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David Rowland
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Seasons in Hell: Understanding Bosnia's War
Seasons in Hell: Understanding Bosnia's War
by Ed Vulliamy
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Seasons in hell, 23 Nov 2012
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The breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990's was an event that shocked, baffled and traumatised the citizens of Europe. We believed that such a set of violent events could never happen again in our continent after the bloodletting of the second world war. Yugoslavia was made up of six republics divided on ethnic lines - Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia and two autonomous provinces within Serbia - Vojvodina and Kosovo. Following the second world war the country was held together within a federal system by the very firm hand of Joseph Tito and any aspirations for nationalism or self determination were suppressed and after his death in May 1980 it was only a matter of time before seperatist voices would be raised. The weakening of the communist states in eastern Europe in the 1980's also encouraged people to demand self determination and increasing numbers of people within Yugoslavia thought their situation was highly unsatisfactory and had to change.

The first changes came in 1987 when Slobodan Milosovic was asked to visit Kosovo to calm an ethnically-driven protest by Serbs against the Albaninian administration that had had always been unpopular with Serbs but instead of defusing the situation Milosovic expressed his support for the Serbs there, he began a campaign against the rulers of Kosovo and Vojvodina and soon afterwards other areas of Yugoslvia began to demand autonomy or complete separation from the Yugoslav state that had always been dominated by Serbia. Milosovic released forces he could not control and ethnic tensions increased throughout Yugoslavia that lead to its violent breakup, his overthrow and his appearance in the dock of the International War Crimes Court in the Hague.

The most horrific violence took place in Bosnia and Ed Vulliamy was there to witness events and his book which is a description of his own personal experiences and the political background to the conflct vividly shows the ferocity of the fighting when civilians were the main casualties and massacred in large numbers such as at Srebenica and the term ethnic cleansing was first heard where the populations of towns were forcibly driven out by the soldiers of the warring parties. Vulliamy was in Sarejevo when it was under siege by the Serbs who from their positions on the hills continually shelled the city and snipers shot down people as they moved around in the streets below them. He also witnessed the horrors of the Serb concentration camps and joined the wave of Muslims as they trekked through the battlefields and over the mountains after being forced out of their homes in cental Bosnia.

The book provides graphic accounts of what took place in Bosnia, how particular individuals were caught up in the war and how the politicians of Europe failed to stop the violence which continued until the intervention of the Americans. It is a sober reminder of what is still possible in modern day Europe and confirmation if it was ever needed of the dictum that if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it.


In Harm's Way: Bosnia: A War Reporter's Story
In Harm's Way: Bosnia: A War Reporter's Story
by Martin Bell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In harms way, 1 Nov 2012
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Martin Bell was the BBC's principal television correspondence during the Bosnian war between 1991 and 1995 and he was an eye witness to the greatest period of bloodletting in Europe since the second world war and most sadly it was a war that need not have happened. His superb book not only tells the fascinating story of his own experiences on the front line but reveals the causes of the war and describes some of the personalities involved. He became a familiar figure to TV audiences with his white suit and his calm delivery of shocking events including the massacres at Srebenica and Ahmici and the long siege of Sarajevo. One of his most famous television reports from Bosnia included him being wounded by a sniper.

His book shows his admiration for the soldiers posted there who had an impossible job in the conflict who because of their rules of engagement were prevented from intervening in the fighting to help people and who had no choice but to be passive bystanders to many horrendous events including ethnic cleansing and massacres. It was a war of incredible intensity and cruelty especially for civilians where hatred between Serbs, Croats and Muslims, many of whom had previously lived beside each other in peace and harmony lead to events that shocked Europe whose inhabitants had come to believe that the kind of things that took place between 1939 and 1945 could not possibly happen again in their continent.

Bell produces many valuable insights about the war and how it was covered by correspondents and he does so with self effacing humour and great humanity. It is a great read and anyone interested in the war in the former Yugoslavia and how the story was told to the world must read it to get a balanced view of the conflict whose consequences are still very much apparent in this unhappy and unsettled area of Europe.


