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Achtung Schweinehund!: A Boy's Own Story of Imaginary Combat Paperback – 18 Jan 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (18 Jan. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316861367
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316861366
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 13.3 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 818,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

His war-obsessed childhood is so warm and funny and true you might be tempted to hug yourself with delight (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

'Funny, perceptive ... Pearson has you laughing throughout with guilty recognition. You learn a lot of quirky facts and a fair bit of military history from this endearing memoir (SUNDAY TIMES)

He has a very good line in comedy (DAILY MAIL)

A funny, perceptive book about men and their ineradicable love of war ... Harry Pearson has you laughing throughout with guilty recognition (Christopher Hart, SUNDAY TIMES)

Book Description

* A brilliantly funny and nostalgic look at 1960s and 70s childhood as well as a more serious examination of boys' (and some men's) obsession with war

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By T. Berner on 6 May 2008
Format: Paperback
We Yanks and you Brits approach popular entertainment from opposite sides.

In the US, we boil all of our culture down to the lowest common denominator. Our cuisine is nothing but different levels of salt and sugar. Our movies are sex and violence held together by the thinnest thread of plot. And don't get me started on our popular music. The result is that we create totally forgettable products which nevertheless appeal to people around the world.

In the UK, your expertise is your ability to puzzle out universal truths out of the individual and even eccentric. The result is that your culture creates more "popular culture" classics - think Sherlock Holmes or the Rolling Stones - than the US ever will.

Achtung Schweinehund is a perfect example. Mr. Pearson delivers a nostalgic and very funny discourse on an extremely narrow segment of society: wargamers, people who have never served in the military (and indeed, in many cases, are horrified by the thought) but who live and breath the military strategist's atmosphere. In enlightening chapters, he covers every segment of that hobby, including models, reenactments, board games, novels, toy soldiers and a host of others.

You needn't be much of an afficianado to enjoy this book. Mr. Pearson's ability to capture the humor, fanaticism, good nature, profiteering, in other words the pure humanity of the people who indulge in the hobby, teachs the reader larger truths about human nature. The American military hobbyist (except, perhaps for the most fanatical) will find large areas of the book to cover terra incognita, revealing the somewhat nationalistic aspect of the products and culture of this hobby.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Petrolhead VINE VOICE on 18 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback
A very enjoyable voyage round everyman's psyche. This brought back many forgotten memories and almost prompted a nostalgic tear. I never kept a diary when I was a kid, but Harry Pearson has kept one for me. His book takes us through comics, Action Man, cap-guns, airfix modelling, an obsession with historical military uniforms, and much, much more. These are things that most men have long left behind, but they remain in the memory. And once "grown out of", they are things that cannot even be referred to without seeming uncool, unmanly or unhinged. This is because men have to be seen to be men, and cannot show that they are still boys at heart.

Pearson is excruciatingly embarrassed about his hobby (wargaming with miniature metal soldiers), but he bravely refuses to disown it. He delves into it, telling a history of "boys' toys" which shows that the love of all things military has long been a big part of boys' lives in Europe. Seen from this perspective, it is amazing that the hobby has been pushed into such a corner now, and it seems only freaks and geeks are doing it. If you feel you have these kinds of skeletons in the closet, Pearson will make you feel like a man again.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Graham R. Hill VINE VOICE on 24 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a combination of selective autobiography, brief introduction to wargaming as a hobby, sociological analysis of gender stereotypes in the post war period, and a condensed history of toy soldiers; except of course that, as the author is at pains to point out, they're not toys. It's also funny.

Worth reading for both wargamers (although some of his stories may prove to be a little close to home) and to non-wargamers (to whom a whole subculture will be revealed). It's best avoided if you're a re-enactor or an orc-fancier.

Anyway, I'm off for a game of Airfix Charades; the rules of which are in the book.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By M. Kirschenbaum on 18 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback
A delightful read, even for this Yank. The book is but loosely organized---chapter titles are apparently lifted from some generic wargame rules since they're things like "Rallying Broken Troops"---and the writing is essentially a series of anecdotes and pleasant meanderings. There's no index or table of contents. It's a quiet book, couched in gentle self-parody and a drifting reach that at times turns jarringly contemporary (such as when one of the author's wargaming correspondents, an active duty US military officer, is killed in Iraq).

At one point Pearson describes a cartoon that has a painter showing off some hoplite figures and the other guy says, "Very nice, but don't you think the dirt under the fingernails is a little dark for Corinth?" It's a great line that captures a lot about the hobby, but it also strikes me as Pearson taking out his insurance: the fluorescent world of club basements, model stores, convention halls, newsletters, and personalities he describes is surely going to be subject to idiosyncratic memory and interpretations, and there will be those who rush in to declare this or that all bollocksed and wrong. They shouldn't be allowed to spoil the fun.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By N. H. Hyde on 16 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
Harry Pearson is the same age as me, and he appears to have had an uncannily similar childhood, albeit in the blue collar north rather than the white collar south of England. Like me, he is someone who has never quite grown out of playing with toy soldiers, and by now, as we hit our mid forties, has decided to stop apologising for it as well and come clean about his secret hobby.

How on earth did our mutual obsession with tiny toy soldiers come about? Pearson, famed for his weekly footie column in the Guardian and with a clutch of books to his name already, goes about explaining how an entire generation of schoolboys was, perhaps almost inevitably, initiated into the rites of war by the preceding generation that had actually experienced it. The horror and heartache that was experienced by our mums, dads, uncles and aunts on the home front and the front line, was translated by the media of the '50s, '60s and '70s into hit TV series, movies and comic strips about The War. Alongside this came the toys, ranging from cap guns to Action Man, Airfix kits to boardgames, and a host of cottage industries casting tiny soldiers. Lubricated by the stories and recollections of our own relatives, is it any wonder that any red-blooded little boy wanted to be the hero in their own imaginary wars?

Pearson describes this phenomenon in loving detail, but to dismiss this book as a 'toys for boys' tract would be a mistake. Pearson has a marvellously witty and humane take on everyting he writes about, and this work is no exception.
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