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Shooting Leave: Spying out Central Asia in the Great Game

John Ure

5 Reviews

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Prose: non-fiction, Asian history

The real stories behind the phantom worlds of Kipling, John Buchan's heroes and Flashman's villains.

Snow leopards and Cossacks can both be dangerous. But to young British officers in India in the nineteenth century there was only one thing more exciting than shooting wild game in the mountains and steppes of Central Asia, and that was spying out those uncharted lands and impeding the advance of Tsarist Russia towards the frontiers of the British Raj.

When the two activities were combined - in what was euphemistically called 'shooting leave' - adventures followed thick and fast.

Shooting Leave tells the thrilling story of the dashing cavalry officers who volunteered for these adventures. They were individuals of talent and courage, but also of disturbing prejudice, aristocratic arrogance, missionary zeal or trigger-happy temperament. But whatever their specific task, one factor remained common to all officers sent out on covert and exploratory missions: they were expendable.

Here they are brought to life as characters in their own right, as well as players in the Great Game.

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Praise for Shooting Leave: Spying out Central Asia in the Great Game

  • Extremely entertaining ... deserves to be a surprise Christmas bestseller. - The Sunday Times

  • Gripping stuff.

  • Anyone with red blood in his or her veins will be stirred by these stories ... The perfect read. - Country Life

  • Timely and well-crafted. - The Scotsman

  • Well informed and entertaining. - Catholic Herald

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John Ure

Sir John Ure, former British Ambassador to Cuba, Brazil and Sweden, is the author of, among other travel and historical books, Pilgrimage, In Search of Nomads, The Cossacks and The Trail of Tamerlane. He writes regularly on travel for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, and has served on the council of the Royal Geographical Society and as chariman of the Thomas Cook 'Travel Book of the Year' panel. His recreation in Who's Who is 'travelling uncomfortably in remote places and writing about it comfortably afterwards'

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