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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Saturday, July 30, 2022


A Classic, by any other name...... 

I was having an interesting chat with Marianne from ‘Let’s Read’ about Classics recently and it got me pondering. What *is* a Classic? Is it something we’re simply told is a Classic by some intelligentsia super-group? Does the public get a vote? Is it simply a collection of books that have ‘stood the test of time’? If so, how long? 100 years? What about so-called ‘modern Classics’ from the 20th century? Can something become an ‘instant Classic’ or is that just a classic misnomer/contradiction in terms? Are, for example, the Harry Potter books Classics, or will they be in 50- or 100-years if people are still reading them? Do Classics have to have been popular at some point in their history, or is it a case of critical acclaim and saying something profound about the ‘human condition’? Can something be hailed as a Classic, then fall out of favour and stop being one? I understand that novels like ‘The Great Gatsby’ had been dismissed on publication but became Classics decades later – sometimes only after the authors death. Is everything produced by a ‘Classic author’ automatically a Classic or can they write/publish non-Classics too? Thankfully, I didn’t overthink the issue TOO much..... But it DID get me thinking about modern Classics. For instance, how modern is too modern? I think limiting it to 100 years (so, presently pre-1922) is a bit harsh. Obviously, something like 10 years is (I think) far too recent. I think a good compromise figure is 50 years – so before 1972. That feels reasonable and ticks at least some of the longevity boxes. So, what modern Classics have I read – since starting this Blog – and are they *really’ Classics? Let’s see, in review order.... 

1984 by George Orwell (1949) 

The Shape of Things to Come by H G Wells (1933) 

The Fall by Albert Camus (1957) 

The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner (1975) 

The Great Airship by Captain F S Brereton (1914) 

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (1907) 

Kipps by H G Wells (1905) 

The Cider House Rules by John Irving (1985) 

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie (1930) 

Mystery in White – A Christmas Crime Story by J Jefferson Farjeon (1937) 

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada (1947) 

Under Fire by Henri Barbusse (1916) 

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell (1938) 

The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie (1932) 

Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household (1939) 

Get Carter by Ted Lewis (1970) 

The Desperate Hours by Joseph Hayes (1954) 

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (1933) 

Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1939) 

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell (1933) 

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey (1912) 

The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf (1915) 

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (1926) 

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse (1927) 

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D H Lawrence (1928) 

To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway (1937) 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939) 

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie (1942) 

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952) 

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962) 

The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (1970) 

The Traitor by Sydney Horler (1936) 

Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves (1929) 

The Plague by Albert Camus (1947) 

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1935) 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kessey (1962) 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960) 

Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene (1958) 

Dune by Frank Herbert (1965) 

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie (1943) 

The New Machiavelli by H G Wells (1911) 

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute (1950) 

The Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon (1961) 

A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie (1950) 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (1964) 

Well, that was a MUCH longer list than I’d been expecting. I think *most* of them happily fit into Classic territory, although two broke my 50 year ‘rule’ and a few made the cut because they're by Classic authors rather than Classics in their own right (IMO). Thoughts? 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

I really think someone had been watching FAR too many episodes of Thunderbirds as a child!

Just Finished Reading: The Big Lie – The Inside Story of Psychological Warfare by John Baker White (FP: 1955) [240pp] 

Firstly, this isn’t about what you might think at first glance – if you noticed the sub-title and the publication date! This is actually about the modern invention and growth of what was initially called Political Warfare during World War 2. The name was changed after 1941 to Psychological Warfare to bring it in line with the American view of things and, presumably, to stop any confusion between the Allies. 

