ve just finished Dunne’s first book The Reaper, originally self-published, the book was eventually picked up by a major publisher.

Detective Inspector Damen Brook is an outcast within his department.  When the on duty Detective is called out to investigate a murder, Brook is the on-call officer called upon when a second murder is reported on the same night.

Brook finds  a murder scene that seems far too similar to those he’s witnessed in the past when he worked in London; the work of a serial killer Brook had named “The Reaper”.

Is this case related? If so why has the Reaper reappeared and why has he seemingly followed Brook to a new city?

The novel switches back and forth between Brook’s current investigations and his memories of the earlier cases, looking for the links between present and past, hoping to find proof of The Reaper’s identity.

The opening of the book was quite unpleasant, starting with a young, highly unlikable teenage boy, with a foul mouth and even fouler mind. A boy well on his way to being formed in his father’s image, living with the belief that women are good for only one thing.

I found this beginning had an unpleasant harshness that thankfully didn’t carry thorough the book, but it plays its part in establishing an important character and setting up the circumstances of approaching crimes.

Skimming through reviews on-line, I found a lot of mixed feelings about the book, but none that were overly unfavourable. Most found the book enjoyable but flawed, recognisable as an author’s first; and I agree. My feelings about it were also mixed. I found it mostly compelling, with a few unexpected twists, but I also found that one or two aspects of it made its main character, Brook, hard to empathise with, and I wonder whether he’s someone I really want to spend more time with. However, as I’ve already bought the follow up story, The Disciple, I’ll have to give him an opportunity to prove me wrong and win me over.


As this “Out of Shadows” blog site was originally intended to encourage me to regain my own writing ambitions (to date an unfruitful intention), I’ll add the following link to Steven Dunne’s blog where access is given to a four part series of article on “Writing a novel” The link also gives access to an interesting radio interview with Dunne.


The question Steven gets asked most often is: how do you write a novel and get it published?

There’s no easy answer and all novelists have their own way of working, but in the series of articles [at the link] below, Steven talks about the challenges and pitfalls he faced as he sought to get his first novel, Reaper, published.

Murders “close to home”

My recent venture into crime fiction got me thinking about some close to home, real life murders. Two were events that I recall from my childhood even though what I’ve known about them has been minimal. Over the past few days I’ve looked around for details of those events.

The first led to me getting “the talk” – the one telling me to never get into anyone’s car without my parents knowledge. At the time children had been abducted, murdered and dumped in Cannock Chase, a location about 25 miles from where I lived.

In 1969, [Raymond] Morris was found guilty of the murder of Christine Darby, from Walsall, following the discovery of her body on Cannock Chase.

The youngster’s abduction two years earlier followed the disappearance of two other girls – Margaret Reynolds, six, from Birmingham, and Diane Tift, five, from Bloxwich, West Midlands.

All three had been abducted, raped and murdered before being buried on the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Full article here:


The second became news not long before my family brought me to the other side of the world in 1971. I recall reports of a skull (or a head) being discovered on an island in the river, at Burton-on-Trent, my birth town. For years I wondered whether it had been a murder victim or maybe an archaeological find.

Again, I looked up some details and found the case had recently made the news again thanks to a BBC true crime show. It had been a murder. There wasn’t merely a head/skull, but a complete body, bound hand and foot.

The case has remained unsolved and the victim unidentified for 46 years. The recent report I found suggests that a tentative identity has been found.

The case of how a naked man’s body was found on an island in the River Trent, off Newton Road, in Winshill, on March 27, 1971, has baffled police for more than four decades. Today, Tuesday, June 26, police have announced they think the man was John Henry Jones, who went missing from his home in North Wales in 1970.

Full article here:


The third case dates back about three decades. The body of a young woman in my then home city was found, partially dismembered to make identification difficult.

Her identity was discovered and a man was charged and convicted of the murder. This particular case had some personal connections. A close friend worked with the victim’s father. My dad worked with the man convicted of the murder. And a family friend discovered part of the girls body while he was walking his dog.

Several years later, the murderer was released from jail after a surprisingly short sentence (considering the brutality of the killing) and he walked past me in a local department store. That man is now on a police most-wanted list for other crimes committed after his release – there are occasional sightings reported in the press.–killer-and-drug-trafficker-graham-gene-potter-on-the-run/news-story/8e5ccd5b876c5f0bcbb30b8f2b878e29


Derbyshire Crime Writing

I found this to be a very interesting video, presented by two crime writers whose work is set in Derbyshire, my home county in England.

Unfortunately there are some strange interruptions that cut the flow of the talk, and some apparent jumps that seem to repeat parts of what’s already been said.  It seems like someone made a mess of editing –  a topic will be interrupted and a new topic starts, but then later another jump seems to return the talk back to the previously interrupted topic.

But apart from those infrequent annoyances, there’s a lot of interesting content covering a variety of relevant topics, from writing, reading, history, landscape and folklore .

The Beautiful but Deadly North with Sarah Ward and Stephen Booth

Sarah Ward’s website:

Stephen Booth’s website:

Clean Cut, by Lynda La Plante

Lynda La Plante writes strong, straight forward, compelling narratives that concentrate on one or two primary characters. Her style possibly reflects her background in popular TV crime drama.

While her plots have a good share of twists and turns, there is nothing complicated about her writing. I’ve previously described her books as “a page turning roller coaster ride” and that is a big part of why they appeal to me. I’ve found the “ride” starts pretty much from the very beginning of each story and I’m reluctant to get off until I reach the end. Other commitments may mean that I have to put the book down from time to time, but I’ll pick it up again as soon as I can.

My reading of La Plante has mostly been her series about Anna Travis, a detective inspector with a tendency to take her own path during murder investigations, almost compulsively following her intuition to follow up leads even when warned against doing so by her superiors.
One of those superiors is James Langton, a man with whom Travis has a complicated and difficult work (and personal) relationship. In the first book of the series, Above Suspicion, Langton is responsible for giving Travis her introduction to the murder squad to help track down a serial killer, and he assumes the role of her mentor. This book brings increased tension between them and leads to a place where trust between the two seems permanently damaged.

At the beginning of Clean Cut Langton is seriously injured in a vicious machete attack while investigating the murder of a young woman. If he survives it seems likely he’ll have to leave the police force on medical grounds, a possibility he refuses to accept, and so he pushes himself to prove his fitness, motivated in part by the desire to find the man who almost killed him.

People trafficking, voodoo and gruesome killings mix with both departmental and national politics in this book, with the latter tending to jar a bit within the story. I found repeated diatribes against illegal immigrants and lax parole practices, were handled clumsily. While they were relevant to the cases being investigated, the way they were addressed seemed forced and unnatural, not fitting into the story’s flow.

Another part I had a problem with was a statement from a confessed rapist and murderer, “You know, you people think rape is about sex. Of course sex comes into it, but you know what it’s really about? Power.”
While I see the truth in the statement (I once heard a friend who was rape victim say the same thing, that rape was about power and not sex), I wasn’t convinced by such philosophising coming from a rapist himself, or at least with the way it was presented within the context of the story.

These two personal quibbles make me see this book as the weakest of those I’ve read so far. I’m now most of the way through the next of the series and so far haven’t seen a repeat of anything like those problems in my current book (Deadly Intent)

My ongoing journey into crime fiction started with one foot striding in the direction of La Plante followed by the other stepping towards Ann Cleeves. At the moment my reading has become a figurative hop while I’ve stayed with La Plante, wanting nothing more than a driving narrative about a familiar few characters; but I’m eager to return to Cleeves soon, to enjoy her deep richness of character and setting in addition to her compelling story telling.