The Richard Sharpe Series by Bernard Cornwell
A few years ago, I was in Chicago for the BEA convention and I had drinks with my editor, Dan Conaway, and another of his writers, Bernard Cornwell. I had heard Bernard's name but had never read any of his books, so Dan sent me on of the Richard Sharpe series. I was hooked. I promptly went out and bought every book in the Sharpe series, and I was glad I did. The books are set during the Napoleonic Wars. Sharpe is the bastard son of a London whore who was raised in a workhouse and escaped to the Army. He is highly intelligent, but uneducated, and the one thing he excels at is killing. The series starts in India and traces Sharpe as he rises through the ranks after saving the life of the Duke of Wellington. There are two stories in each book. First, the books are set around real battles and there is an historical note at the end of each book that tells you what incidents and characters are true and what Cornwell made up. Frequently, the most amazing things really happened. Second, there is Sharpe's personal mission, which is an edge of the seat action tale. The villains are evil, the women are beautiful and interesting and the action is incredible. Some of the books in the series are better than others, but the ones I liked the least were still good reads. One suggestion: read them in order because Sharpe's personal life is intriguing and there are a number of continuing characters.