Westward: The Epic Crossing of the American Landscape
Westward: The Epic Crossing of the American Landscape
by Gerald Roscoe
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Westward: The epic crossing of the American landscape, 8 Oct 2012
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In the year 1800 less than a half of the massive continent of North America was known, travelled and mapped. From the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean there was a huge blank on the map. Apart from a few small isolated communities hugging the Pacific coast the interior was almost completely unknown to white Americans whose lived in the eastern half of the continent. In the east native Americans had been supplanted by white Americans or they had been pushed westwards. The western half of the continent was the domain of numerous native American tribes whose culture and way of life was shrouded in mystery and myth and who had never seen white people and knew nothing of their culture.

The area in the far west and the south west mostly belonged to Spain and the area from the Mississippi River to the Rockies mostly belonged to France. The British and the Russians also had a presence in the far west. In 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte gave up his aspirations to have an empire in America and sold the area belonging to France to the young American nation, then under the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. The area Jefferson bought was known as the Louisiana Purchase. He was naturally keen to see what he had bought for his money so in 1804 Jefferson arranged for an expedition under Meriwether Lewis and Thomas Clark to travel through his newly acquired purchase from St Louis in Missouri to the Pacific coast and so the land and the people that lived there were revealed and the spread westwards of white America began, initially slowly but soon as a tidal wave of people seeking land to farm and communities to establish.

Gerald Roscoe and David Larkin's magnificent and fascinating book describes the epic crossing of the continent and their fine text of extracts from expedition diaries is supplemented by the magnificent photographs of Paul Rocheleau. A series of expeditions between 1804 and 1875 opened up the American west and the authors describe them in 15 chapters, devoting a chapter to the journeys of Lewis and Clark, Zebulon Pike, The Astorians, Robert Stuart, Stephen Long, Thomas James and Jacob Fowler, Willam Ashley and Jedediah Smith, Jedediah Smith, Josiah Gregg, Benjamin Bonneville, Zenas Leonard, Nathaniel Wyeth and John Wyeth, John Townsend, Samuel Parker, John Bidwell and Nicholas Dawson, John Fremont, William Emory and the Army of the West, Howard Stansbury, Joseph Ives and John Powell. Throughout the chapters there are beautiful full colour photographs giving an impression of what some of the locations look like today.

It is a superb work which is full of interest and the photogrphs show what a breathtaking place the American west is and reading the book is a great experience for the armchair explorer and an encouragement to go west and see the place for yourself and marvel at it.


North American Exploration (Wiley Desk Reference)
North American Exploration (Wiley Desk Reference)
by Michael Golay
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.06

5.0 out of 5 stars North American exploration, 5 Oct 2012
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For anyone interested in the exploration of North America this is an essential work and a fascinating catalogue of the many people who came, went and stayed in North America. The authors include central America, Mexico and the Caribbean in their definition of North America. It is divided into seven parts - 1: North America before Columbus, 2: The Spanish enter the new world 1492-1635, 3: The Atlantic seaboard 1497-1680, Part 4: Exploring west of the Mississippi 1635-1800, Part 5: From the Appalachians to the Mississippi 1540-1840, Part 6: Across the North American continent 1720-1880, Part 7: The Arctic and northernmost regions 1576-1992. Within each section the authors list entries of people and places in alphabetical order.

This is an extremely well presented, detailed, comprehensive and useful one-stop resource of essential information in a very readable form on every significant explorer, expedition and event in the history of North American exploration from Lief Erickson, a Norse explorer who in about 1000 came from Iceland and briefly stayed in either Labrador or Newfoundland and possibly even reached the St Lawrence River to the exploration of the Arctic region and the North Pole in the late 20th century. It is illustrated throughout with period drawings, portraits, photographs and maps and comprises over 400 entries in its 518 pages.

It is one of those books that you could spend hours leafing through because there is so much to see and absorb and the authors, Michael Golay and John J. Bowmand are to be congratulated on producing such a fine book that is full of interest for armchair explorers like me who prefer their thrills to come from the pages of a book rather than running for my life from hostile Indians seeking my scalp on the great plains of the far west or freezing to death at the helm of a ship looking for the North west passage.


