I shared a post on Instagram featuring the Selous Scouts. I hadn’t known too much about them and was happy to receive a message from a friend. He had tons of books about the Selous Scouts and was happy to send me a box full for me to read. Jackpot. They arrived and I had a look at all the titles, none of which I had come across before.
The Inside Story of the Selous Scouts
Assignment Selous Scouts – Inside Story of a Rhodesian Special Branch Officer by Jim Parker was the first one I grabbed to read. The book is 344 pages and follows author Jim Parker as he goes through his time in Special Branch Selous Scouts during the Rhodesian Bush War.
I quit reading this book after about 90 pages.
At the start of the book, Parker explains the political situation in Rhodesia at the time and he just lost me. I have no prior knowledge of the political parties and leaders and just couldn’t face picking the book up again after I put it down. It was abbreviation after abbreviation. Just a few that he keeps referring to many times over the course of a page are ZANLA, ZANU, ZANU-PF, ZAPU, ZIPA, ZIPRA, ZANA and ZNP.
Add to these the names of the major players involved with hard to pronounce names when you’re crap at reading long names like me and flipping between the above and getting buried with names like Raphael Chinyanganya and Dakarai Badza was too much. Two small excerpts are below.
Smith attempted to establish a declaration of unity among the main black political factions of Abel Muzorewa’s UANC, James Chikerema’s FROLIZI, ZANU and ZAPU.
It was no secret that Kenneth Kaunda favoured ZAPU over ZANU and that he disliked ZANU’s chief representative in Lusaka, Herbert Chitepo. Josiah Tongogara, the commander of ZANLA forces, was also based in Lusaka and Kaunda didn’t think much of him either.
It was paragraph after paragraph of new long names and abbreviated political parties and even if I drew out my own mind map to try and understand how they were all linked I think I would have failed to understand it. I fought through it though and tried to work further into the book. I made it, and after around 70 pages Parker starts telling the stories of the war.
One thing I realised was that most of the abbreviated parties that confused the hell out of me aren’t even mentioned in the book after a while!
It is only ZANLA that they were fighting against (up to the point I read anyway) and it just made me think why spend so long explaining a complicated history? I think the history could have been massively simplified.
Anyway, I got past that and started focussing on the fighting that occurred. The first few events made a bit of interesting reading as I thought I could make a go of the book. But then after a while, I realised that there were no feelings about the events. This may be because of his police background but the events were written like a Wikipedia page. Just what happened and how many died. When I read a book I want to feel like I’m in the battle with them, I want to feel the suspense of not knowing if the enemy wins or loses this battle.
There was nothing about the people, the feelings, the pain, the relief, just a list of facts really. Half the time I was reading about an attack and checked the map to understand it better, like how far they had travelled into enemy territory but on many occasions, the places he was mentioning weren’t even labelled on the maps the author had put into the book.
Overall I think I could have probably stuck with it if I didn’t have over a thousand books to potentially read. Parker did give some good factual explanations of the attacks from the part I read but the book didn’t grip me. I like it when I pick it up and read even half a page whenever I can (like with Sniper One) because it’s so good and Assignment Selous Scouts just didn’t do it for me.
There’s not enough time to fight through books you’re not enjoying so I called it a day on this one.