Never the Last One


Never The Last One

Many have asked what 'Never The Last One' means. It's an old Russian Spetznaz saying: You can kill me, you can kill my section, you can kill my Rota but we will get you in the end. I may be the first in the line but I am never the last one....

R H Auslander’s novel Never the Last One manages to capture a pure and undistorted image of the complex Russian identity and culture which is incredibly rare to find outside of the Russian world. The author’s deft hand and storytelling ability open to the reader a view of Russia few outside of Russia have seen in a gripping tale of war and romance wrapped in a vivid panorama of love and honor, loyalty, faith and duty. With the clouds of war darkening the horizon for all to see the story unfolds of Annya Dmitrovna, a beautiful Russian lady, and Starshi Sarjant Roman Ivan’vich, a foreign man, a professional soldier serving for Russia in 317 Independent Spetznaz Regiment.

Their romance blossoms into an understanding during a night of good food, good wine and animated conversation, the thought of war banished from their minds when Roman Ivan’vich is suddenly ordered at 01:00 in the morning to report to his regiment immediately. As the regiment gathers and moves to assembly and deployment an ominous event portends trouble.

When the war begins and the fighting progresses treachery rears its ugly head, a treachery and betrayal that goes to the very heights of power in Moskau contrasting dramatically with the courage, honor and loyalty of the Spetznaz set in the mixture of east and west that is Russia and the unique culture of her Spetznaz, those warriors who are never defeated, who are Never The Last One.

Available for purchase on Amazon. Paperback edition: 662 pg. $28.95

Available for purchase on Amazon. Kindle edition: 662 pg. $19.95

Available from the author, electronic edition via PDF file. Please email for purchase via contact email. Payment via paypal only except in Russia, where other payment methods are available. 662 pages, $12.95, R 1456.35.

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January 12, 2019
A Powerful and Moving Read

I truly cannot remember the last time I have read a book as good as Never the Last One. The book is filled with action, emotion, and suspense, on those merits alone I could recommend this book. However, that is not the only part that made this novel such a good read for me personally. The novel paints characters, atmosphere, and setting with the mastery of a true classic.
Auslander manages to create characters so realistic that there is almost an aspect of surrealness when reading the novel. The characters are very dynamic, showing many aspects of their own personality. All of this is captured with an intense realism. The best I can describe is that instead of getting to know the characters throughout the course of the novel, Auslander takes someone from the reader’s own experiences and plants them into the novel with their own unique and believeable backstory. I know and have met characters like Annya Dmitrovna and Father Mitrofan under different aliases and different backstories in my own life.

Never the Last One manages to capture a pure and undistorted image of the complex Russian identity and culture which is incredibly rare to find outside of the Russian world. As a Russian living outside of Russia, I could recommend this book just by how well it captures the culture and the character of Russia. Auslander is so meticulous in his writing as to include even those aspects that come in during everyday life there such as porridge being a staple in a Russian diet similar to how cereal with milk is a staple in an American diet.

The settings and locations in the novel are very well described. I can’t find a better way to phrase this than using a very cliched phrase uttered by many English teachers; “The reader feels like he steps into the shoes of the character.” Auslander’s eye for detail really stands out here. He goes on to even describe what some would probably even consider too much detail. It does not detract from Auslander’s masterful storytelling and in my humble opinion it only enhances the story, even the makes of cars, the styles of buildings, and other such details are not skipped over. All in all, the level of detail creates a unique atmosphere which Auslander uses skillfully in the novel.

This was a great book to read and I am recommending it to others, if you are looking for something new to read, I highly suggest this book. I am eagerly looking forward to Auslander’s next piece.


I am completed to read this book, when I started I could not put it down, it is a page after a page after a page of action and event. From someone with no military experience and who would not read a book about war, I first thought it was love story, the fact that I am total in the story is a credit to Auslander’s hand. He does not make war a glory, he tells war how it is in his characters thinking and actions. So many people in this book, soldiers, nurses, doctors, pilots, some very good, some very bad. So many small stories in this book, it is like knitting a sweater and when you get to the bottom hem all the stories come as one. When I come to the end I have to say I have tears in my eyes, so much happy and sad in one page. I think after I read this very good book I can go to Russian and live.Translated CEE
I met the author early this year, I was visiting his city and I overheard him speaking to his wife in English and my curiosity was aroused, it's quite rare to hear English in Sevastopol. We bought all four books after speaking to the author and his wife over a long, leisurely and totally delicious late lunch and after reading the other three over the course of a couple weeks, the three giving a good idea of the author's writing style, my wife and I started to read Never The Last One. After finishing this incredible novel we wrote this review together. So, here goes.

