FeaturedHistorical Fiction

Mercenary - The Hard Drinking Drifter Who Changed the Fate of a Nation


Must read 🏆

A barnstorming rip roaring story lifted from the annals of history and brought back to life on the page.

“Mercenary” is a big barnstorming romper of a book that took hold of me on the first page and didn’t let go till the last. It’s billed as historical fiction but, so far as I can see, it sticks pretty close to historical fact. But what fact! An adventure story as fast paced as any I have read with an extraordinary man, at its heart who roars through life like an express steam train with the engine’s throttle on full.

Lee Winfield Christmas, born February 2nd 1863, died January 24th 1924. The son of a Louisiana planter, Lee might have enjoyed a rich and pampered childhood but before he emerged from the womb his father’s plantation went up in the flames of the American civil war. Consequently hard times were with young Lee from the outset and they grew even harder with the premature death of his father, due almost certainly to tuberculosis accelerated in its course by a combination of the hard times and hard work.

What remained of the family moved to Mississippi and Lee, with zilch education, found work on the railroad where he eventually progressed to the position of engineer. He also proposed to his childhood sweetheart and persuaded her to elope. Children followed and so might mundane family life. But, due to a combination of hard work and hard living with emphasis on the hard living, Lee fell asleep at the controls of his engine, missed a halt signal and drove straight into an oncoming train.

The collision should have ended his life. It didn’t. However It did end his job on the railways and started him on what for most would have proved a ruinous road of womanising, drinking and drifting which, along with the termination of his marriage, led him from the American south to South America and involvement in a continuum of sometimes farcical, sometimes brutal, revolutions, counter revolutions and wars in the course of which he managed three more marriages along with a further assortment of offspring and endured enough life threatening situations to see off a cat. He also proved himself a naturally gifted military tactician and a fearsome fighting man. Consequently, instead of a ruin, he emerged from the fray triumphant, a generalissimo: In fact chief of armed forces to President Manual Bonilla Chirinos of Honduras, no less.

Such are the bones of the story. But, of course, it is the manner in which Mr Gaughran puts the bones back together and fills them with life that makes “Mercenary” such a great read. The author’s style seems plain; it seems straightforward and even simple. But an attempt at imitation or emulation quickly proves that simple it is not. He employs short, punchy sentences that generate excellent dialogue dripping with irony, dead pan humour and wit. This, mixed with good descriptive prose, draws the characters – and what characters they are – along with the tumultuous events in which they participated amidst the stinking, steaming heat of the South American jungle, out from the past to the present; alive, scheming, drinking, womanising and fighting, onto the written page.

In short Mr Gaughran is to be congratulated because in “Mercenary” he has come up with one hell of a rip roaring story lifted straight out of history and told it in one hell of a rip roaring way. For me, “Mercenary” is a must read I’d give it five stars any day.

Reviewed by

Donald Barker is British. He likes to spend winters in the Far East, in particular Mainland China, and summers in the U.K. He is the author of four novels, two of which are self-published. He reviews virtually every book her reads whether purchased or presented to him by the author.

Chapter 1

About the author

David M. Gaughran is Irish but lives in Portugal these days, somewhere north of Lisbon in a lovely little fishing village. He is fond of slow cars, fast walks on the beach, and movies which contain some form of time-loop. Visit DavidGaughranBooks.com to get a free book. view profile

Published on January 20, 2020

Published by David Gaughran

30000 words

Genre: Historical Fiction

Reviewed by