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-Book review by Dr.Claude Shema-Rutagengwa

Backazimuth, by Mike Smith (US)


50 Years, 100 Peace & Conflict Perspectives, by Johan GaltungBackazimuth brings army life in Saudi Arabia to life, as we read the first person account of a humble and self-effacing Major Slade. Normally drunk and just getting by in army life, in Saudi Arabia he cannot drink and is confronting realities of his life and career. In this way Backazimuth becomes an honest probing of an officer’s mind, putting a human face on stereotypes of army leadership and war.

The opening chapters offer vivid portrayals of soldiers and fellow officers, and set the backdrop for Mike Smith’s story. For example, we sense the amazing background of the Saudi desert, where army travel was by the desired azimuth setting, not by public road. Later Slade is called upon to comfort and affirm a fearful officer who comes to him for help before a major offensive.

Like Green Mile or Heart of Darkness, the opening prepares the reader for the main story, In this case, that of Major Slade, written on a series of army journals purloined for him by his driver. Unlike the Green Mile, however, the story shifts between the present (in which Slade writes in the journals) and the past (high adventure entries he is making in the journals interspersed with memories from Slade’s difficult home life as a boy) and an occasional dream.

I heartily recommend Backazimuth for any reader desiring a true glimpse of military leadership. Of course, its character analysis doesn’t describe that of every officer, but it helps the sensitive reader to understand the mix that drives a man in the intense pressure of war.

- Review by Bruce Cook, PhD

Backazimuth: A Novel is available for sale online at and other channels.   

About the Author
Mike Smith, a graduate of West Point, served as an Army combat engineer during Operation Desert Storm. He has lived on posts throughout the United States and has been stationed in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Smith retired from the Army in 1995 to work in the defense industry. The father of four, he currently resides in Fredericksburg with his wife.
Mike Smith                                                                                                                   
Phone:             (443) 280-2194

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