There is no better book about a), what it’s like to be in the middle of one of the nastiest battles in recent history, b), a crash course on Spetznaz life, tactics, attitude, dialect, heck even their war plans and c), an in depth, very rare and amazingly detailed view in to the complex Russian Culture, written by a man who actually practices what he preaches and somehow managed to do it and live that culture for years. I consider “Never the Last One” a stone cold classic, a favorite book, it’s right up there next to Grant’s Memoirs and many other treasured classics in literature down through the ages.

There are descriptions in Auslander's book about battles, deaths, tactics, schemes, total violence that make most historic "fiction" war novels look like totally cheesy kid’s stuff. The man actually out-does many very famous authors in a narrative, compare the 'elimination' of the main spy in Moskva in Auslander's book to what one would think would happen and you’ll see what I mean. The author writes spectacular action prose, you’ll learn what it’s like to do all kinds of insane things Spetznaz do that you and I will never, ever do. Of course, the further we got in to writing the review the more my wife and I understood that this magnificent tome may not be all that fictional, but that little gem of enlightenment does not matter nor does it subtract in the least from a masterfully written and beautiful epic, this is a truly world class read of a stunning novel in a genre rarely seen outside of Russia.
10.14.19 I know it has been some time since we talked but I had no thought that you were where you are and how long you have been there. Do you know how long it take for my wife and me to read this novel our (officer) gave me? Almost three weeks! She ended up to find the best translate system she could find and with that we were able to read your novel so she could understand every detail.
So, my old friend, your novel. I always knew you were clever but what a work of art! The people, the actions, so many plots and little details are in this work! It is not difficult to travel and follow all the plot for me and I had to explain some things to Krista at first but very fast she understand your book, maybe better than me. At first I thought she would be shocked in the writing of fighting because I never told her about that but she was not, she read every word, just like she read every word in the hospital parts. After the first reading of fighting she stopped and thought for some time, then she asked me if it is real. I told her yes, it is all true and real, very true and real, the culture, the way Russians talk, the planning, the fighting, the weapons, the hospitals, the soldiers, the doctors, the nurses, even the spies, all are true and real. She said but the book says it is a fantasy, a fiction. I told her the book is almost truth written as fiction, not fiction written as truth. She smiled and told me we would start again at the very beginning, the romance parts. At the very end we read the post scriptum and we both wondered if this is true and when it was written. I contacted you and asked. I will not put here what you replied, I will put that you said the post scriptum was written in early 2013, almost a year before the events in the scriptum. Krista and I read many books and we both agree, we’ve never read a novel such as this one. This is a work of art that makes Tolstoy pale in comparison!
Translated by CEE
5.0 out of 5 stars Review from my Grandfather
16 January 2016
Verified Purchase
I bought this novel for my grandfather as he is avid reader and here are his words after reading it:
"My dear grandson, It is almost midnight of Friday in Pretoria and I have just completed the book by Auslander re Spetnaz - Never the last one. There never was one dull page since I started reading it in London. I have always loved reading historical novels but never found one evoking such conflicting emotions and passions. You were always in my thoughts as I travelled the terrains of pure love, the abomination of human action emanating from defiling hatred and the adherence of the human spirit and mind to the true cause of the fatherland.
While I always understood the turbulence in your mind regarding the distortions and degradation we are exposed to daily in our society - it all becomes clear. I think of you and Sharon being modeled as Starsi Sargent and Annuska ( Annya ).
Thank you for this treasure of a book . Please convey my gratitude to your father for opening the book in my IPad library. Now I need to find something to make me sleep. Take care & kind regards. Your Grandfather"

