Last Orders at the Changamire Arms, by Robin Walker, is a peculiar book to have been published in the second decade of the 21st century.
It comes with good credentials. On the back cover is stated: “This very day, coming charging towards the presses like a rhino heading for the last croissant, is a book by Robin Walker. Robin is Tom Sharpe mixed with a dose of Montgomery of Alamein and lightly drizzled with essence of Alexander McCall Smith.” Tom Sharpe, perhaps, McCall Smith, no, not as gentle or humorous as that excellent author.
Walker was a DC in Rhodesia during the 1970s, and this book tells some of his experiences in and around Mount Darwin during the Bush War. But his book could just as easily be based in WWII, such are its old fashioned perspectives. He calls various people ‘tits’ or ‘wankers’, and just about everyone appears incompetent. One character who features for a while goes missing for hours on end on various occasions. This is eventually explained thus – “…we discovered where Patrick had been all those times we lost him. Up in his attic were tin lids full of cigar stubs, bottles of empty whisky, and a shop load of cowboy books.” Yes, apparently that’s how peculiar men spent their time in 70s Rhodesia – reading cowboy books.
I’m afraid I didn’t find this book humorous. Maybe I missed the whole point – and it might be that it is cleverly and deliberately written in the style of an old-fashioned, politically incorrect, cursing colonial boor by a perfectly mannered, good natured man, and the humour comes in laughing at the main character, rather than with him, but even then I wouldn’t find it very funny.
One can imagine Walker recounting past events to friends late in the evening, after a sherry, a steak, some claret and then a port, and the friends saying something like, “I say old chap. You should write a book with all these stories.” But I would think that they would have been more enjoyable as verbal accounts.
From an historical perspective, there’s little of interest apart from the chapter about Protected Villages.