About Darrell Duthie
Roughly ninety-eight years after the happenings which kick off Malcolm MacPhail’s Great War Darrell began writing this novel. As the very first readers sit down, book in hand, almost exactly a century will have passed since Malcolm MacPhail was plunged into events that would change the war and him.
Darrell lives with his family in the Netherlands, not far from the battlefields of the First World War. He grew up throughout Canada, but spent most of his youth in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in Calgary, Alberta where he studied Political Science & Economics, and thought briefly of joining the Navy. Instead he moved to the Netherlands to complete an MBA. After a first career as an analyst in the European equity markets, and having survived the financial crash, he embarked upon writing Malcolm MacPhail’s Great War.
The idea for the novel slowly came to life as the Great War centennials began, coinciding with a family trip to Ypres, Belgium. Facing a volley of questions from his young son, and amidst a flood of TV documentaries, he began to notice how deeply embedded generalisations of the war really were.
“I found it strange that there are these incredible and important stories from WW1 that almost no one knows about. And they’re all crying out to be told. It’s very different from the second war which has been combed over much more thoroughly and that people tend to know much better, anyhow.”
The character he created, Malcolm MacPhail, has his quirks for sure, but he was modeled after the stoic soldier of history who persevered through the worst the war could throw at him. Figuring the worst was a particularly good moment to begin a novel of the Great War, Darrell began the tale on the eve of what we now know as the battle of Passchendaele.
Darrell is currently working on a sequel, My Hundred Days of War.
About Malcolm MacPhail
Malcolm figures he’s seen it all and he doesn’t much like what he’s seen. He’s had his fill of war and it’s hard not to blame him – he’s been at it since early 1915. Somehow he’s made it through the gas of Ypres, the slaughter of the Somme and the bloody victory at Vimy Ridge, and a whole lot more. Not many of his friends or old battalion have. “Luck is a fine thing to have,” he says, although we suspect there’s more to it than that.
Wry, irreverent and no great fan of the army hierarchy, he’s now a captain, and whether it’s the advantages of three pips on his sleeve, his background as a fledgling lawyer or simply because he’s seen too much, he’s not shy about letting his views be known. Particularly when he sees things differently, which he does all too frequently. It’s an attitude that doesn’t always sit well with his more traditionally-minded superiors.
He fled the anguish from the death of his young wife, at the hands of tuberculosis, and swayed by the British Empire’s heady call to battle and the lure of adventure overseas. But the adventure has long since ended. There is little left of the enthusiastic, inexperienced young private who once joined up, except perhaps his sardonic sense of humour, growing more so by the day, and an appreciation for a few stiff drinks and an occasional good meal. He’s overcome his fear for the most part, and he knows how to handle a rifle alright, but his general has just put him on the staff: the intelligence staff no less. And while it’s a relief to be out of the trenches, life in the châteaux is not all it’s cracked up to be.
What Malcolm doesn’t know is that the Great War is about to enter a new phase in the fall of 1917. A wretched phase even by the standards of what has gone before. Both sides are fighting desperately for the decisive victory on the Western Front.
Malcolm will do his duty, as he always does, but he’ll need to summon every ounce of his quiet resourcefulness and long experience to overcome the challenges – both on and off the battlefield.
* Acknowledgement: “Canadian armoured cars going into action at the Battle of Amiens” Library and Archives Canada Ministry of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada fonds/a003016