The author was part of a team of journalists and others in various media who were initially tasked to use their skills to confuse the Axis Powers about British capabilities (Fun Fact – the British pretty much didn’t have any capabilities around the time of the Dunkirk evacuation). It was their job to convince, or at least make the enemy ponder, regarding the ability of Britain to resist any possible invasion. The ‘Lie’ put around was that the Brits had the capability of setting the sea on fire thereby making any amphibious landing ‘tricky’ at best. Years later the author leant that the Germans believed the ruse and it was one factor (amongst many) that was used to postpone Operation Sealion indefinitely. The other two ‘Big Lies’ were even more important – first to persuade the Axis Powers that, after clearing North Africa, the next blow would fall on Greece and not, as everyone expected, Sicily. Any ‘invasion’ of Sicily was to be viewed as a diversion rather than the main attack. The biggest lie of all was also probably the most important PsyOp of all time – convincing Hitler that the long-anticipated invasion of Europe would NOT happen in the obvious place: Normandy. Instead, the attack would take place at the Pas-de-Calais despite the German general’s (correct) assurance that a landing there was untenable. 

But rather than the headline grabbing BIG Lies (of which more later) I was more interested in the little stuff and the fieldcraft required to bring it off successfully. I liked the idea that British PsyOp agents would be ‘indiscrete’ in all the wrong places to spread false rumours as well as wear fake badges on their uniforms to confuse observers about what units were based where. One of the most interesting aspects of the whole thing (for me) was the use of the BBC to broadcast into Occupied Europe (of which more later). Not only did they broadcast propaganda and messages to the various Underground organisations [including the fascinating story of how the V for Victory symbol became the familiar drumbeat equated with the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony played before every BBC broadcast] but they also included accurate Axis casualty and prisoner reports (to ensure that the Axis military were listening) as well as a rather clever use of bomb damage assessment photographs. Whenever a German city was bombed the photographs were combed for proof of damaged or destroyed landmarks, theatres, restaurants and local pubs. This the BBC broadcast to lower the morale of soldiers from those towns and, as a side effect, sent German counter intelligence units mad looking for local spies! 

I’ve had the slim hardback on my shelves for decades but only picked it up to read recently when I decided to go through my older units looking for anything I might have missed. I’m really glad I finally got around to reading it. It certainly gave a ground-floor insight into a much-overlooked aspect of WW2. Recommended if you can source a copy.    

Monday, July 25, 2022

I'm not sure what it is exactly, but I do LOVE me some Brutalist architecture!

Just Finished Reading: Funny Girl by Nick Hornby (FP: 2014) [342pp] 

Barbara Parker knew that she couldn’t stay in Blackpool. She could see her father’s version of her future – married to a local businessman – and wanted nothing to do with it. Barbara wanted something else, she wanted to be funny just like her hero Lucielle Ball. As a distraction, and hopefully to cool her ambitions, her father agreed to put her up for the 1964 Miss Blackpool beauty pageant thinking second or third place might be enough. When Barbara won a world of possibility opened up – in Blackpool, opening new shopping centers and the like. But Barbara would have none of it. She was off. Off to London to make her fortune. Only when she arrived did she realised that she had no clue where to start. The first thing she needed was a job. That was the easy part as she slipped into the role of the pretty girl at the perfume counter. Some of the girls used the role to pick up a husband (if they were lucky), Barbara just needed it to pay the rent. The next thing was to get an agent, but the one she got wasn’t really interested in sending her to comedy auditions. Who had heard of such a thing? Weeks went by and in an act of desperation she was sent to read for the role of a vicar’s daughter in a one-hour Sitcom on the BBC. When the writers asked her what she thought of the character she had nothing to lose – so she told them the truth. It was terrible. Then she told them why and then she told them how she would write the role. Hours later they were hooked. They had their play, they had their main character and the comedy actress known as Sophie Straw was born. 

I bought this for two reasons. One, as I often do, because it looked different. Two, it was by Nick Hornby who I’ve read before and enjoy. It was certainly different as we follow the decades long career of ‘Sophie Straw’ who broke the mold in British comedy which gave rise to the Golden Age of Comedy in the 60’s and 70’s. Fiction and history are nicely interwoven with references both to real actors and real TV shows Sophie met or competed with. ‘Swinging’ London was a fun backdrop and it did amuse me when the cast of Shopie’s show were invited round to No 10 to meet PM Harold Wilson who was clearly using them for political cache! Sophie herself was a great character (with only a faint hint of Mary Sue) who knew her own mind, was actually really funny, but who didn’t know much about life or the pitfalls of fame. Her relationships with her leading man, both of the show's writers and especially the producer (who I thought was brilliant) where a delight. Amusing throughout and with a fair number of laugh out loud moments I can honestly say that I really enjoyed this. It made a very pleasant change from the usual death and destruction reading I normal ‘consume’ as well as being wonderfully nostalgic about British Situation Comedy. Being at least familiar with British sitcoms and British humour will help but I think anyone can appreciate this charming work. Definitely recommended if you don’t mind being looked at strangely as you chuckle to yourself for a few days.  