Stunning. Just stunning. Never The Last One conveys Russian Culture and her Army in a tour de force that I can’t imagine being written by a ‘foreigner’.
December 4, 2015
This book reminds me of the HOOAH books that were popular back during the Reagan era, except I guess that this would be classed as a UUUURRAH book instead.
Plenty of good guys that you can like. A good spread of bad guys that you can readily dislike. Lots of great action that is both technically and tactically correct. Strange Russian humor that takes some time to appreciate.
And, unlike many Kindle format books, this one is both well written and edited. Altogether a good read.
December 5, 2015
Read a article by R. H. Auslander on a web site. Was impressed enough to download a sample of this book. Now mind ya, the sample is almost 100 pages long. When I was done I HAD to purchase the whole book.
We have here a war story, lot’s of love story’s, that are not all syrupy, but real bondings during a very stressful time. Anyone who has been in a military conflict will recognize instantly the binding that occurs between fellow warriors, who become lifelong friends as a result of fighting together. The characters are very well developed to the point that it is easy to relate to their feelings.
As Mr. McCarthy said in his review, “Strange Russian humor that takes some time to appreciate.” Well as a person who has spent some time in Eastern Europe, (and I mean years) I have to agree. The book is written as one would expect from a person from Eastern Europe, but there is a catch to that, and that I will not reveal here. I also agree, that the tech and tactical are correct, so correct that it polishes the story with realism, so after finishing this wonderful tome I’m left to try to figure out what was fact, and what was fiction, as it is so spot on.
If historical military fiction, with ample backstabbing and deceit by those who should be on your side, and a book that may not be all that fictitious, you will be drawn in to this book and it will never let you down, and that is saying a lot for a 600+ page book.
By Babushka in Oz on December 30, 2015
In normal times I would not choose to read a book about war. However, the abnormal recent events in the Ukraine and Crimea bought war close to my head and heart. ‘Never the Last One’ is a page turner. It has all the elements of a Tolstoy novel: interesting characters; graphic battle scenes; good versus evil; humour and humanity; deception and corruption; greed and revenge; soul searching and spirituality; but above all, love of Motherland, and love for one another.
The plot flowed smoothly and moved at a steady pace. The characters were believable with interesting backstories and through their words and deeds, conveyed the sense of kinship that comes only from a terrible collective loss (war). Knowing that life is instantly perishable the characters beautifully portray how love is forged in the anvil of destruction. Auslander has really grasped the Russian character, especially Russian humour.
I have no military experience and the gut wrenching description of battle bought tears to my eyes.
I do have nursing experience and in the hospital scenes I could smell the blood and gore.
In passages where Annya Dmitrovna spoke and ‘saw’, I felt her heartbeat and constantly had goosebumps.
Auslander says the book is ‘fiction’ but for me it was a mirror, reflecting the real world events, especially the beautiful and poignant Post Scriptum.
Brilliant. I enjoyed this book immensely and can’t wait for the follow up.
September 23, 2018 via email.
I am from England, I live in Rostov with my wife. We were in USA for a few weeks and a friend of mine showed me this book he had found on a forum he reads. I read the first few pages of it and it looked like some kind of love story so I had my friend download it to my lap top for my wife. We got back to Rostov, went to Yalta for the holidays, my wife started to read the book and immediately called her best friend to come to her and read it together. In the end we had 5 Russian women and one Russian husband, an officer in the army, sitting around the kitchen table with two lap tops, a big dictionary and me for fourteen days. I have to agree with the others who posted a review about this book, this is one grand novel. These women and the husband would read some pages and then discuss what was said, look up words in the lap top and hard dictionary and then ask me for verification and now they’ve got me writing a review with the four of them talking at the same time in to my ear.

I don’t know who this R H Auslander is but he certainly knows what he writes about. I am a veteran, long retired but I served in Asia back in the day and later as a training instructor. What this Mr. Auslander describes is perfect, spot on, for not only the planning leading up to a deployment but the actual deployment and then the fighting. The characters and a couple love affairs weave in and out of the story and just when you’ve forgotten about someone here they are again and tied neatly in to the story. The plots are the same, in and out but everything ties together smoothly. The combat scenes are graphic but real, tactically and strategically correct and they do not ramble on to the point of being gratuitous. The hospital scenes are true to life in a combat zone and the language, that’s the way we soldiers talk to each other during an operation. What looks like very stiff formal manners is the way many Russians speak, the very formal addressing in public. If this Mr. Auslander doesn’t live in Russia he certainly used to, you can’t get that knowledge of the culture and the Russian army without being around them for a long time.

Everything in this masterpiece of a book ties together in the last two chapters. The last few pages, well, let me just say that all five girls were crying their eyes out, even the officer, a colonel, had a tear in his eye, I don’t know if from happiness or sadness or both, but cry they all did. I’m going to read this book again but without a group of Russians asking a million questions.

I can’t put this review on the amazon book sight because I did not buy the book so I’m going to send it to Mr. Auslander personally. I give this book ten stars, not the only five that amazon has.