The Atlas of North American Exploration: From the Norse Voyages to the Race in the North Pole
The Atlas of North American Exploration: From the Norse Voyages to the Race in the North Pole
by William H. Goetzmann
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The atlas of North American exploration, 3 Oct 2012
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This a truly magnificent book that everyone who is the least bit interested in the exploration of North America cannot and should not do without. It covers a vast period of history from the Norse voyages of the 9th century to the race to the pole in the early 20th century. The book is a combination of stunningly beautiful maps showing the routes of many journeys and a brief but informative text describing the various expeditions. The book comprises five parts - part 1: "A continent on the edge of the world" that covers the norse voyages, the voyages along the Atlantic coast and the Spanish borderlands up to 1640, Part 2: "The opening of the continent" that covers exploration in the 16th and 17th centuries, Part 3: "Expanding frontiers" that covers exploration in the 17th and 18th centuries, Part 4: "Ocean to Ocean" that covers exploration in the 18th and 19th centuries and Part 5: "The Far North" that covers the polar voyages from the 18th century to the 20th century.

William H. Goetzmann and Glyndwr Williams have provided us with a superb work that is fascinating and exciting to read and the full colour maps and illustrations are striking and highly revealing and both tell a story that is dramatic, awe inspiring and a testament to mankind's desire to wonder, to search, to strive and to face the perils of unknown lands and we are the modern day beneficiaries of their massive efforts over the centuries. I cannot recommend the book too highly, once picked up it is very hard to put down again - you won't want to anyway.


A Newer World: Kit Carson, John C. Fr Emont, and the Claiming of the American West
A Newer World: Kit Carson, John C. Fr Emont, and the Claiming of the American West
by David Roberts
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A newer world, 19 Sep 2012
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This is the fascinating story of Fremont-Carson expeditions and of two men who forged a deep relationship lasting many years that had a crucial bearing on the exploration of the American west and south west in the 1840s and 1850s. They were a very unlikely combination, they were utterly different from each other but they complemented each other in a peculiar way and their relationship was very productive. Their expeditions were second only to that of the earlier journeys of Lewis and Clark in terms of their scale and significance. Fremont was illiterate, ambitious, erratic, boastful and courageous and saw himself as a mountaineer, long before moutaineering became popular. He later went on to become active in politics and was the Republican party's nomination for president in 1856 but narrowly lost the election. Carson was a modest, highly respected and experienced mountain man, trapper and Indian fighter who evolved into becoming someone who championed their cause and became an advocate for them.

Fremont invited Carson to be a scout on three of his expeditions to explore the American west and Fremont said that on several occasions Carson had actually saved his life. Fremont always tried to get Carson to come with him on his trips and it is significant that the one expedition where Carson was not present was disaster for Fremont.

David Roberts has produced a superb, enlightening and highly readable account of these two men and their expeditions and he travelled in their footsteps across the American west and south west to gain a first hand knowledge of the routes Fremont and Carson took and what their expeditions meant for the Americanisation of the west that lead to such catastrophic consequences for native Americans and the virtual extinction of their culture.


Gone Baby Gone [DVD]
Gone Baby Gone [DVD]
Dvd ~ Casey Affleck
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Gone baby gone, 8 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Gone Baby Gone [DVD] (DVD)
I am not a great fan of American police movies and I usually find them lacking in originality and depth and I much prefer films about British police because I can identify more often with the characters portrayed and find them more true to life so I was not expecting too much when I started watching this movie but I was pleasantly surprised by this fine piece of well crafted, thoughtful and sensitive filmaking. It is about the disappearance of a little girl living in a run down area of Boston whose mother is a junkie and a prostitute who would never win a mother of the year award in any competition so the police are not exactly sympathetic towards her and treat her with contempt. Because of this the mother's sister and brother in law employ a young local private eye because they thought he could get information about the case from local people who would not never talk to the police.

What the private eye finds is completely unexpected and raises the often asked question of in what circumstances should children remain with their natural parents when the grown ups are lousy at the job and how do you balance the rights of natural parents against the duty of the authorities to safeguard a child's wellbeing when this is at risk as it is so clearly here. The plot ends with the private eye eventually coming down on one particular side of the question and in the final scene that is superbly handled you are left with the feeling as he does that maybe he should have taken a different course of action.

The film has many fine performances, especially by Morgan Freeman as the local police chief and Ed Harris as a police detective both of whom initially scorn the attempts of the private eye to help them and the movie has a depth that is rare in so many American movies of this genre and it does not wallow in sentimentality as it could so easily have given the nature of its subject matter.


