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  • Writer's pictureJames McGee

The Recollections of Rifleman Salkey...

A must, if you're a fan of Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe and the TV series.

Fresh off the press following the new(-ish) Sharpe novel - Sharpe's Assassin - comes this offering from Jason Salkey, the actor who played the educated Rifleman Harris in the Sharpe TV series.

One of the mainstays of the films, Salkey appeared in 12 of the 16 episodes, though, interestingly, his character was not one of Bernard Cornwell's creations. He was added to the Chosen Men by the production team, who, it's thought, took his name from history: that of a young man called Benjamin Harris, who, in August 1806, joined the 2nd Battalion of the 95th Rifles. The real Harris served in the Copenhagen expedition and fought at the battles of Obidos, Rolica and Vimeiro. Invalided from the army in 1814, he became a cobbler, and a writer. He left a memoir, one of the finest to emerge from the Napoleonic Wars, and still available today: The Recollections of Rifleman Harris.

It was only after Salkey's Harris was created by the film unit that Bernard Cornwell incorporated him into the books, finally (much to Salkey's dismay) killing him off at the battle of Waterloo.

From Crimea with Love - Misadventures in the making of Sharpe's Rifles is, in many ways, an ode to the original Harris's narrative. It details Salkey's and his fellow cast members' extraordinary experiences while working on location in the Crimea as they attempted to breathe life into Cornwell's rugged hero and the men who served alongside him.

To say filming conditions were appalling would be a severe understatement. Cast and crew had to battle with difficult locations, terrible accommodation, dreadful food, rotten weather, illness, and sometimes threats and intimidation from members of the local mafia gangs. Life was only made bearable by a shared camaraderie, ably assisted by nightly celebrations and liberal intakes of alcohol.

Salkey doesn't hold back in his descriptions of the trials and tribulations suffered by an often fractious bunch of characters - actors, technicians, and executives eager to save a buck. As a result, the book makes for a hugely entertaining read.

That between them, this often mismatched collection of folk was able to emerge victorious and produce such brilliantly entertaining films speaks volumes for their dedication to the task in hand.

Great stuff.

Oh, and to add that, Jason Salkey has a great website devoted to the world of Richard Sharpe. If you want to check it out, click on the link below. You will discover all manner of wonderful things...


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