Sailor captures frontline hardships in first novel

Author LS David McColl. Photo by Corporal (Cpl) Mélani Girard, CFSU(O) Imaging Services

Author LS David McColl. Photo by Corporal (Cpl) Mélani Girard, CFSU(O) Imaging Services

Sara Keddy, Aurora Newspaper ~

A First World War battlefield is the backdrop to a historical fiction book written by Leading Seaman David McColl, an intelligence operator at Canadian Forces Intelligence and Command headquarters in Ottawa.

The “Shadow of Vimy” follows Thomas Kirby, a lieutenant in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, as he pursues an escaped German prisoner through the French countryside. It is the first in his planned eight book series.

His desire to pen a book about the historical conflict began after he visited Ypres in Belgium. He was amazed with the Belgians’ care of war cemeteries dedicated to Canadians, Australians, French and British. In 2012, when the Canadian Mint released the Frontier Series of bills featuring the Vimy national monument, LS McColl felt the silhouette wasn’t as well recognized as it should be.

“I realized we were losing knowledge of those experiences – and it is so unfair to the memory of the people who made a contribution,” he says.

A great reader of historical fiction himself and with the urge to write, LS McColl shaped his book with the philosophy that “people like to learn while they are being entertained.”

“You’re allowed a certain amount of liberty with fiction, but you’re constrained by actual history. You can create characters with that leeway, but there is always the major worry, ‘How would this come across to people who have all the facts and research?’”

LS McColl feels he captured the “big story” of the battle, and his main character’s “small story” brings to light what war was like for one man.

His research led him to family diaries, letters home from the front, public broadcasting documentaries, battlefield tour operators and museum curators. He also credits much of his research to Canadian historians and authors Pierre Berton and Norm Christie for their extensive war storytelling.

About the “Shadow of Vimy”

It is 1917 and the men of the Canadian Corps have gathered together, all four divisions for the first time since the war began, to assault the formidable German fortress of Vimy Ridge.

After two years of intense fighting, neither the French nor the British have been able to oust the entrenched Germans, and Field Marshal Haig has turned to the only men he believes stands a chance of taking the ridge from them: the Canadians.

Thomas Kirby is a Lieutenant in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, a veteran of the war since the bloody fields of Ypres. He is aided by his trusted sergeant, American volunteer Frank Bennett, and together they wait in the shadow of Vimy Ridge.

When a dangerous German prisoner escapes with the aid of a traitor, Lt Kirby leads a manhunt to apprehend him before he can return to German lines with vital information, which could spell doom for the upcoming Canadian offensive.

It is a story of murder and betrayal set among the mud, blood and carnage of the Great War, where, in the shadow of Vimy Ridge, a nation waits to be born.

Shadow of Vimy is available in paperback and e-book format from Amazon/ Kindle. Proceeds from sales will support the Vimy Ridge Foundation, Wounded Warriors Canada, Soldier On and the Royal Canadian Legion.

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