Odessa, An Early Spring Dawn

Annushka rose early, why she did not know, actually she had hardly slept at all, so she took the first pair of dogs, Par and Darya, out to walk them. The predawn was warm and soft, the moon bright, the few street lights casting a gentle glow, a mist in some areas forming a soft and delicate golden halo around the lamps. She smiled for a moment, watching her huge mahogany collie Par gently nuzzle his wife Darya before continuing with his swaying gait, his long hair flowing side to side, his chest ruff narrow and brilliant white. Darya followed behind him faithfully, trotting from time to time as Annushka gave her more leash to keep up with Par, Darya’s coal black hair blending with the night, just the white of her shoulder mane showing where she was. She smiled again, thinking. "If only my Roma was here, it would be so romantic to walk with him in this dawn. Par and Darya are so tender this morning, the world is quiet, so beautiful, so peaceful. Where is my Roma? Why isn’t he here to enjoy this beautiful and gentle night with me? What is he doing now? I know he is serving, and I worry of him."

There were no cars out except one tired old Militsiya Lada. The car slowed as it passed her, the Sarjant in the right front looking at her, recognizing her and calling a quite greeting which she returned with a wave. Nothing else, not a soul, was around. “I swore I would never let a man in to my heart again. My husband died two weeks after we married when I was 18 and he was but 20. Never again would I have the heartbreak of that. Never. And then the Madame Polkovnik, my dear friend, the loving mother I never had, introduced me to my Roma these many years later. I swore I would not let him in, I swore I would not love him when I let him in, I swore I would not lose him when I fell in love with him. Now my Roma is gone, off to another war. When will it end, when will our men be allowed to stay with us and not go off fighting in some soon to be forgotten dark corner of this vast land?”

She walked, Par and Darya staying close to her now, sensing her troubled mind, Darya staying so close to her they touched. “I was so happy when my Roma’s two letters arrived. The young Lutanant, not much more than a child in uniform, blushed when he handed them to me at my flat door, saying before I could ask ‘Please ask me no questions, Madame Starshi Sarjant, I cannot tell you anything.’ I smiled at him and thanked him for the letters and I told him I know, I know I can ask nothing about my Roma or his Regiment or the coming war. He smiled and left. In the morning I will go to Church, I will speak to Father Piotr’s assistant Natalya, his aid, she who in reality runs the Church, I will have prayers said by Father Piotr for my Roma and his men, his Regiment. In his second letter my Roma gave me the name and phone number of the mother of a young Medical Sister he met. While I am worried of my Roma, poor Sophia is frantic with worry and fear of her daughter. She lives not far from my flat here in Odessa and I know the Madame Polkovnik will also come to me, we will go to Church together to offer our prayers.”

Annushka continued to walk, silently enjoying the early predawn ambiance, Par and Darya staying close to her as she thought. ‘Another block to the park. I will slip their leashes and let them run and play for a bit, then back to the flat to walk the other pair. It will be good for them to run, no one is out, no one will be worried about the dogs, they can jump and play as they want.’ She glanced at her watch. It was 03:30.

Suddenly Par went to alert, uttering a deep, long low growl with bared fangs, his hackles and bright white ruff flaring, looking straight east where the first delicate softening of the night sky on the far horizon told where dawn would break, his eyes narrowed. Par was not pulling and spoiling for a fight as usual, all he did was stand and look east where the sun would rise and continue to growl with bared fangs and ears back, a deep, wet guttural growl she’d never heard before. He stopped growling and looked at her, starting to whine. He took a step towards her, ears up, whined again, turned and looked east. Darya started to get nervous, also whining and looking east, ears up and listening. ‘What do they hear?’ she thought as she looked around.

Par turned back east and without warning roared and lunged forward, nearly catching Annushka off balance. She pulled almost in panic at his leash as of a sudden Darya also snarled and lunged forward. As she struggled to control the dogs Par and Darya started to bark frantically, both looking east and pulling at their leashes. Par suddenly stopped and sat, snapping once at Darya who was instantly quiet and sat beside him, both dogs whining softly, looking east with their ears up, listening. She wrapped the leashes more securely around her hand as she looked around again. “I see nothing, absolutely nothing. What is going on? Why are they so savage, why did they attack and what did they attack?”

Just as the dogs calmed her cell phone vibrated silently. She looked at the number and saw it was Sophia. Fearing the worst, she answered. “Annushka! Where are you? I am at your flat.”

Annushka was puzzled. “I am walking the dogs. What’s wrong?”

“Come home, Annushka, come home! The news...the war..” Sophia burst in to tears.

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