I've now read a number of books by Steven Pressfield and thought I would give my impression of them here. Pressfield's work falls mostly into three categories; his first novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, which I haven't read but was made into a movie, his ancient war novels and his more current war novels.
The Ancient War Novels
So far, I've read three of these. The Virtues of War is a novel of Alexander the Great in which Alexander himself dictates to a young intern the history of his campaign to conquer the world. The detail of battles shows great research into ancient warfare on a broad scale, yet concentrates on that war from the standpoint of individual experience and emotion. I'm not much of a military history reader, battle analysis leaves me cold, but Pressfield humanizes the strife, the blood and guts of it, to a degree that I found fascinating! Gates of Fire is another retelling of the classic battle of Thermopylae. Again, extreme battle detail infused with the blood and sweat of the individual Spartan soldiers. Finally, Last of the Amazons is a slightly more fanciful yet still compelling tale of the end of that mythical Amazon race; still a tale of battle but from a different perspective! All of these are infused with the culture and lifestyle of the times. I can't judge the historical accuracy of the settings but it is very obvious to me that Pressfield has gone very far in researching the background or these novels.
Remember the TV series Rat Patrol? Killing Rommel is the story of a fictional squad in the British Long Range Desert Group, a real life special force of the British army, the desert rats that worked behind enemy lines in WW2 Africa. Of all the Pressfield books I have read so far, I liked this one the best. Written as a memoir of a British officer attached to one of those groups, it presented a wonderful picture of what a squad like that would have gone through. Again, my own knowledge of the equipment and structure of such groups is limited but the book was written with such rigorous detail that I have to believe it was extremely well researched. By book’s end I was totally invested in the main characters and saddened by their deaths, both those killed during that campaign and those who died naturally may years later!
The Lion’s Gate
This is the book that started it all for me. It follows the 55th Brigade of the Israeli Defensive Force as they opened up Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War. It’s a fascinating story, although non-fiction in this instance, of the actual people involved in that brief but world-changing war. Reading Pressfield’s other books was really a warm-up while waiting to get my hands on this one. Pressfield did his usual thorough job of getting into his characters, their motives and their organization. That these were (are, in some cases) real people was just the icing on the cake.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed his books. Pressfield is an excellent writer; his style evokes the period and culture that he writes about and absorbs you into it. These are by no means all of his books and I plan to read others soon. If you like military fiction, or non-fiction, you should give him a try!