Saturday, July 23, 2022

The very ESSCENCE of cute...

10 Years Ago Today (well, kind of ish.....) 

Marianne (over @ Let’s Read) has given me yet another Book List idea to play with. What exactly was I reading 10 years ago and how have things changed for me in the intervening decade? 

What was your Favourite book in 2012? 

Probably Accelerando by Charles Stross, a VERY mind-expanding SF novel. I REALLY need to read more of his stuff. Non-fiction wise it’d have to be either The Rebel Raiders by James Tertius deKay or The Battle of Hastings by Harriet Harvey Wood, but I read a LOT of great History books that year. 

What was your least Favourite book in 2012? 

Definitely Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. This was probably one of the worst books I’ve ever read. I know that people rave about it but I thought it was truly appalling. Even when I figured out what it was *actually* about (IMO) rather than what it appeared to be about I still thought it was LAME.  

What is a book published in 2012 that you still want to read? 

I have zero idea as I don't really look at publication dates, but I’m confident it’s in a pile somewhere where it's been sitting for the past 10 years unloved and unread.  

What is a genre you used to read a lot of that you don’t read as much of anymore? 

I don’t think my reading habits have changed very much in the last 10 years. I still read a wide variety of books – both fiction and non-fiction. My ‘butterfly mind’ wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not really the kind of person to ditch a whole genre. 

What is a new genre you’ve discovered since 2012? 

Nothing really. I think I’m open to most genres – with the exception of Romance (although I’ve read the odd one or two which I didn’t find awful). I have read a few books about Music which is fairly new to me. Not sure if that’s a ‘genre’ though.... 

What is a reading or book habit you are hoping to leave behind in this decade? 

Nothing I can think of.  

What is a new reading goal or habit you want to create in the upcoming decade? 

Reading more Classics – definitely. Plus moving on with my main topics of interest, my so-called ‘Knowledge Streams’. I need to put WAY more effort into them! 

What’s the most noticeable difference between your 2012 and 2022 reading? 

Numbers! In 2012 I reviewed 73 books here. This year I expect to review around 100. Since retirement just over 2 years ago I’m reading around 30 more books a year than a decade ago – or around the number I was reading in my late teens.  

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Queen..... of Crime...!

Just Finished Reading: The Scots – A Genetic Journey by Alistair Moffat (FP: 2011/2017) [243pp] 

My regular (and returning – THANKS!) readership will be aware that I recently took an Ancestry DNA test which kind of surprised me, and that was BEFORE I started digging into my family tree. The surprise was that by DNA I’m 36% Scottish. Now my father's family are from the East coast of Ireland and my mother's side mostly come from the English Midlands and (generally) points South. I’ve only gone back into the early 19th Century on my Dad’s side so some Scots might show up there, but I’ve managed to go back a LOT further (mid-15th century) on my Mum’s side and.... not a single Scot to be had. So.... Mystery....  

I had read that Scotland and the East coast of Ireland had a long and convoluted history together. That’s one thing that this book confirmed. Certainly, for many centuries there was a lot of commerce and emigration from Ireland to Scotland and, no doubt, the flow went both ways from the very earliest times – although mostly, it seems, From Ireland and TO Scotland. So, at least from that perspective this book didn’t really help me much to start to understand that particular quirk of my double-helix. But there’s So much else of interest here! 

