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Fascinating tale of war horrors

LITERARY stardom beckons for a former soldier who has shot himself to the top of a major publisher's most wanted list.

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SOLDIER of misfortune... Dave is pictured in action in the Balkan war.

LITERARY stardom beckons for a former soldier who has shot himself to the top of a major publisher's most wanted list.

A book deal is on the cards for Hyndburn's Dave Duxbury after his biographical account of fighting in the horrific Balkan wars came second in the Koestler Awards - a national arts competition for prisoners.

Serving time in Kirkham Prison for a drugs offence, Dave, who was brought up in Riding Barn Street, Church, found himself moved to write the book "to set the record straight".

The Soldiers of Misfortune or The Beer Drinker's Guide to the Balkans is a fast-paced, humorous, yet alarming, account of a dozen foreign soldiers thrown together after volunteering to fight against Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic's forces in Bosnia and Kosovo.

The book is a page turner. You can see the blue flashes of rifle fire coming through the trees, feel the terror of running to safety from no man's land, and hear the deafening thump of mortars blowing craters into the earth.

Dave, a modest man, began writing the book in longhand. Prison governors realised he was serious when his cell began to bulge with paper.

"They gave me computer lessons so I could save my work," said Dave. "They were very supportive and I couldn't really have finished the book without the prison's support. It took me about three-and-a-half years to write."

"I was amazed when it came second in the awards, astonished because I wrote the book for the family of my friend who died in the conflict."

Dave, who served nine years as a professional soldier in the British Army, volunteered to fight because of a simple sense of moral outrage.

Inspired by media reports of ethnic cleansing, Dave, 46, travelled to Bosnia to do humanitarian work. He soon realised his fighting experience would be more valuable.

"I had to do something," he said. "The footage had been horrific and when I got there the aid workers were running round like headless chickens. Pretty much everything we experienced can't be explained."

"Like why 5,000 women and children were put through a fertiliser plant in Brcko, something the media wouldn't report at the time. The Red Cross confirmed it after finding teeth."

"Trying to understand that level of hatred is impossible. There was a three-generation farming family we visited one day. A few days later we went back and they had all been murdered. Turned out by their Serbian neighbours, people they'd shared land with for 50 years."

Before writing the book Dave was more comfortable with a Kalashnikov than a computer, using his hands for fighting rather than prose. But now publishing giant Random House has expressed interest in the book, he is considering writing a follow-up.

"With the number of wars throughout the world and Milosevic's trial for war crimes apparently ending soon, I think there are other things for me to write about," he concluded.

If the second is like the first, readers will be reading way into the night, left open-mouthed by the tales of Dave Duxbury's fascinating fighting days.