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The Quick and the Dead [Hardcover]

William Arthur Waterton
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.00
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Book Description

14 Nov 2012
Written in 1956 but still relevant and throught-provoking today, this book is an absolute revelation on test flying with the British aircraft organisations and manufacturers in the 1950s. Written with refreshing frankness and truth - which allegedly finally cost him his job at the "Daily Express" - this account details what really went on behind the scenes in the defence world. Waterton pulls no punches in recounting the non-cooperation of civil servants in improving/altering recognised faults (often minor) when developing aircraft - to the cost of lives lost. This is an astonishing insight into the workings of the British aircraft industry. With a foreword by Tony Blackman (author of Nimrod: Rise and Fall, Victor Boys and Vulcan Test Pilot).

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Grub Street; Reprint edition (14 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908117273
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908117274
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 14 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 142,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'The welcome reissue of a small masterpiece of unwelcome revelations.' --James Hamilton-Paterson (author of Empire of the Skies)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bill Waterton A Great Test Pilot 21 Mar 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This man lost his job, because he could see what was wrong with the British aircraft industries, So many pilots lost their lives because no one would listen to the pilots about problems they found.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant glimpse into 1950s aviation in Britain 28 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A major company in decline immediately after a revolutionary breakthrough described by their chief test pilot who was left in disgust at the way he was treated - superb
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britains aircraft indutry 22 Jan 2013
By john
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very interesting and a real insght into the successess and the ultimate failure of our aircraft industry,
Mr Waterton doesn't pull any punches about the mismanagement of what was once a world leading industry.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Quick & the Dead 18 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Interesting book from a very forthright man! Illustrates the perils of test flying & the interference of politics in aviation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It is a very interetsing read along with "Empire of the clouds" and I think that today we still have a muddled MOD and competition between the three forces all to the detriment of the poor old squadies. Surely the MOD has got to be the most incompetent purchasing people on the planet. i.e Chinooks that can't fly Carriers with no planes, the Yanks fly Harriers and we bin them and what about all those things we don't hear about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How it really was. 26 Aug 2013
This is a great book. I read the original edition years ago and I must say that it captures the reader and presents a very realistic picture of the relationship between the aircraft designers and the test pilots flying their creations. I was a test pilot in the UK in the 1970s and I can vouch that not much had changed even then. As I kept reading, I kept seeing parallels with instances that I had experienced in my working life. This is a great book that gives the reader a taste of how it really was to work as a test pilot in post-WW2 England. I wish I could have met the author: he must have been a fantastic raconteur (he was a truly talented pilot, of course)! Highly recommended book for any aeroplane lover.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book - shame about the print quality 2 April 2013
By Colin H
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a very interesting book, by one of the leading test pilots during the post-WW2 years - one who was prepared to "rock the boat" with the bosses of aviation companies in the quest for a better aircraft.
It is a shame then that this print edition lets it down, with the typesetting arranged to maximise the number of words on a page at the cost of very narrow margins. There are also alot (too many) of typos which makes one believe the book was never proof read before publication.
This spoils the reading experience.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good read 29 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Cover 4/5 Main and sub title pretty accurate for the period.


Recommended to read this book by the author of Empire of the Clouds. From the descriptions of relationships between the owners, makers and the pilots it is a wonder the author lived.

His views on the British Aircraft industry of the time are pretty damming.

Given TSR2 and more recently Nimrod cancellations one wonders if much has changed.

I will read again sometime and the book will go on my bookshelf.

Alexander of the Allrighters and Ywnwab!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Is This Really How it was Done?
This re-issue of Bill Waterton's memoirs made me angry. His final chapter condemnation of the British aircraft industry and why it failed should be read by the decision makers... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dr. J. Z. Blankenstein
5.0 out of 5 stars A brave and highly skilled pilot but, alas, a voice in the wilderness
I recommend Bill Waterton's book without reservation
It is no wonder that the British Aircraft industry went into terminal decline after WW2. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kevin Granville
5.0 out of 5 stars A real sense of test flying in the 50's
Having read Empire of the Clouds I was pleased to see this back in print. Not a sophisticated book in terms of analysis but gives a real sense that pilots took life in their hands... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Robin CHARNLEY
5.0 out of 5 stars A frank account of the post war aircraft industry. Exceptionally well...
After reading this book I had many questions I would have liked to ask the author as it is an honest account of both test flying and the arrogance that has resulted in the demise... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Professor John T Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars An Eye Opener!
****************This review is based on the first edition copy I have***********

This book illustrates the reasons why the UK no longer has a manufacturing base for... Read more
Published 13 months ago by VC10 1103
5.0 out of 5 stars So pleased this book has been re-printed!
As an ex RAF pilot who had the pleasure of flying the Meteor, I was delighted when the book became available again. Read more
Published 14 months ago by J. R. Jones
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