What makes this book such an excellent guide to political campaigning is that it succeeds in being a whole lot more than that.
In fact, its 308 pacy pages cheerfully zig-zag between marketing manual, self-help book, and campaigning A-Z -- with dollops of political history, pop-psychology, and behavioural economics thrown in for good measure.
The authors have clearly put a lot of thought into creating a book which people will actually want to read -- and to re-read -- on a subject many but the most obsessed political aficionado might initially dismiss as dull and boring.
Drs Pack and Maxfield do not shirk the essentials of building a successful campaign (far from it), but neither do they dwell overly on the mechanics of, for example, capturing voter ID data, or copy-writing and art-working leaflets, or building a volunteer team. Instead, the book is structured into five sections -- your message, your team, your resources, your communications, and your leadership -- collectively totalling 101 individual chapters. With no chapter longer than four pages, it is easy to dip in and out of, while even entries you feel don't apply to you can quickly be skimmed for nuggets of wisdom.
But it's not just the structure that helps the book whip along, it's also its jauntily irreverent tone. The authors' campaigning credentials are such (Mark managed Lynne Featherstone's successful 2005 campaign, Ed did the same for Norman Lamb in North Norfolk in 2001) that they are comfortable wearing their learning and experience lightly.
This isn't a know-it-all lecture in Things We Did Brilliantly Which You Must Now Do. Well-targeted anecdotes of their own hits-and-misses flow thick and fast. Quotes both funny and pointed are sprinkled throughout, from The West Wing to Gorbachev to David Ogilvy. References to works both academic and popular underpin, and cut through to, their message.
I've only one cavil: the absence of illustrations. It would have been great to see examples of campaign activities -- photos, petitions, leaflets etc -- which the authors felt worked brilliantly... and of course a few howlers which didn't.
And I've only a couple of suggestions. First, case studies: though both authors pepper the text with personal insights, I'd have loved to see them include a handful of worked-through examples of their own methods out into practice. And secondly, at the end of each chapter to include some sort of 3-point check-list summary -- along the lines: `If you remember just one thing...'; `If you do just one thing, make it X' and `Ask yourself this one question...' -- to further encourage this to be a book which isn't just read but put into everyday use.