James Holland is a hard man to keep up with. One of a new generation of World War 2 historians bringing a fresh perspective to the greatest conflict of our age, he has written, in the past 20 years or so, 13 non-fiction books on the war, eight explaining it to children and 10 novels, two of them for young adults. That’s aside from all his television work, podcasting, organising a popular history festival each year, running one cricket club and trying not to lose his place in the batting order of another.

Last Christmas his third book on the Italian campaign, The Savage Storm: The Battle for Italy 1943, arrived in SA. This northern spring a fourth is due, bringing to a conclusion one of the great battles, Monte Cassino, which ended 80 years ago this week. It will wrap up the last months of the war in Italy, which Holland says “is definitely undersold”. It certainly is in SA, where politics of the apartheid era played a role in shutting down a history of its own troops’ particip...

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