Starting from cradle of humanity, the author follows the slow movement of people (moving at around 1Km per year) from Africa and into Europe, the meeting – and occasional mating – with our close human relatives the Neanderthals, the brief occupation of southern Britain (back in those wonderous days when you could WALK there from ‘France’) and then the reoccupation of what would become the British Isles after the last Ice Age. Obviously, Scotland could only be occupied once the Northern Ice Cap retreated and this happened as humans followed herds North. Over the centuries more people settled in the far North of Britain with occasional immigrants from Ireland and Scandanavia – plus of course a few very brave Roman’s, either sent North to combat the ‘unruly tribes’ there or stationed around Hadrian's Wall and settling down with local wives (staying behind after the Roman’s left). Starting with this core population, the author follows Scottish history with diaspora across the world to Canada, the US and Australia as well as hints of comingling with French settlers and the slow drip feed of European refugee’s seeking shelter across the centuries.  

This is a very informative and often fascinating read. I was generally aware of Scottish history when it impacted on my much wider reading of English history (Scotland and England having an often-troubled relationship!) so it was really interesting to hear about much earlier events. Like in his other book on British DNA he talked about the land-bridge and comparatively long-term settlement of areas that are now under the North Sea. This whole concept completely blows my mind and I really need to read more about it. Although this didn’t really help me much with my DNA search, I found it most enjoyable. Definitely of interest to anyone with Scottish ancestry or just a general interest in that region.   

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The UK has recorded a temperature of over 40C (104F) for the first time - as the heat continues to rise. Thermometers hit 40.2C at London Heathrow at 12.50 BST, breaking a record temperature of 39.1C in Charlwood, Surrey, registered earlier. But Tuesday's temperatures are expected to climb higher still, with places along the A1/M1 corridor expected to see up to 42C later.

[From the BBC - 19-07-22]

'Luckily it's "only" 30C here presently and isn't expected to get much warmer. That's plenty warm enough for me though! Should drop 5C tomorrow and then be a much more liveable mid-low 20's for a while. Phew!

The UK has provisionally recorded its highest-ever temperature, with a reading of 39.1C in Charlwood, Surrey, before midday. Once verified, the extreme temperature will surpass the UK record of 38.7C, set in Cambridge in 2019. But Tuesday's temperatures are expected to climb higher still, with places along the A1/M1 corridor expected to see up to 42C later. Scotland is also projected to pass its historic reading of 32.9C.

[From the BBC - 19-07-22]

Seems legit........

Monday, July 18, 2022

Yes..... It's REAL.

Just Finished Reading: The Hate U Give (THUG) by Angie Thomas (FP: 2017) [438pp] 

She knew she shouldn’t be there. Her parents, if they ever found out, would throw a fit. But it was THE party and, since she started at that ‘fancy white school’ her friends had starting looking at her funny. So, she HAD to be seen there. Then some fool capped off a few rounds and everyone scattered. Starr’s best friend, Khalil, offered her a ride home (or to drop her NEAR her place) so she took it. She was feeling guilty about not spending enough time with him lately. Then it happened, the lights and a brief blast of siren. SHIT. Cops. Well, only ONE cop. But she knew what to do. Her Mamma had taught her from birth it seemed. No sudden movements. No disrespect. ALWAYS Sir this and Sir that. Khalil leaned back into the car to see if Starr was OK. Before she could even answer – BANG. It was like the world had exploded, and there was K, looking confused. Starr could see the blood on his shirt. The cop then pointed his gun at HER. Later, when her parents had picked her up and she could no longer hear her heart trying to tear itself from her chest part of her brain could think rationally about the whole thing, at least for a few seconds at a time. Obviously, she’d heard SHIT like this go down before. It was a Black neighbourhood. But never had she thought it could happen to her. Naturally, the thought uppermost in her mind was: now what? Her mind was made up when she heard the police officer’s Dad on TV explaining just how scared his son had been that night after stopping a gangbanger & known drug dealer on an empty road, alone. But Starr had a VERY different interpretation of the night's events. Now they were going to hear HER side of things. Now they were going to hear HER story. 

