Three novels of the Great War in one special Leonaur edition
Joseph Altsheler was well known as an author of adventures set within momentous historical periods and was highly regarded for the attention to factual detail and the accuracy with which he was able to evoke the authenticity of time, place and personalities who occupied the worlds of his novels. Leonaur, at the time of the publication of this new volume, already publish his noted American Civil War series, the French and Indian War series and Colonial Frontier series, all of which have their own aficionados. This book, another thrilling adventure series linked by characters who feature in each novel, is set during the cataclysmic time of conflict that was the Great War of 1914-18 and so, from Altsheler’s perspective, was fiction of his own times. Because this saga is recounted within fewer novels than Altsheler usually wrote on a single theme, Leonaur is pleased to present the complete Great War trilogy, ‘The Guns of Europe’, ‘The Forest of Swords’ and ‘The Hosts of the Air,’ in a single substantial volume. In typical Altsheler manner, these novels introduce us to the principal character, the young American, John Scott, his comrades in arms of the French army and air force together with ‘the Strangers’—foreigners who fight for the cause of ‘La Belle France’—as we join them in many engaging adventures as they battle the ‘Boche.’ This delightful collectors edition is available in softcover and hardcover for collectors.
From a line on the distant horizon, from positions behind hills, the German shells were falling fast, cutting down men by hundreds, tearing great holes in the earth, and filling the air with an awful shrieking and hissing. It was all the more terrible because the deadly missiles seemed to come from nowhere. It was like a mortal hail rained out of heaven. John had not yet seen a German, nothing but those tongues of fire licking up on the horizon, and some little whitish clouds of smoke, lifting themselves slowly above the trees, yet the thunder was no longer a rumble. It had a deep and angry note, whose burden was death.<br>
They must maintain their steady march directly toward the mouths of those guns. John comprehended in those awful moments that the task of the French was terrible, almost superhuman. If their nation was to live they must hurl back a victorious foe, practically numberless, armed and equipped with everything that a great race in a half-century of supreme thought and effort could prepare for war. It was spirit and patriotism against the monstrous machine of fire and steel, and he trembled lest the machine could overcome anything in the world.<br>
He was about to shout again to de Rougemont, but his words were lost in the rending crash of the French artillery. Their batteries were posted on both sides of him, and they, too, had found the range. All along the front hundreds of guns were opening and John hastily thrust portions that he tore from his handkerchief into his ear, lest he be deafened forever.<br>
The sight, at first magnificent, now became appalling. The shells came in showers and the French ranks were torn and mangled. Companies existed and then they were not. The explosions were like the crash of thunderbolts, but through it all the French continued to advance. Those whose knees grew weak beneath them were upborne and carried forward by the press of their comrades. The French gunners, too, were making prodigious efforts but with cannon of such long range neither side could see what its batteries were accomplishing. John was sure, though, that the great French artillery must be giving as good as it received.<br>
He was conscious that General Vaugirard was still going forward along the long white road, sweeping his glasses from left to right and from right to left in a continuous semi-circle, apparently undisturbed, apparently now without human emotion. He was no figure of romance, but he was a man, cool and powerful, ready to die with all his men, if death for them was needed.<br>
Still the invisible hand swept them on, the hand that a million men in action could not see, but which every one of the million, in his own way, felt. The crash of the guns on both sides had become fused together into one roar, so steady and continued so long that the sound seemed almost normal. Voices could now be heard under it and John spoke to de Rougemont.<br>
“Can you make anything of it?” he asked. “Do we win or do we lose?”
“It’s too early yet to tell anything. The cannon only are speaking, but you’ll note that our army is advancing.”<br>
“Yes, I see it. Before I’ve only beheld it in retreat before overwhelming numbers. This is different.”<br>
General Vaugirard beckoned to his aides, and again sent them out with messages. John’s note was to the commander of a battery of field guns telling him to move further forward. He started at once through the fields on his motor cycle, but he could not go fast now. The ground had been cut deep by artillery and cavalry and torn by shells and he had to pick his way, while the shower of steel, sent by men who were firing by mathematics, swept over and about him.<br>
Shivers seized him more than once, as shrapnel and pieces of shell flew by. Now and then he covered his eyes with one hand to shut out the horror of dead and torn men lying on either side of his path, but in spite of the shells, in spite of the deadly nausea that assailed him at times, he went on. The rush of air from a shell threw him once from his motor cycle, but as he fell on soft clodded earth he was not hurt, and, springing quickly back on his wheel, he reached the battery.<br>
The order was welcome to the commander of the guns, who was anxious to go closer, and, limbering up, he advanced as rapidly as weapons of such great weight could be dragged across the fields. John followed, that he might report the result. They were now facing toward the east and the whole horizon there was a blaze of fire. The shells were coming thicker and thicker, and the air was filled with the screaming of the shrapnel.<br>
The commander of the battery, a short, powerful Frenchman, was as cool as ice, and John drew coolness from him. One can get used to almost anything, and his nervous tremors were passing. Despite the terrible fire of the German artillery the French army was still advancing. Many thousands had fallen already before the shells and shrapnel of the invisible foe, but there had been no check.<br>
The cannon crossed a brook, and, unlimbering, again opened a tremendous fire. To one side and on a hill here, a man whom the commander watched closely was signalling. John knew that he was directing the aim of the battery and the French, like the Germans, were killing by mathematics.