Where Eagles Dare Not Perch

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War makes victims. It destroys lives, home, societies, and hope. War also makes monsters. Out of the pool of ordinary humans damaged and destabilized by the horrors of armed conflict rise creatures so twisted, they compound the hell of war and become instruments of torment in their own right. It is these man-made monstrosities that populate Where Eagles Dare Not Perch, Peter Bridgford’s devastating account of a triangle of northern neighbors during the American Civil War.

Zachary Webster wasn’t always a ruthless killer. Before the war, he was a brother, a son, a young man with a local sweetheart. By the time he comes home on soldier leave and commits a cold-blooded crime, he has become so savage as to be barely human. His act sets in motion parallel quests by his estranged girlfriend and his victim’s brother. As all three traverse the battlefield that is their America, they encounter one monster after another, people committing acts of such unthinkable depravity as to scar them and their society for generations.

This is war at the primal, individual level. Many war stories document the torn relationships of war, the loss of loved ones and interruption and formation of connections. Others highlight the scoreboard of battlefield wins, political advantage, and pre-war ideologies. Bridgford’s story goes deeper, probing the erosion of individuals’ humanity. He shows the unspeakable acts that war-stricken people commit in pursuit of their own survival and opportunism. He offers a tragic view of the feral cruelty that festers when war demolishes expectations of decency.

This is a hard book to read. Characters suffer at the hands of others in graphic, horrific ways most peace-time people have never considered. Good and innocent citizens, shielded at first from war’s realities, fall victim to those who faced cruelty sooner. Yet the message of war’s impact, that political decisions made in the halls of power trickle down the food chain to the devastation of souls, is essential. It takes a courageous pen to present war at its most basic human pain points, to expose the animalistic default that suffering produces in otherwise civilized people.

The ultimate question is whether goodness persists and if redemption can be found after such thorough dehumanization. Can heroes trudge alongside the damned? Can individuals retain or recapture enough hope to function once more in civilized society? Bridgford is a realist, but also, in the end, an optimist. Among his tortured souls do walk heroes, saviors, believers, healers, lovers, and survivors. Reconstruction is more complex than new buildings and revitalized economies. But with the same fortitude that leads some of the war’s victims to outlive its horrors comes the strength to move forward and build new post-war lives.

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Author Peter Bridgford
Star Count 4/5
Format Trade
Page Count 344 pages
Publisher Black Rose Writing
Publish Date 2018-Jul-26
ISBN 9781684331079
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue September 2018
Category Historical Fiction
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