Only The Dead by M. W. Duncan: A Review

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this ebook from Amazon after the author kindly pointed out its availability (who doesn’t like a free book?). These are my own thoughts on the work and are in no way influenced by Mark’s generosity. I have received no compensation in any way for providing this review, nor am I affiliated with any parties involved in its creation, marketing or distribution…


  • Title: Only The Dead: An African War
  • Author: M. W. Duncan
  • Publisher: M. W. Duncan; 1 edition (April 9, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Formats: eBook (UK Link, US Link); Paperback

Only The Dead: An African War is the first in a series of novellas written by Aberdeenshire author, M. W. Duncan. It is the harrowing account of a forgotten war and the people who fought it.

The story revolves around Mark, a foreign “consultant” tasked with training a company of Liberian rebel fighters near the front line. But when government forces seize control of the Zorzor training ground, Mark must use all his training to escape to safety and protect a naive reporter who finds himself in the midst of the chaos. Led by a tyrannical warlord and with fighting lines blurring all around them, the pair learn that there is more to fear in the jungle than just the enemy.

Let’s be clear, this book is not for the faint-hearted. Duncan pulls no punches with his visceral and brutal account of the art of war. His descriptions of bloody fighting and unsanitary conditions, when juxtaposed with the beauty of the Liberian landscapes, paint the conflict in a vivid detail that draws the reader in from the onset.

The story is fast-paced and action packed. Tension is rife and the author does an excellent job in maintaining it throughout. Every release is momentary, lasting just long enough for the reader to catch their breath before they are thrust, alongside the characters, into danger once again.

Central to the story’s human aspect theme is the interaction and developing relationship between Mark and the reporter, Kyle. Their conflicting viewpoints and experiences of war provide another mechanism for increasing the novella’s tension whilst their, at times, petty squabbles add to its comic relief.

The book itself had me gripped from the off and I found myself unable to put it down. The simple language utilised by the author is unimposing, allowing the reader to become fully absorbed in the story. My only criticisms are with the, sometimes, clunky dialogue and that the story left me feeling that it would have benefitted from ending a chapter or two earlier. Yet, it is so well told that both of these things can be easily forgiven.

The book is available now for kindle or in paperback and I urge any of you with an interest to check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

For those of you already following the series, Mark and Kyle are set to return later this year.

About M. W. Duncan (taken from the author’s bio on Amazon)

M. W. Duncan lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He started writing at a young age on a typewriter his mother bought him. He still has the first story he ever wrote “Aliens In Trouble” where a group of children are recruited by aliens to fight in a intergalactic war. Now he has written the first in the Only The Dead series of novellas, An African War. He also has a character driven thriller written, Welcome To Carrion City, which will see publication later in the year. When not writing he is studying to become a counsellor at Aberdeen University. He spends too much time gaming and reading. You can find his blog here

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