If you run across one of Barry Sadler’s Casca books you could do worse than picking up a copy.
Casca is a Roman legionnaire that had the misfortune to draw duty on the wrong day and was assigned to the crucifixion detail for Jesus and two thieves. His losing streak continues with a low dice roll which determined who stayed until the prisoners died. Impatient to leave, Casca decides to end the ordeal and runs a spear into the Messiah. Before passing, Jesus curses Casca, “Soldier, you are content with what you are. Then that you shall remain until we meet again”. Casca is doomed to soldier until Jesus returns.
What follows is one of the most formulaic series of stories I’ve come across. Each book follow’s Casca’s adventures throughout different historical periods. In D&D terms he has a lot of experience points so he tends to serve in a leadership role, sometimes taking over whole empires (see #2). Casca always finds a lover but is doomed to curse the fate of an immortal loving a mortal. The woman usually comes from a low station or is rescued from evil slavers, barbarians, etc, and elevated by Casca to a position of prominence thereby drawing the jealously of a sadistic antagonist who provides the storyline betrayal and drama.
Although all of the above isn’t exactly a glowing endorsement I do recommend the series for the plain entertainment value, basically a good “beach book”. While most of the information given concerning Casca’s service in the various armies is well known to those acquainted with military history, the stories remain interesting and informative. Once in a while the reader will come across some good insights such as when Casca is serving in the retreating Wehrmacht. As the officer responsible for a defensive position there is a passage in which Casca ventures far in front of his own lines in order to view the field from his opponent’s perspective.
If interested, all you ever wanted to know about the series is here.
I’d prefer not to mention Amazon so much but should mention that they are currently available for free on Kindle Unlimited.
Also interesting is Barry Sadler’s story. Green Beret, composer of a best selling song, a failed career as an entertainer but a solid career as a writer that seemed to keep him in beer and women down in Guatemala City. Add some controversy over if he was involved in the Contra effort against the Sandinistas or was just a hard partying author that talked a big game only to end with his tragic death during a robbery attempt (official story) or worse and you wind up with enough material to write a story about a guy who wrote stories. I recommend this article if you want details.
After Barry Sadler’s death Tony Roberts has continued the series. As I’m slowly reacquainting myself with the series I’ve yet to read Tony’s work and cannot comment.