I actually picked this up around 4-5 years ago and it’s been goading me to read it ever since. I haven’t seen the movie though I’d heard about it and I know that Sarah has been waiting for me to read this so we can chat. The first thing I have to say is that this is a VERY accomplished first novel. Told in the first person throughout and with excellent characterisation – especially of Starr herself but also of her parents and close relatives/associates. I really liked both her mother & especially her father to be honest. The pacing of the book was very good, slow where it needed to be and moving along nicely at other times. The aftermath of the shooting (from both the local community and police/authorities PoV) was well handled and rang true from what I’ve seen on American News shows. It was a little preachy at times (as you might expect) but it was a very minor irritation and I let that slide. The only ‘problem’, and again a minor one [in more ways than one I suppose!] I had with the narrative was Starr’s relationship with her “rich” white boyfriend. That never felt ‘real’ to me. I also had a slight niggle with the age of Star and her friends. As far as I can remember they were around 16. I felt it’d be more ‘realistic’ if they were 18. I guess I’m thinking of 16-year old's as children (probably showing my age there!!). Apart from these VERY minor issues (which probably won’t bother many other people) I thought this was an excellent read. “Taken from the Headlines”, as they say – and then some. Definitely recommended. But enough now of death and destruction. Something a bit lighter to come....  


Carnegie Medal Best Book (nominee)

Michael L. Printz Award Best Book (nominee)

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Everyone sleeping OK...?

Reading Plans for 2022 and Beyond! - Mid-year Update 

Is it mid-JULY already? How time does fly...! I was going to save this update for next week but I don’t have anything else lined up and I felt like Blogging. So... I think it’s been a pretty good reading year so far even if some of my planned reading is still waiting in the wings, but I guess that’s what the SECOND half of the year is for. 

Following the Labels 

After the recent world tour hiatus, I’ve almost finished with Greece (one more book to come shortly) before moving on to India. I’m pretty confident that I’ll at least start the Ireland set by New Years. Probably.  

The ‘Knowledge Streams’ 

I’m still making slow progress with my ‘Britain Alone’ sequence and have a few more books on Appeasement before moving on to the War proper (or should I say War ‘phony’?) with the invasion of Poland and the Russian attack on Finland. Eventually (yeah, right), I’ll get to where my collection of books started – with Churchill becoming PM. Reflecting the hit & miss nature of the topic I’ve had a hit & miss relationship with the ‘World War to Cold War’ set of reading – both in fiction and non-fiction. The ‘plan’ was to start with the baseline of Occupied Europe before moving on to the Liberation. That’s still pretty much in the starting pit I’m afraid! I think I’m doing much better with ‘USA: WTF’ as it’s such a large & diverse subject. I’m not any nearer actually UNDERSTANDING the US though.  

Wild Cards 

I’ve had another change of heart with my ‘Wild card’ inserts into the read-next stack. I’m now operating with a single ‘card’ every 5 books which introduces a double header of connected works. The first of these was the fictional and non-fiction treatment of the Zeebrugge Raid. Much more of that sort of thing to follow. 

Finishing/Progressing Series 

I have the final (so far!) three Sharpe novels to come (I should get to at least one of them this year) and will probably read the third Dune book too. I’m going to TRY to start off the Foundation series if I can. Being so short that might help build up my review backlog which is looking a little thin ATM. Oh, and there should be at least one more ‘Miss Marple’ read this year. Probably. 

Bigger Books & reducing the Review Pile 

As I’m trying to keep the average book length above 300 pages, I’ve been trying to read larger books. This has meant (at least presently) to my review backlog falling to a mere FOUR – two week's worth of reviews. This is too low for comfort so I’ll be slipping in a few more short books in the near future and my average will need to take a hit. Presently it’s at 329pp but I have a sneaking suspicion that the ‘real’ number is somewhere around 285pp. Time will, as they say, tell. 


I’m still enjoying reading Award winners (mostly fiction but some non-fiction too) so this will continue. I think I’ve finally lost my reverse snobbery regarding award winners and have found them, generally, to be as good as normal people – hence not me – would expect. 

Continuing as Usual 

I’m behind ‘schedule’ with my Classics reading and I want to read six this year. Only two so far though, so I’ll need to pick up the pace. Luckily most of the ones I have are pretty short. I STILL haven’t finished my ‘Man Vs Machine’ sequence and have found myself inserting books from other stacks. This ‘more random than usual’ process will probably continue for the rest of the year. We’ll see. Looking on the positive side, at least I’ve dipped a fictional toe in fictional history before the 19th century. More of that sort of thing to come. Here’s to the NEXT six months of reading. Onwards!  

