Monday, 9 May 2016

The Adventures of Charlie Smithers by C W Lovatt - Reviewed by Rob Bayliss

The author of this book has kindly offered a copy of the book to one lucky reader. To be in with a chance to win, just leave a comment below or on our Facebook page. The winner will be drawn on Monday the 16th May

Back in the 70’s whenever I was at my grandparent’s house I was always drawn to my granddad’s book collection. There could be found proper old hard backs, beautifully bound with that distinctive old book smell. There were old science books (probably even then incredibly dated but with amazing black & white photographs) a whole set of fascinating books on the Gallipoli campaign with pictures of old dreadnoughts, and another certain book which is the cause of this reminiscence. I can’t remember its title but I remember it had a picture of Gordon of Khartoum on the cover and it was full of tales of heroic derring do, written during the height of Empire. It was proper Boys Own stuff and was probably intended to inspire young folk to go out into the world and ensure the sun never set on  Britannia’s empire: the days when great swathes of the world were coloured pink in atlases.
But set the sun did, and even at the young age that I was it was clear that the book, with its fine line drawings and subjective narrative, was describing an altogether foreign country of the past. If this was standard reading matter once upon a time, it explains why Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the Ripping Yarns TV series very often parodied this old colonial mind-set.

When the author, Mr Lovatt, asked me to review The Adventures of Charlie Smithers I wondered whether I would enjoy it. True I had enjoyed his Seven Years War based novel, Josiah Stubb, but a book of derring do? I need not have worried. Within a few pages, a broad smile began to stretch across my face. 
We are first introduced to the titular hero as the servant of the bumbling Lord Brampton. Charlie has served (or should say that be suffered) in the company of Lord Brampton through the Crimean War and now on safari in Africa on a fruitless attempt at claiming trophies for the gun room at Brampton Manor. In an effort to save his master from an enraged charging rhino he leads the beast away and only escapes himself by leaping off a cliff to a river below. Alas it is the dry season and upon landing in the shallow river breaks both his ankles.
Around him a new threat appears in the river as crocodiles advance upon the hapless Smithers. To his pleasant surprise he finds himself rescued by Musa, a chief of the Masai. Musa speaks some English and wishes to use Smithers as a symbol of divine blessing… and thereby acquire more cattle. At the Masai village the local shaman has other ideas, perceiving Smithers as the embodiment of evil. It soon becomes apparent that there is a power play afoot in the village between the Chief and the Shaman. Fearing that Charlie will be killed before his ankles are healed Musa sends him away in the company of two trusted warriors an old female slave and one of his wives, Loiyan, who has healing skills. On the journey Charlie makes sure that he retrieves his Lordship’s prized elephant gun from where he had dropped it fending off crocodiles.
Charlie instantly takes a shine to the graceful Loiyan and as his party make their escape a relationship between the two blossoms into love. They are pursued by hunters sent by the shaman and the two bodyguards begin to tire of their charges and begin to become a threat. Charlie and Loiyan escape by boat on a vast lake. Charlie suspects that a river may lead from this vast body of water to the north and may lead to Cairo. But what does a return to England really offer him? He has all he’d ever want on the shores of Lake Ukerewe - what will become known as Lake Victoria - yet fate is not done with Charlie Smithers…

The Adventures of Charlie Smithers is written as a first person narrative in a humorous and highly entertaining style:

“Missed by God!” Lord Brampton roared, affronted.
“Oh hell!” quoth I, to no one but myself.
The rhinoceros had increased speed at an alarming rate. In fact, the way he was eating up the distance between us was quite impressive.
Here we bloody go again.
Now a word of warning: Charlie Smithers is a man of his time and his description of his adventures sound decidedly un-pc to our modern ears but please don’t let that put you off a thoroughly enjoyable read, which has some rip roaring adventure, laugh out load moments of comedic genius, as well as heart rending pathos. Smithers inadvertently discovers the source of the Nile but history of course records John Speke as having that accomplishment. I wonder if Mr Lovatt once read that Gordon of Khartoum book… because I very much suspect he’s watched Ripping Yarns!

Let this Speke fellow have the plaudits. Let him have the knighthood, too, if that’s what it came to. What worth had they beside memories like mine?

This is only the beginning for Charlie Smithers, I wonder where in the world Lord Brampton will lead our hero next?

The Adventures of Charlie Smithers is available at Amazon


Author Biography

C. W. Lovatt lives in Manitoba in Canada; the author of the best selling Charlie Smithers Collection, and the critically acclaimed "Josiah Stubb," he began his writing career in the short story field. Some of these have been included in his latest release, "And Then It Rained," an eclectic collection of novellas and award winning tales. For more news on his writing projects see his Story River blog Page

Rob Bayliss is a reviewer at The Review and is currently writing his own fantasy series. Information on his writing projects can be found at Flint & Steel, Fire & Shadow. 


  1. Fabulous review, Rob. It sounds like a very interesting novel.

  2. A really enjoyable review that has made me look forward to reading the book.
    Diana Milne

  3. A really enjoyable review that has made me look forward to reading the book.
    Diana Milne

  4. Thank you, its a highly enjoyable read.

  5. Excellent review sounds like a fun read!

  6. I'd love a copy of this book, it sounds really intriguing!