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Retired General Richard Shirreff’s novel title spells it out clearly enough: War With Russia, and anyone looking for literary value should look somewhere else, but the qualities of the novel that make it compelling are Shirreff’s pedigree and an adventure story set in an all-too plausible future.
Sherriff is a retired former second in command of NATO in Europe, so the threat he is warning us about is believable given the knowledge he has. In a world filled with tragic immigration stories in the Mediterranean and war in Iraq and Syria, the Russian threat has been flying somewhat low on the radar. Shirreff believes NATO is underprepared for a real threat of invasion of the Baltics, and to judge by the rearming of the Sweden’s island of Gotland and the placement of Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, he is not misguided in raising the alarm.
As to the novel itself it is an action-filled imaginative version of what that war might look like. It has classic heroes and dastardly but clever villains, as well as mind-numbing technical details about warplanes, missiles, and communications systems. This may sound like faint praise, but the drive of an action story should not be underestimated. Despite the novel’s flaws, I could not put it down.
So how real is the Russian threat? I attended lectures at the Munk International Centre last summer just before the NATO summit in Poland. Canada’s ambassador to NATO as well as the former American ambassador to Ukraine were both convinced NATO has to rise its strength in order to meet a real Russian danger.
Given the American president-elect’s recent coolness toward NATO, it remains to be seen whether that will happen. The novel describes a situation that comes perilously close to nuclear war, and that’s a potential problem that should hold everyone’s attention.
On September 25, The Word on The Street festival is being held at Harbourfront in Toronto and Kim Moritsugu and I will be hosting a day of talks by writers with new books as well as publishing industry professionals.
On September 29, I’ll be running a creative writing talk and introducing new and established writers from the west end of Toronto at The Assembly Hall. The event is free.
During the last week of October, The Humber School for Writers will hold a workshop inside IFOA, and on Wednesday, October 26, I will host a twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of the school along with prominent alumni and writing teachers.
As for November and December, I’ll proof the Galleys of my forthcoming memoir, The Barefoot Bing Caller, due out in May, and polish up a novel called Provisionally Yours, a project I have been working on for years.