Thursday, July 14, 2022

I've always been confused by this. I know, from TV shows and movies, what it is and I *think* I know what its supposed to achieve, but I still don't understand WHY it exists. Do any other countries do this? Can any of my American readers explain what it is aimed to achieve, if it does so and how can you tell?   

Just Finished Reading: Zeebrugge – Eleven VCs Before Breakfast by Barrie Pitt (FP: 1958) [225pp] 

It was a thorn in the side. It was a thorn that needed to be withdrawn, no matter the cost in blood. The question, as always, was how? The Germans were using the ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend to release U-boats into the English Channel to both threaten British supply lines to the Continental forces fighting there and for access into the Atlantic without going all the way around Scotland. How to stop them doing that exercised minds both in the navy and in both aviation branches – the RFC and the RNAS. Monitors had been used to shell the dock area at Zeebrugge with little effect. Wholesale bombardment was out as the civilian casualties would be an unacceptable cost for the questionable results envisaged. The Royal Naval Air Service (soon to join the RFC in April 1918 to form the RAF) had tried bombing the harbour area but the U-boat docks had been hardened and the bombload possible was just too small to make a difference. There was just one possibility left – a direct assault. 

The plan was as simple as it was brutal. Before the German U-boats and fast destroyers could exit Zeebrugge harbour they had to navigate a narrow shallow canal. This was the weak point – if it could be called that. This objective lay deep inside the harbour complex which would mean an assault on it would be attacked from all sides. In order for the British forces to have any chance of success the defences would need to be seriously degraded and that meant a ground assault. The call went out for volunteers. Told initially that they would be taking part in a dangerous operation “somewhere on the occupied coast” the navy had their pick of officers and men. When the volunteers were told that the likelihood of a safe return was minimal a scramble began to be on the first landing ship. Plans were finalised, men were trained, experimental smoke laying devices trialed and the armada set sail from Dover and other harbours – only to be called back at the last minute. Forced to wait for the next high tide, suitable weather reports and a moonless sky Rear-Admiral Roger Keyes must have smiled when he saw the proposed date for the attack – 23rd April 1918, St Georges Day. This time the full attack would go ahead. Forces would land on the Zeebrugge harbour wall to engage the guns directly, smoke would be produced by small fast craft and three aged destroyers, long past their useful life would be sunk in the canal, blocking the exit to the Channel. Or so the plan said. During that one, brief morning in April a total of 11 men won the Victoria Cross, a further 21 the Distinguished Service Order and another 29 the Distinguished Service Cross. Those numbers alone tell you that the fight was far from an easy one. 

After reading the previous novelisation of this event (which was the culmination of the novel ‘Sixty Minutes for St George’ by Alexander Fullerton) I was looking forward to a history of the actual event. Fullerton was VERY accurate in his description of that desperate attack down to the names and actions of some of the primary participants. Despite the fact that the casualty rate was high – although not so high by WW1 standards – the effect on U-boat deployments afterwards was significant, as this was despite the failure of the Ostend mission to have anything like the success of Zeebrugge. Being published when it was (a mere 13 years after the war had ended), and by someone who served in Europe and the Middle East in 21 SAS, it can be forgiven that the narrative sometimes drifts a little closer to jingoism than I would expect from a later more dispassionate historian. But that (very minor) quibble aside this was a fascinating examination of a (mostly) forgotten exploit. Well worth a read if you can find a copy. Part of the Cassell Military Paperbacks series.     

Monday, July 11, 2022

OK.... Agreed.... *SOME* would call me mad.... But.....

