As a dive guide and instructor who lives and works in Sharm el Sheikh, John Kean will know the Thistlegorm as well as any diver and is, therefore, as qualified as any to write a book about this fabulous shipwreck. Just as soon as I started to read his book it became quite clear that he has gone to a great deal of trouble to provide his fellow Scuba Divers with a complete guide to what he describes as "The Red Sea's Greatest Shipwreck" and others might even describe as the greatest shipwreck in the world. The end result is very good and everything you ever wanted to know appears to have been included.
This is a hard-back book containing 153 pages of information on every aspect of the ship - before, during and after she was lost, and all supported by a good selection of colour and B&W images throughout. In an easy-to-read style of writing, the author commences with an account of a day in the life of an instructor before getting down to specifics. Those specifics comprise no fewer than 31 chapters. Whilst some of these amount to only a couple of pages, they all form an integral part of a complicated jigsaw which would be incomplete if any were missing. Each chapter is also written as though it were a short story in it's own right and remains individually entertaining as a result.
Having included photographs of the ship's Captain (and a foreword from his son) plus interviews and photographs from more of those who survived, it was interesting to note that the Author was only able to find two photographs of the ship itself. The first of these is that well known image of the yet-to-be-completed Thistlegorm being launched. The second, however, is a portrait of a crew member leaning on the starboard rail and reveals very little of the ship itself. In short and, as I suspected, there are no photographs of the Thistlegorm as a completed ship. Nevertheless, I was particularly pleased to see the inclusion other "Thistle" ships which were very similar to the Thistlegorm - and which other so-called authors have actually described as "rare photographs of the Thistlegorm" when they are not. This book sets the record straight on this and other important topics.
Relying heavily on material produced in the BBC Documentary "Thistlegorm's Last Voyage" and the interviews and experiences from four notable survivors contained therein, the book is no poorer for such an approach and the BBC and those involved with that particular film are all duly acknowledged.
Overall, however, I do have two specific criticisms; Whilst there is a block of general acknowledgements at the beginning of the book, I prefer to see individual photographs acknowledged so that the reader is aware of the source of each mage. Secondly, the book does suffer from the problems associated with self-publishing. For example, the opening words on the inside of the book's front dust cover read "Sunk by German bomber planes in World War Two, SS Thistlegorm has lay at the bottom of the sea for over sixty years." Thankfully, that particular example of the use of poor English is not indicative of that which is found inside. Even so, such a sentence might easily steer many a prospective buyer away from purchasing this product.
Criticisms aside, this is a fascinating book, a very good read and the answer to an awful lot of questions about this most-talked-about shipwreck.