It was always a case of finding the right publisher. Thank you to all those who have waited patiently for Sunset on Ramree. I'm pleased to announce it is now available for purchase, priced $3.95, at Eternal Press, and also at Amazon (paperback or Kindle).
SUNSET ON RAMREE
It is the deadliest crocodile attack ever recorded. On February 19th, 1945, a thousand Japanese soldiers retreated into the fetid mangrove swamps of Ramree Island. Days later, only twenty were found alive.
Inspired by true events during WW2, Sunset on Ramree follows young musician-turned-soldier Shigeatsu Nakadai and his best friend, Kodi, as they head ever deeper into danger. Will friendship be enough to keep them alive in the deadliest place on Earth?
EXCERPT # 1
Lance-Corporal Hokuto Mayazuki has always been one of the luckiest soldiers in the Japanese Imperial Army. The scars of no less than six shrapnel cuts and bullet wounds tattoo the left side of his neck, all the way from ear to shoulder. So many miraculous escapes over a three-year tour of duty in the Pacific. Yet he will be among the first to die this evening—according to the medical officer—though not from any wound. Today is February 19th, 1945, and he is succumbing to a strange, horrid fever. If one so tough can fall easily, I tell myself, what chance have any of us, retreating into these deadly marshlands of Ramree Island?
It is 16:45 and the British forces have outflanked us. Word spreads throughout our battalion that there is no escape. The mangrove swamp—a thick, stifling, fetid place of only damp reprieve—suddenly provides our only protection. And it is here, in the coming hours, that from the jaws of our defeat, Nature will try to snatch us for Herself. There are a hundred unseen ways for a man to die. We can never give in and time must therefore be the grind of the blade, that by our own hand we draw death—an honourable death. What end waits for me, I wonder? My name is Shigeatsu Nakadai. I do not want this sunset to be my last.
The water I pour onto my neck to drown a dozen large ants is drinking water. I curse the decision. From here on, saltwater is all we’ll find. When my canteen runs dry, I’ll start to die of thirst. The thought occurs to me to pilfer some of Mayazuki’s—he’s almost dead anyway—but the reasoning proves double-edged. What if he contracted his disease from that water? Is it worth the risk? Thirst or fever: in prolonging life by one means, might I not simply protract death by another? I decide to leave him his flask and take his can opener instead.
We’ve been rushing for hours. Our battery stronghold is now miles to our rear. Colonel Ojihoru is a determined man, but determined to do what? If we are not permitted to surrender, and there is no way through the British lines, what is his hurry? Suicide now or suicide later, it seems academic. Stoicism is my only refuge. It’s as much a performance as those I give each night in my dreams—in the orchestra of Chadwick Hall in Canberra, where I play the clarinet—except this performance is to myself. Of all the ways to leave this swamp, suicide is the most impossible, at least to me. I’m quite sure that when the time comes to die with honour, I’ll cry in front of the whole regiment. Will I be the only one?
EXCERPT # 2
I try to conjure a memory of before the war—something, anything to distract me—but draw a blank every time. I purse my lips to whistle a familiar tune, but nothing comes out. I shut my eyes tight and roll them inward until they ache and release a heavy pulse. The screams and shots and calls for surrender are still there. Kodi and Sobiku are still there. I imagine the reed of a clarinet between my lips and the long, sustained breath given to making sweetly aching music. But nothing comes out. No tune, no melody, no woodwind to soothe the mangroves. Just the damp, cold harmonics of the night. I’m lost without music, and there is no music on Ramree.
EXCERPT # 3
Though you wouldn’t know it to look at them, crocodiles are among the quickest animals on the planet. There’s a split-second between an impala bending to drink and a crocodile leaping up with a sideways swipe, clamping its jaws around its prey, and starting the dreaded submergence. Once those jaws are locked, the hold is ironclad. It’s almost impossible to pry them open. On land, though only for short sprints, they can move extremely fast. In water, they are kings. Their muscular legs and tails propel them upward with shocking speed toward their prey. It’s not hard to see why they’re feared even more than sharks in many Indo-Pacific regions. And as Ramree Island lies in the Bay of Bengal, we are at the heart of their domain.
It starts with one or two attacks. A quick cry of pain, a splash, limbs thrashing, and if the water is too shallow for the crocodile to pull its man down for drowning, it will roll him over and over on the surface. There is nothing more terrifying than hearing that sequence—the staggered scream, the tail lashing, the loud spurts of water being thrown aside. There might as well be a hundred crocodiles for the sheer panic that ensues on the bank ahead of us. As men trample vegetation while fleeing the water’s edge, their flesh is torn on the sharp bracken. The smell of blood is now in the air. On top of that, we have wounded soldiers among us, casualties of both British bullets and the previous crocodile attack. If these reptiles are attracted by open wounds, every last one ought to be headed this way.
What’s worse, they like to feed at night.
You can buy Sunset on Ramree at the following link:
Robert Appleton is an award-winning author of science fiction, steampunk, and historical fiction. Based in Lancashire, England, he writes for various publishers. In his spare time he hikes, kayaks, and reads as many Victorian adventure novels as he can get his hands on. His mind is somewhat mercurial. His inspiration is the night sky.