Just Finished Reading: Sixty Minutes for St George by Alexander Fullerton (FP: 1977) [308pp] 

Dover, England 1917. With his recent experiences during the Battle of Jutland, Lt Nick Everard had hoped for more.  But he supposed that being 2nd in command of a destroyer in the Dover Squadron was better than a lot of other alternatives even if it meant spending long nights fruitlessly searching for enemy U-boats or mine-laying operations. There were moments though, moments somewhere between sheer terror (only experienced after the events) and the satisfaction of a job well done. The only real problem he had was that his commanding officer, Commander Wyatt, had taken an immediate dislike to him for reasons unknown. The feeling was largely mutual. Despite an appreciation of his willingness, indeed eagerness, to get to grips with the enemy, Wyatt he suspected wasn’t particularly good at his job. When a brief encounter with four enemy destroyers almost sinks his ship, Everard is offered the temporary command of an aging, obsolete, destroyer tasked with removing an enemy fishing boat spying on Allied shipping. Impressed with his ability to think on his feet the Admiralty confirms his command and Everard joins an assault on Zeebrugge to block the canal that allowed U-boats into the English Channel. When the plan signally did NOT survive contact with the enemy, the attack resulted in the awarding of 11 Victoria Crosses in not much more than an hour. The butcher’s bill, however, can be imagined! 

This is my first novel by this author and it definitely won’t be my last (and not just because I already own at least two more of his books). Told with detailed knowledge of both the events and the technology of the time, this was a gripping narrative of WW1 combat in the English Channel/Dover Straights. Although it was obvious once this book pointed it out to me, the English Channel was a vital supply route to the troops fighting in France. If that could be disrupted or stopped, even for a few days, it could’ve had a telling effect on the fighting on the Continent – especially during the new German offensive in 1918. The activities of the Dover Patrol (which I am largely ignorant of presently) provided a vital defence against German efforts to make the Channel into their battleground. The attack on Zeebrugge on St Georges Day 1918 was an attempt to halt any move by German U-boats to attack vital convoys sent to support Allied troops and to ensure that troops based around that area could not be used as part of the new offensive in France. 

Needless to say, being a lover of Naval fiction, I enjoyed this immensely. There was a rather silly mini-subplot about Nick getting ‘involved’ with, shall we say, a local lady of ‘easy virtue’ and a weird background story about being rather attached to his young stepmother but apart from that it was a heck of a read. Looking forward to more adventures with Nick Everard and more naval adventures elsewhere too. Definitely recommended to all lovers of things seabound.  

Saturday, July 09, 2022

FAR too warm for fur coats......

Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag 2022 

I ‘borrowed’ this from Marianne’s Blog: Let’s read (so go visit). 

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2022 

Starting with a tough one.... I’d have to say: Transcendence – How Humans Evolved through Fire, Language, Beauty and Time by Gaia Vince 

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2022 

Caliban’s War by James S A Corey – It's The Expanse so, duh! 

3. New release you haven't read yet but want to 

Sharpe’s Assassin by Bernard Cornwell. Not sure if I’ll get around to it THIS year as there’s two others in the series I want to read first. 

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year 

I don’t keep with new releases to way I used to so, no idea I’m afraid. 

5. Biggest disappointment (so far!) 

B.E.A.S.T by Charles Eric Maine, a case of already (reasonably) low expectations dashed...... 

6. Biggest surprise of the Year (so far!) 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I was actually quite surprised at how good a children’s book can be even as an adult reading it for the first time. 

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you) 

Tana French. Most, most impressed by her writing. Much more to come from this author. 

8. Newest fictional crush 

Cassie Maddox from In The Woods by Tana French. 

9. Newest favourite character 

This is cheating (a bit) but she’s only just shown up in a book series but she’s been one of my favourite TV characters for a while now:  UN Secretary Chrisjen Avasarala from Caliban’s War 

10. Book that made you cry 

Not my thing & none came even close. 

11. Book that made you happy 

A (slight) cheat here with one I’ve (just) read but have yet to review: Funny Girl by Nick Hornby, and more for the amusement and laughs rather than the overall happiness. 

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received) 

If we’re talking cover art, I’d say: The King and the Catholics – The Fight for Rights 1829 by Antonia Fraser 

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year? 

LOTs of them! But I’d like to read the 3rd Dune book and maybe, just maybe, start the Foundation series before New Year's. 

Books reviewed so far: 54. Stacked to be reviewed: 5