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Greg Spiro, Director SpiroNicholson Singapore

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The Long Room
The Long Room
by Francesca Kay
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intelligence officer loses the plot, 25 Jan. 2016
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This review is from: The Long Room (Hardcover)
It is tempting to compare this excellent novel with the German film ‘Das Leben de Anderen’ (The Lives of Others) in that they both evoke a world of surveillance in which misplaced motives encroach on conventional espionage objectives. In the film it is the abuse of power by a corrupt politician to discredit a dissident theatre director in order to annexe his actress wife. In ‘The Long Room’ it is the fantasies of Stephen, a British Intelligence ‘listener’ which threaten to transform illicit intentions about a suspected traitor’s wife into dubious action. When headphones supply material that triggers obsession you can be sure that a compelling story will unfold in which legitimate concerns of the cold war and the IRA bombings of the time (1981) become conflated with the romantic aspirations of their operator. The distortions of unhelmeted virtual reality are gradually constructed here by a socially unconnected mind.
Francesca Kay’s novels have been praised for their poetic qualities. She has a remarkable skill for creating textured tableaux so that we can visualise ‘The Long Room’ in front of us or Stephen’s mother’s humble Didcot home. She can imbue brussel sprouts with a significance that flashier authors would save for car chases. Without this ability, her characters’ lives would be so dull as to lack the page-turning quality a reader needs to continue with the story. But the context is never allowed to slip away undescribed and thereby significance is continually conjured. Moreover the poetics play a central part in driving the plot in that Stephen’s thoughts, perceptions, delusions make up the prequels that fuel his actions:
“Dialogue in life is nothing like dialogue in transcript. There are times when Stephen thinks himself to be the only person in the world who truly listens. And monologue the one true form of speech. A man speaking to himself in an empty room.” This hints of a world a closer psychologically to the tapes of Beckett’s Krapp than the supercharged Apple store of ‘Spooks’.

There are one or two moments where I questioned the credibility of specific scenes but the story is compelling, and the sheer descriptive beauty of Orford Ness in midwinter, reason itself for reading it. Set in the analogue era Kay avoids any explicit references to the concerns raised by Edward Snowden about the digitally empowered listeners of of own time. But if we so wish, as readers we are free to discuss the contemporary implications of the protocols and boundaries which Stephen’s colleagues mainly respect and he submits to fateful erosion. Highly recommended.


Let the sun shine!: How strategic due diligence is key to acquistion success
Let the sun shine!: How strategic due diligence is key to acquistion success
by Vaughan Evans
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tools, techniques and cases to keep the feet on the ground, 4 Oct. 2015
Royal Bank of Scotland's acquisition of ABN Amro is a well known example of the very behaviour that Vaughan Evans book on Strategic Due Diligence helps to avoid, namely brand or company acquisitions insufficiently calibrated to meaningful measures of value and prospects. The well-described techniques and cases will alleviate any tendencies your hormones may have to let ambition get ahead of risk management. The author has not only incorporated examples from his extensive consulting experience but also his considerable writing experience from several titles for entrepreneurs and executives has helped him hone the tools and strike a sensible balance between academic sources and practical application. He also succeeds in lightening a potentially dry theme with a laconic sense of humour - identifying the rock band mentioned in a case about stairlifts is in itself a worthwhile challenge for a potential reader. This is an invaluable handbook for both seasoned business people and those who may be looking into an acquisition for the first time, wondering how to get a 'purchase' on its competitive context, viability and risk implications while also taking heed of those issues of 'change' and implementation so often disregarded as part of the assessment. Finally, a caveat - moving averages and R.O.I. analysis won't protect against headstrong CEOs determined to bag their target brand regardless of the business case, especially the price. Hopefully though the governance dimension to due diligence will help to mitigate that risk provided that those responsible are sufficiently brave and politically skilled.


FT Essential Guide to Developing a Business Strategy: How to Use Strategic Planning to Start Up or Grow Your Business (Financial Times Series)
FT Essential Guide to Developing a Business Strategy: How to Use Strategic Planning to Start Up or Grow Your Business (Financial Times Series)
by Vaughan Evans
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars strategic planning brought within reach, 4 Dec. 2013
The latest from the author's pipeline of well assembled toolkits for start-up entrepreneurs and forward thinking managers, Vaughan Evans takes on the discipline of strategic planning in his distinctive, personable voice. Notwithstanding the disclaimer that you don't have to attend business school as a prerequisite, many of the tools will be familiar to those who have. Indeed some might find the book a useful resource for oiling any rusty strategy hinges in their business school memories. However, the central case study provides a clear and engaging narrative on which to hang many essential tools of competitive strategy at the economics-oriented end of the spectrum. Evans demonstrates his flair for guiding the reader, making the models accessible, intelligible and practical. There is a wealth of clearly presented charts and tables to underpin the tale. The ultimate test will be if readers find the book a useful foundation for their planning needs in the form of well-conceived and executed strategic plans. There's a risk that the inexperienced will find the sheer number of tools intimidating, especially if they are working through them 'home alone' although it will undoubtedly appeal also to many autonomous readers. The book will perhaps work best for those who can discuss its messages with a buddy or team so that the models are brought to life in their application to their businesses. [ASIN:0273757989 FT Essential Guide to Writing a Business Plan: How to Win Backing to Start Up or Grow Your Business (The FT Guides)]]


Financial Times Essential Guides Writing a Business Plan: How to win backing to start up or grow your business (The FT Guides)
Financial Times Essential Guides Writing a Business Plan: How to win backing to start up or grow your business (The FT Guides)
by Vaughan Evans
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When passion meets planning, 30 Mar. 2012
Well, we've seen them on tv - those aspiring entrepreneurs, long on passion but short on next year's forecast sales and profit figures.
Sometimes even last year's performance is rendered vague and unquantified. But, as Vaughan Evans points out in this excellent guide to creating a business plan, backers need evidence as well as passion before they sign up to an investment. That's the strength of this book - it is slanted towards the initial market for the business plan - the backer - and once that perspective is established, the criteria and priorities follow. The author has clearly immersed himself in hundreds of business plans which enable him to take the entrepreneur or executive logically through the composition of the plan using tools, techniques and research. He especially stresses the need to analyse competitors - competition is good news in that it suggests that there is indeed a market for the product or service but the degree of intensity will greatly help to determine the strategic positioning of the business within its market. The central case of a couple running a spa hotel and restaurant in Devon is accessible by everyone, very illustrative of the planning process and wittily described. The many tools and techniques are also presented with illustrative examples and there are some engaging quotes at the chapter headings including this gem from Vaclav Havel: "Vision is not enough, it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare at the steps, we must step up the stairs." If I have a criticism it is that, after the first few pages, the use of business terminology is by no means light so a jargon buster at the start would therefore help. Moreover, for the less experienced, the drafting of the plan may well be put together in consultation with a professional eg an accountant so a section on how to plan with professional help (without getting ripped off) might be useful. So whether you have a business education or just a good idea, the book will help transform what can be an intimidating challenge into a well-informed, skilful task that might just make the difference in attracting a backer.


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