Thunder in the Distance




Late nineteenth century Britain gave few breaks for those born poor and of low social standing.

So it was for Fynn Armstrong the youngest of six children born to croft farmers in the Scottish town of Perth on the River Tay. He elects to change his dismal life options and visits the local recruitment centre for the Black Watch Highland Regiment and signs up for duty in the Second Anglo Boer War.

It could result in his death, or it could be his ticket to a life of opportunity and adventure in Africa.

In the next five years Fynn Armstrong experiences the loneliness and danger of being a sniper in the Drakensberg Mountains, a hunger on a large cattle ranch in the Tuli Block of Bechuanaland, and facing-off against a powerful Ndebele chief in the Matopos Hills of Rhodesia.

A rite of passage.


Without doubt, this the 20th book from the pen of local author Peter Cleary, tops all those that have come before.

Perhaps this is logical from a ‘practice makes perfect’ point of view, but there is no question that, from every aspect of the book, this is a winner.

I had the privilege of getting an early read of the electronic version, pre-printing, and should have said then that this book will change Peter’s status from being a great South African story-teller to being an internationally-respected author.

Whether the reader lives in Scotland – the birthplace of the novel’s hero – or South Africa or Zimbabwe, where most of the action takes places (or any other country for that matter), this is a great read.

Peter’s characters and plots are ever more credible. With ideas born of personal experience from his boyhood and plenty of dogged research, the pitch is perfect.

But, importantly, the historical and geographical facts don’t intrude on the story telling.

It’s an easy read, despite the many details and nuances that colour the narrative.

The book moves at a rollicking pace; it’s one that’s hard to put down, even at the midnight hour.

With a Peter Cleary book, you don’t merely get entertained, you also get educated and forced to reflect on life in general.

Attempting to condense Thunder in the Distance into a review would do it a disservice.

It needs to be bought, read, digested and appreciated.

Dave Savides – Zululand Observer