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Shooting Leave: Spying Out Central Asia in the Great Game [Paperback]

John Ure
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

27 May 2010
Snow leopards and Cossacks can both be dangerous. But to young British officers in India in the nineteenth century there was only one thing more exciting than shooting wild game in the mountains and steppes of Central Asia, and that was spying out those uncharted lands and impeding the advance of Tsarist Russia towards the frontiers of the British Raj. When the two activities were combined - in what was euphemistically called 'shooting leave' - adventures followed thick and fast. Shooting Leave tells the thrilling story of the dashing cavalry officers who volunteered for these adventures. They were individuals of talent and courage, but also of disturbing prejudice, aristocratic arrogance, missionary zeal or trigger-happy temperament. But whatever their specific task, one factor remained common to all officers sent out on covert and exploratory missions: they were expendable. Here they are brought to life as characters in their own right, as well as players in the Great Game.

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Shooting Leave: Spying Out Central Asia in the Great Game + Sabres on the Steppes: Danger, Diplomacy and Adventure in the Great Game
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Constable; First Paperback Edition edition (27 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849014698
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849014694
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 89,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Extremely entertaining ... deserves to be a surprise Christmas bestseller. --Robert Harris, The Sunday Times

Anyone with red blood in his or her veins will be stirred by these stories ... The perfect read. --Robin Hanbury-Tennison, Country Life.

Gripping stuff. --Peter Hopkirk.

Book Description

The real stories behind the phantom worlds of Kipling, John Buchan's heroes and Flashman's villains. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Game travellers 19 Jan 2010
By Gary B
If you haven't read the books by Peter Hopkirk on the same period and topic, then by all means read this one which you will enjoy as it is well written. The courage and tenacity of the individuals this book is about is amazing. The journeys they made into the unknown (literally) were astounding. Economic development, even in some of these fairly outlying areas of Asia, means that their journeys can never be repeated. If you want to know what is was like to play the Great Game you have to read about it in books such as this or those by Hopkirk.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Heroes of the Great Game 2 May 2010
By Damob
I was hoping for something more. Ure writes of the exploits of a number of those gallant young men who went off into the unknown facing untold dangers for Queen (or Tsar) and country. For me though, although well-written and easy to read, the tales lack detail and, after the first two or three, follow a pattern so similar as to become almost boring.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bunch of appendices 19 Feb 2011
By Molerat
Odd book. It reads like a bunch of appendices to Peter Hopkirk's `The Great Game'. Ure summarises the (usually first-hand) accounts written by 16 travellers and spies who didn't feature prominently in Hopkirk's work, but makes no effort to stitch them together into some sort of historical narrative. So, although the tales may be exciting enough in themselves, it all gets a bit repetitive and tedious after a while.

If you want a rip-roaring popular account of the Great Game and some of its players, read Hopkirk. If you want a serious history of the competition between the British and Russian empires in Central Asia in the nineteenth century, read some serious history. Either way, I can't think of any good reason to bother with this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shooting leave, and how not to write 19 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What a lost opportunity for an exciting and informative read. The author has obviously done his research, but his pedestrian style is inappropriate for the subject matter. However, if you like books written by earnest historians who lack the ability to bring their subject to life, then you will not be disappointed. This book will not be added to my small library, but will be given away.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Read 4 Nov 2011
This is a collection of short stories about the adventure of mainly British officers and a few Russian officers during the great game, it gave you an insight of the nature of the characters who set out on these adventures and there encounters with Afghans,Persians & Turkomen etc.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A solid collection of ripping yarns 22 Mar 2011
A long time ago I read (and reviewed) a book called Britain's forgotten wars. "Shooting Leave" is in many ways its spiritual brother. What we have here is a well written and lively account of the various spies who helped fill in the blanks the British Empire had between its borders of India and Central Asia in the 19th century.

Each chapter covers the travels and adventures of one daring British agent who in general used the euphemistic excuse of "shooting leave" to explain away why they weren't doing their regular job. The stories are all exciting and interesting but because you only ever spend 30 pages or so with each person you either want to learn more about that individual or if it is going to be an amalgamation of stories there's no overview of how helpful these trips were to British Imperial interests. Was the effort worth the reward? This question is never tackled.

Every journey is interesting (although some are more epic than others) but you are left wanting more. As I said about the other book apart from this being a collection of "ripping yarns" I'm not quite sure what the value of the book is but as a light an easy read about forgotten imperial adventurers there are some great stories here.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter
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5.0 out of 5 stars Shooting Leave 11 Aug 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
North West Frontier, 19th Century, Espionage and Intrigue. A very well researched book about the British Army officers
who carried out clandestine reconnaisance on the frontiers of India, Afghanistan, Russia and related areas. Full of
stiff upper lip adventures and amazing tales of endurance and enterprise, all in the name of Empire. Super book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars shooting leave
this is a fascinating book opening a window on to the secret and dangerous world of spying - certainly no James Bonds here
Published on 2 Dec 2010 by Margaret Davies
1.0 out of 5 stars Rewriting History
John Ure attempts to gather many of the 'players' of the Great Game into one novel and fails almost entirely at creating a believable history. Read more
Published on 16 Sep 2010 by Michael Hancock
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing
"Shooting Leave" tells the story of the spying missions of a number of English and Russian adventurers into little known Central Asia as part of the Great Game, the 19th century... Read more
Published on 7 Aug 2010 by Basileus
3.0 out of 5 stars Extra time for the Great Game
For virtually the whole of the 19th Century, the territory north and north west of India - Afghanistan and several other -stans - was largely terra incognita. Read more
Published on 28 July 2010 by G. M. Sinstadt
4.0 out of 5 stars In the words of Flashman: "Capital, absolutely capital"
If youre a fan of the Flashman books and the Endurance/Exploration books by chaps like Fergus Fleming, then this is highly recommended as a terrific account of incredible bravery... Read more
Published on 31 Mar 2010 by Perfidious Albion
2.0 out of 5 stars Shooting Leave
Gripping yarns from the days when gripping yarns rreally happened, in the North West Frontier of India called Afghanistan, where British Officers went to spy out the dastardly... Read more
Published on 27 Mar 2010 by R. Smith
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