On The Shelf - Discovering New Authors - R. F. Delderfield

Victoria, here. When starting a new post on Discovering New Authors for our readers, I decided to go back to one of my old favorites, R. F. Delderfield.  And in doing so, I have found a bunch of novels he wrote that I haven’t read.  Hallelujah!!!  Lots of fun to come. 

Ronald Frederick Delderfield (1912-1972) was born in London and was anything but an aristocrat.  His father supported causes like women’s suffrage and temperance, becoming active in politics and eventually co-owner and editor of a newspaper in Exmouth, Devon.  Delderfield started work at the paper in 1929 and had his first play produced in Birmingham in 1936. After the war, he wrote more dramas and continued his reporting.

His first novel, Seven Men of Gascony, published in 1949, is the story of seven soldiers in Napoleon’s army up to and including the Battle of Waterloo. Makes my eyes dance just to think of it.

Two Few For Drums (1964) tells of British soldiers in the Peninsular War in Portugal. A young and inexperienced officer must lead his squad through enemy territory to rejoin Wellington’s army. Oh, another joy awaiting.

I remember Delderfield’s books from the paperback library of my father, who prided himself on his English heritage and was always eager for more books by favorite English authors.  I believe I read the Swann trilogy when they were high on the NY Times bestseller list in the early 70’s.


Recalling the titles from 1970-73: God is an Englishman, Theirs Was the Kingdom, and Give Us This Day, brings back some dim memories of long, enjoyable summer afternoons  at the lake.  These titles were recently re-issued by Sourcebooks.

In the year of his death, Delderfield’s autobiography For My Own Amusement came out.  I am eager to read this, and from reports,  it is written in his straight-forward, detailed and often funny style.  So I will get busy at the library and/or on the used book sites to find these volumes.

I also remember reading Diana (1960-62), and another trilogy A Horseman Riding By (late 60’s): Long Summer's Day, Post of Honour and The Green Gauntlet.

Now all I have to do is decide where to start, on the books I haven’t yet read or to re-read the old favorites. But wait!! There’s more!!

As I check around, I am finding that several of the books and series have been done on film or tv! Oh, wonderful. I can rent or buy them on DVD too. How did I miss them the first time around?

Here is my advice: If you haven’t yet sampled R. F. Delderfield, get cracking.  Start with whatever you can can get your hands on fastest, and settle in for a comfortable read. These are not breathless thrillers nor passion-sparked eroticism, nor are they stories of princesses or sheikhs or billionaires. They are good, old-fashioned sagas with long descriptive passages and meandering plots. But if you love English history and a good meaty read, I predict you will love R. F. Delderfield.

Ronald Frederick Delderfield 1912-1972

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