An odyssey through Italy – with Kiwis

Back in 2001, I was lucky enough to be offered a multi-book contract by Reed NZ Ltd, New Zealand’s oldest publisher – since absorbed by Penguin Random House. Two of the books in that contract completed a trilogy I wrote on the Second New Zealand Division in the Second World War.

Wright - Italian Odyssey 450 px
Cover of ‘Italian Odyssey’ Kindle edition. Cassino sketch by Suzy Brown.

They’ve been out of print for years – until now. The third and last has just been re-released on Kindle – Italian Odyssey, the story of the bitter twenty-month campaign in Italy that took the Second New Zealand Division landed in Italy, beginning a twenty month ground campaign that took the New Zealanders from Taranto to Trieste. It was dominated by the two-month siege of Cassino, a bitter struggle in the depths of winter that remains controversial even seventy years on.

Legend has it that Cassino was another of New Zealand’s classic ‘near run’ battles, where we almost – but not quite – managed to pull off a spectacular victory. In fact – as on Gallipoli and Crete – we didn’t quite make it. The real question is why. I argued that, in fact, weather, the politics of the Anglo-American alliance, and sheer lack of numbers on the ground made it a difficult fight. Ultimately the question is not whether New Zealand failed — but how they achieved as much as they did under the circumstance.

The real strengths of the New Zealand force— mobility and speed — were finally put to use in the last weeks of the war, when the division led the charge that shattered German positions in the Lombardy plain. In a three week blitzkrieg the New Zealanders broke the German line and surged into Trieste, ending the campaign with a flourish — and the first confrontation of the Cold War.

Italian Odyssey was well received on first release. A couple of the better reviews had comments like this:

“Wright is one who has been able to place himself within the culture and sense the history…This new book is a worthy contribution to our understanding…”
– Frank Glen, ‘The Southland Times’, 14 June 2003.

“Author Matthew Wright… has brought the Italian campaign alive. The book is as important as it is highly readable – so much better than the standard military histories”.
– Graeme Hunt, ‘The National Business Review’, 17 October 2003.

The original print publication cover
The original print publication cover

I met Graeme at a writers’ party a little later and had a nice chat with him – he’s passed away since, sadly, but was a very good sort.

This new edition of Italian Odyssey is available at an introductory price of $US 4.99 and marks the first time it’s been available in over a decade. It follows re-issue of five earlier titles in my military history series. Don’t forget to check ’em out – here. If you haven’t got a Kindle, you can get a Kindle reader for whatever device you own, here.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


7 thoughts on “An odyssey through Italy – with Kiwis

    1. I’ve been looking for ways of getting the military books I wrote in the nineties and early ‘noughties’ back into sale. Finally managed it. And there’s a bit more to come.

      1. I wonder if we might see something from you, perhaps here, on the post World War Two story of New Zealand’s armed forces (my apologies if you have done this, and I’ve missed it). I’d be particularly interested in your take on New Zealand’s place in the world, in a military context, today, or something on its current status and abilities.

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