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INTO THE VORTEX: The Chronicles Of The Life Of A Young Man Growing Up In Colonial Rhodesia. 

His loves and his laughs, his exposure to mortal danger and drunken interludes in a town all make up the exciting life of a young, single, Regular Army Officer.

All the while, the increasing effects of Rhodesian bush war are bubbling as a backdrop, and eventually this leads to the inexorable drawing of the young man into the military. Being a leader, rather than a follower, he successfully attends an Officer’s Training Course at the School of Infantry and is commissioned into the Regiment of his choice, the Rhodesian African Rifles.

Tom spends an eventful year as an operational Platoon Commander and grows to love the black soldiers with which he serves. His various tours of duty see him in a compendium of differing situations across the entire country. 

He is badly injured on duty and spends some interesting time as a Brigade Intelligence Officer before being posted out to the unit that he eventually commands, until his voluntary discharge. It is an honest recollection of what Rhodesia was really like, from a pair of young eyes which seem to open wider and achieve more focus, as the book progresses.

Into the Vortex is a book of fiction which closely follows Tom Fulton's early life at school and later, in the army, and to this end a pseudonym has been used, so as to afford some ‘artistic licence’. It is also done in this way to enable the writer to also include some anecdotes in which he wasn’t actually personally involved, but bear recording. Real names have been used throughout, with the exception of a few, who may perhaps take exception to what everybody else seemed to have deemed to be the truth at the time.

The book is not meant, in any way, to be a platform to castigate those with whom the main character differed – the army was made up of every conceivable type of man. How boring it would be if everyone obsequiously agreed – junior to senior Officers included?

The reader is left to ponder over the fact and the fiction, as they are taken through the paces of a young officer in the Regular Rhodesian Army. There are scenes of humour and reflection, action and sorrow, as well as a taste of the smorgasbord of other emotions that faced a young man leaving school, to enter into the clamorous pandemonium of war. He certainly had no intention of joining the army until his last year at school – the ‘vortex’ took care of that decision for him.

Customer Reviews

Based on 6 reviews
Oh the good old days

I enjoyed the book. We are of similar age and I had many similar experiences growing up and during military service. We could have been at San Martino in Mozambique at the same time. (Ikhona Kafuf) for those who know what it means.

I did notice a few grammar/spelling mistakes and on pages 8&9 there was a duplication of a whole paragraph.

On the whole it was an enjoyable read but unfortunately for me it also opened up a Pandora's box of memories that I thought I had safely locked away for ever. But such was life in those years. Ken.

"A Rhodesian classic"

I count myself fortunate that I was able to lay my hands on a copy of Tom Fulton’s book ‘Into the Vortex’. Despite the many books written about the wars and conflicts in Southern Africa, this book is worthy to stand on its own.

Perhaps it was inquisitiveness or perhaps I was trying to relive the days of growing up in a slow-boiling Africa through Tom’s eyes, or perhaps both. Regardless, Tom’s book did not disappoint me.

The book is a vivid and exciting glimpse into days long gone—days when boys were boys and were forced through circumstance, challenges and conflicting politics to grow up and stand tall as both men and soldiers called on to fight a dirty war.

Tom takes the reader into his home as a young boy growing up in a sometimes difficult environment, but there is no pity as that was how it was—instead he uses his humour to lighten the situations he and his brother frequently found themselves in.

His entry into the Rhodesian Army and the subsequent humour and oftentimes sorrow that followed is well written and intense. Commissioned as an officer in the Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR), he goes on to discuss the bonds made and shared as only men under fire can do. Readers who are unfamiliar with Africa and the closeness and comradeship of black and white men at war will do well to take note of the respect they had for one another.

The scenes of combat are well and intensely described along with the tension before triggers are pulled and the exhilaration of success and survival when the guns fell silent. At times, the fast pace of combat is softened with humour and the aftermath of a deployment where young men go about their social lives—social lives that were lived and enjoyed to the maximum.

Tom’s easy style of writing brings to life many sad and traumatic events, yet there is no trace of victimhood—the mark of a man and a soldier with character.

As clichéd as it might be, ‘Into the Vortex’ will stand on its own as a Rhodesian classic.

Well done Tom Fu...

Into The Vortex

Over all a good read an effort. Lots of name dropping brought back fond memories. Well done On capturing the atmosphere prevailing at the time so well.I rated one star below excellent because the were duplicate pages in my copy. I totally enjoyed the read.

A compelling read!

Laid claim to my copy of "Into The Vortex" on Sunday and started reading it that evening. It was such a compelling read I couldn't put it down, ploughing on until I'd consumed the last word. The reader is taken on a journey from the days of Tom's youth in Matabeleland, his personal experiences with family and schooling and his entry into the regular army. He writes in an easy free-flowing style, quickening the tension and pace when describing serious, or life-threatening, situations, easing off when the tempo dropped. There is humour, too, effectively lightening the mood of some of the more harrowing or sombre sections of the book. It provides a detailed account of what it was like to complete the Officers' Selection Course. From a personal perspective, there are two other reasons I really enjoyed the book - the first was the number of shared experiences that were described (Fort Victoria, Wankie, playing on the banks of the Matsheumhlope as kids, Bulawayo's social scene and so on) and, the second, the number of friends and acquaintances we have in common with the main character. I'm not sure if Tom kept a diary - if not, he has a "memory like an elephant", recalling incidents that many of us had completely forgotten. It's a pity that Tom Felton finished his story with his departure from the Army - it would have been interesting to read of his life and experiences thereafter. Perhaps content for a future publication? A fine effort, Tom - Well done!

Gripping and authentic!!

I had the honour of reading an early draft and this is an awesome book. It's gripping and authentic, rich in character and very well constructed. Tom's narrative is so descriptive that his stories take you right back to that very special time and place. I recommend this book wholeheartedly. I'm really glad that you've created what I think will be a true Rhodesian classic.


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