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Achtung Schweinehund!: A Boy's Own Story of Imaginary Combat [Paperback]

Harry Pearson
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
Price: 10.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

24 Jan 2008

This is a book about men and war. Not real conflict but war as it has filtered down to generations of boys and men through toys, comics, games and movies. Harry Pearson belongs to the great battalion of British men who grew up playing with toy soldiers - refighting World War II - and then stopped growing up. Inspired by the photos of the gallant pilot uncles that decorated the wall above his father's model-making table, by Sergeant Hurricane, Action Man and Escape from Colditz, dressed in Clarks' commando shoes and with the Airfix Army in support, he battled in the fields and on the beaches, in his head and on the sitting-room floor and across his bedroom ceiling. And thirty years later he still is.

ACHTUNG SCHWEINEHUND! is a celebration of those glory days, a boy's own story of the urge to play, to conquer - and to adopt very bad German accents, shouting 'Donner und Blitzen' at every opportunity. This is a tale of obsession, glue and plastic kits. It is the story of one boy's imaginary war and where it led him.

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Achtung Schweinehund!: A Boy's Own Story of Imaginary Combat + The Far Corner: A Mazy Dribble Through North-East Football + A Tall Man in a Low Land : " Some Time Among The Belgians"
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; Reprint edition (24 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349115680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349115689
  • Product Dimensions: 1.7 x 12.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 64,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inductive Entertainment 6 May 2008
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
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth about being male, and not being "cool" 18 Feb 2007
By Petrolhead VINE VOICE
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Out of the wargaming closet 24 Jan 2007
By Graham R. Hill VINE VOICE
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Toys in the Attic 18 Feb 2007
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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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frighteningly Accurate 4 April 2007
First of all, Pearson's reminiscing is hilarious. From the point his uncle whacked him round the backside with a toy rifle (for bayonet charging him in the nads) right through to meeting a 'LARPer' on a train. This all took me right back to my own youth - fiddling around with an Airfix Spitfire and bodging at it with a cocktail stick covered in glue.

As well as a few chapters outlining Pearson's early years as a plastic-toy-tinkerer and Commando comic aficionado, we get a thorough tour of all the social aspects of wargaming and role-playing - and the personal rivalries between role-players, war-gamers, re-enactors and so on. But there is a more important lesson, which 'non war-gamers' who read this book will probably miss - as they scoff at Pearson and his allies. The shocking truth (from my own experience) - is that the social mileu which exists in wargame circles exists everywere else! The type of characters described by Pearson appear in every activity I'm involved in: from the classic bike fraternity and social research conference circuit, right through to the workplace and the local book club. As Pearson finds in his own book - so I find that it is these characters who make life worth living - with their bizarre ideas and personal foibles.

There are also warnings about the pitfalls of turning hobbies into jobs - as Pearson describes the proprietors of some war-game shops as some of the most miserable individuals imaginable. Was this because they'd enjoyed their gaming so much they wrongly thought that putting the word 'work' in front of it wouldn't ruin it?

The joke is ultimately on us, but as I slip into my cords and Wallabees (heading for the Newark auto-jumble) I can only wonder at the craziness of Pearson and his ilk.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
excellent - no problems at all
Published 6 hours ago by nobby
5.0 out of 5 stars The lad done well
A very enjoyable book. Board games, characters, humour, model soldiers, comics, life before FIFA 2014, the North East. Have I said humour? A gem.
Published 2 months ago by K. C. Shapley
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute must for every 'serious' wargammer!
An absolutely brilliant book, filled with little every day stories, all seasoned with huge amounts of humor.
Will recommend it to fellow gamers for sure.
Published 13 months ago by Mac.
4.0 out of 5 stars Achtung Schweinehund! Review
Harry Pearson is a writer who has established a niche in the sports and non-fiction markets. He has written a number of books and is a regular columnist for the Guardian. Read more
Published on 5 Jun 2012 by Jonyoak
3.0 out of 5 stars Achtung Schweinhund
I liked the book for its novilty and could relate to parts of it, but it does feel more of a biography and one mans an indulgance into his own nostalgia which though interesting is... Read more
Published on 10 Jan 2012 by 2.8iman
5.0 out of 5 stars Achtung Schwienhund
Having read "A Tall Man in a Low Country"(all about Belgium)couldn't wait to see how he treated Germany. Read more
Published on 3 Jan 2012 by M. L. Le Dune
3.0 out of 5 stars Best suited to wargamers?
I bought this book because, like the author, warfare played a huge role in my childhood imagination. Read more
Published on 21 Sep 2010 by ProgDave
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
This book is well written, and Harry Pearson comes across as somebody I would like to meet for a pint. But. Read more
Published on 23 May 2010 by Woolgatherer
3.0 out of 5 stars Not only a war-obsessed childhood...
While I enjoyed Achtung Schweinehund!, it was not really the book I expected it to be: it is much more about the author's adult obsession with wargaming than growing up in... Read more
Published on 11 April 2010 by Dobester
3.0 out of 5 stars Amusing In Places But Not That Great
Harry Pearson's memoir of growing up with the military-themed toys of yesteryear and continuing into adulthood as a minatures wargamer has some moments that will make a lot of... Read more
Published on 23 Nov 2009 by Emilio Mestiga
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