Action This Day: A WW2 Short Story Collection

Mia Roe

A new collection from Aspects of History features some of the best novelists writing about the Second World War.
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As the coronation of Charles III approaches, Action This Day ploughs us back into a time of risk, uncertainty and unthinkable steaks. The era of the Second World War might’ve been rife with struggle, but there was more than just that; individual stories, people, humour, murder, mystery.. With bestselling authors across the genre including Deborah Swift and Mark Ellis, this collection culminates in seven different stories, each with their own texture and richness. The hook is in the title; gripping plots and dynamic characters, readers are given not just action, but high and intricate drama.

Timothy Ashby opens the collection and what he begins with is ghosts. The war might be over in his story ‘A Warrior’s Return’, but for Special Agent Seth Armitage, a man haunted by the ghost of his father, the horrors of the past are still very much alive. Ashby’s piece really warms to the sentimental, Seth beginning his story as a boy, a posthumous child to his missing father and newly orphaned after his mother’s death. With delicate and melancholic language, Seth’s ghostly sighting is both haunting and heartfelt, the lingering shadow of grief staining each one of his childhood retrospect’s. Ashby strikes the heart of painful nostalgia and for readers with their own grief or stories of familial loss, this piece will certainly offer a stroke of empathy.

Action This Day offers both temporal and spacial variety, as Matthew Willis takes to the seas on the HMS Eagle in ‘PQ18’, Alex Gerlis whirls us around Post-war Leeds, wartime London and Bedford in ‘River Trent-Bridge’. The fusion of land, sea and air are what defines this collection, forging the British nation as an equally united and divided front. In the country’s time of strength, there was also a sense of fear, and this is best demonstrated in Deborah Swift’s ‘The Secret Listener’. Though a piece more for the romantically inclined reader, ‘The Secret Listener’ doesn’t shy away from its action. Employed as an interceptor for Nazi radio transmissions, Jim is young and cautious of what the world has become. Courting a girl whose paranoia leads her to think him a Nazi himself, Swift also channels the threats that lay upon our own soil. Alan Bardos’ Lies, Damned Lies and Misinformation is an amusing pre-war espionage tale which is gripping as Hitler causes chaos around Europe.

Swift gives a boyishness to the glorification of wartime duty and this theme is carried by Allan Martin in his work ‘The Bridge of Siebenhausern’. Following a boyhood of lavish wartime stories and the life of a grandfather in the Highland Light Infantry, a now grown man travels to Estonia and learns the truth about these fictitious stories of war. Martin doesn’t seek to speak for the oppressed in this piece and allows those with harrowing memories to display themselves with power. Despite all locations and characters being fiction, Martin’s implementation of his own personal history is what brings this piece into a higher reality.

What this collection achieves so brilliantly in so few stories is that total spectrum of human experience. At a time of such unrest, morality was imbalanced and where the characters of these narratives feel ethereal, they’re also intrinsic to us in the modern day. Many readers who still carry the pang of such a heavy and memorable time, this collection brings up both the good and the bad. Superbly written for an influential read, Action This Day brings us back to the beginning of the modern world.

Action This Day is out now and has stories from Timothy Ashby, Alan Bardos, Mark Ellis, Alex Gerlis, Allan Martin, Deborah Swift and Matthew Willis.