editor's choice



Gosh, hats off to the Imperial War Museum for great publishing with the wartime classics series. We’ve already reviewed two of the four novels being republished by the IWM this month. Now, with great pleasure, we’ve become acquainted with Anthony Quayle’s very fine and highly entertaining adventure Eight Hours to England. Based on Quayle’s own experiences of serving with the SOE (Special Operations Executive) during the Second World War (1939–45), the book is largely set in Albania where heart-bruised protagonist Major John Overton is sent to help the rebels fighting the occupying Nazi forces.

Essentially this is a boys-own adventure, informed by the author’s personal experience and knowledge of the Albania operation, forces and landscape – and fuelled by Quayle’s innate sense of drama. It’s riveting reading, Overton and the cast of characters drawn vividly, in that realist, caught in the moment style that’s made wonderful Alistair MacLean so popular. He also wrote with first-hand knowledge of the war – and actor Quayle later appeared in the film version of MacLean’s The Guns of Navarone, set in war-torn neighbouring Greece.

To be frank, I probably would have liked this book based on sentiment alone: Quayle was a regular visitor to my childhood home via the big screen in such film classics as Ice Cold in Alex, Dial M for Murder, oh, and as a stellar Cardinal Wolsey in Anne of the Thousand Days. But the truth of it is Quayle can write. I’m not sure why that comes as a surprise – many of today actors, musicians, artists regularly crossover to write fiction, and novelists vice-versa – and yet, somehow, it does. Certainly, there is a pleasure in Quayle having lived the roles he later played in the theatre and on film. It just seems … right.

Read this book because it’s a great insight into Albania’s experience of this world war and its strategic importance at the time. Read it if you enjoy the thrill of a finely written war adventure. Or read it just because you’re an Anthony Quayle fan. Whatever your reason, it’s worth it: it’s a damn fine book.



Eight Hours from England | Anthony Quayle | paperback | £8.99 | Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics  | September  2019 |

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From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron. Based on Baron’s own experiences during the Second World War. He was a widely acclaimed author and screenwriter. This was his first novel.




Trial by Battle by David Piper. An authentic depiction of the claustrophobia of jungle warfare in Malaya. Based on Piper’s time serving with the Indian Army in Malaya, where he was captured by the Japanese and spent three years as a POW. Highly acclaimed by William Boyd, VS Naipaul and Frank Kermode, among others. Piper was director of the National Portrait Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.




Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle. A candid account of SOE operations in occupied Europe. During the Second World War, he was a Special Operations Executive behind enemy lines in Albania. Quayle was a renowned actor and filmmaker.






Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt. A murder mystery about opportunism and the black market set against the backdrop of London during the Blitz.  Hewitt was a British author and playwright who wrote more than 20 novels in her lifetime.





Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Anne Cater, as always, and to the publisher for sending a review copy and jacket image. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.


Also of interest:Only Remembered edited by Michael Morpurgo’; ‘Karl Tearney’s healing a “torn mind”‘; ‘Mary Monro’s Stranger in My Heart‘; ‘’Lisa Ko’s The Leavers’; ‘20 books this summer challenge‘; ‘We should all be feminists’; How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original Penguin Ten’; ‘Book covers we love – Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday’.


This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.



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