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Never Leave A Man Behind By Mick Dawson

Release date: 24th July, 2020
Publisher: Robinson

List Price: £14.99
Our Price: £11.99
You Save: £3 (20%)
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Rarely does your reviewer read a book cover-to-cover in one sitting, but Mick Dawson’s gripping Never Leave A Man Behind, effectively two adventure stories for the price of one, can be justifiably described as ‘unputdownable’.

The author is a former Royal Marines Commando who, usually with the help of dozens of name-checked friends, gets things done. He saw active service in the Falklands at the age of just 17 and would later serve in the Middle East. Now a professional sailor, Dawson is no stranger to ocean adventure.

His meeting with Steve Grenham (the pair served in the same troop, post-Falklands) in a Brighton pub leads ultimately to the creation of the Cockleshell Endeavour, a support-based safety net for ex-servicemen. Recognising that his former army pal was suffering from PTSD, a condition once ridiculed by the top brass, Dawson decides to help; it proved a pivotal moment in the lives of both men after they agreed to kayak around the Falkland Isles – some challenge considering Grenham had done little physical exercise in 25 years.

What follows would make a great movie: we experience the hardships, the disagreements, the trial runs and ultimately follow the pair in a sinister-sounding Southern Ocean.

In Part II, Dawson meets with Steve ‘Sparky’ Sparkes, a man he hadn’t seen in 37 years. It was clearly meant to be.

Sparky had excelled in Royal Marines training, but following a diving accident, he began to lose his sight and was later declared officially blind. As Sparky was badly treated by the authorities, Dawson (with a pub landlord) wonders whether a visually-impaired person has ever rowed the Pacific (as you do). Negative, so Sparky and Dawson agree to tackle the world’s largest ocean with the initial intention of breaking the 56-day record for a crossing in a rowing boat.

The target is a tough one, but these guys are equally tough, physically and mentally. Sparky simply refuses to be defined by his visual impairment, while Dawson is a man you would want on your side, whether in battle or tackling waves as high as houses should you ever consider rowing across the Pacific.

There are no professional superstars in Never Leave A Man Behind. No highly-paid sportsmen. Instead, we read of remarkable men taking on extreme sporting challenges that require both commitment and teamwork of the highest order. Read it. In one sitting.

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