After Lewis and Clark: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific
After Lewis and Clark: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific
by Robert M. Utley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After Lewis and Clark, 4 Sep 2012
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After the first official expedition to the vast tracts of lands west of the Mississippi River led by Merewether Lewis and Thomas Clark returned in 1807, a number of hunters and trappers after hearing reports of numerous beavers in the rivers flowing from the Rockies set off to these lands where no white Americans had ever travelled or lived prior to the Lewis and Clark expedition and they collected beaver skins to be used for hats by the fashionable elites back east and in Europe. These trappers and hunters are often called mountain men and not only did they trap beaver but they explored the western plains and the mountain ranges and rivers of the west and produced the first accurate maps. Most of them tried to get on friendly terms with the native American tribes living in the west but did not always succeed. They lived like native Americans, they traded with them, admired and feared them and sometimes they married native American women. When the fashion for beaver hats diminished in the 1840s the mountain men often acted as guides for the wagon trains that moved westwards in ever increasing numbers from Missouri across the great plains and through the Rockies to Oregon and California.

Robert M. Utley in his hugely impressive, fascinating and engrossing book chronicles the lives and experiences of mountain men like John Colter, George Drouillard, Hugh Glass, Jedediah Smith, Joe Walker, Bill Sublette, Tom Fitzpatrick, Jim Bridger, Kit Carson and others. Their real life experiences are far more exciting than any western film or book and these trailblazers laid the foundations of much that was to come in the western half of the continent. Unfortunately many of these later developments were enormously destructive to the culture of native Americans and their way of life and led to their virtual extinction and I can't help wondering what the mountain men would have thought if they had known what was to happen in the west and to the people that had lived there for hundreds of years as a result of a process that they started.

The text is very readable, there are helpful maps and you are left with an enormous admiration for these courageous mountain men who suffered enormous hardships and privations, fought off hostile attacks and continued to return to these areas time and time again despite all the dangers. The American west must have been a wondeful place in the early 1800's before it was settled, developed and exploited and before the lust for land, gold and the other natural resources that the west had in such abundance set in motion a process that had such devastating consequences for native American people who had lived there for centuries.


The Trailblazers
The Trailblazers
by Gilbert Bil
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars The trailblazers, 31 Aug 2012
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This review is from: The Trailblazers (Hardcover)
The American west at the start of the 19th century was a place of mystery, fear and misunderstanding and a few men sought to explore the vast expanse of land west of the Mississippi River particularly after 1803 when President Thomas Jefferson bought a huge slice of the west called the Louisiana Purchase from the French. He established the first official expedition to explore these lands and a party of men under Merewether Lewis and William Clark became the first trailblazers who crossed the territory from the Missouri River to the Pacific coast between 1804 and 1806. What they found was astounding and scarcely believable and it was a land of towering mountains, huge fast flowing rivers, many native American tribes that had never seen a white person before and a territory with huge potential that was to be rapidly inhabited and expolited in the following fifty years.

This superb lavishly illustrated book is a fine overview of the exploration that took place subsequent to the Lewis and Clark expedition and how the land and its resources revealed themselves to the people who went there. It is divided into six chapters - The lure of the wild country (about the earliest explorers and what they found in the west) the mountain of man's domain (about the rugged mountain men who lived off the land and trapped beaver in the rivers flowing from the Rockies between 1804 and 1840) king of the trailblazers (about the exploers of the west after the Lewis and Clark expedition) sightseers and scholars (about the writers, artists and scientists who travelled and recorded the west) a realm for the taking (about how the resources of the west were exploited) and filling in the blank spaces (about those who completed the exploration of the west begun by Lewis and Clark).

The full colour illustrations are beautiful and the text is easy to read and reveal a magnificent and unique land with a fascinating history that will thrill and delight you and make you want to see it for yourself.


Give Your Heart to the Hawks: A Tribute to the Mountain Men
Give Your Heart to the Hawks: A Tribute to the Mountain Men
by Win Blevins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.20

5.0 out of 5 stars Give your heart to the hawks, 30 Aug 2012
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Following the Lewis and Clark expedition to the vast expanse of unexplored territory west of the Mississippi River between 1804 and 1806 when many beavers were found in the rivers flowing from the Rockies a number of intrepid men set out, often alone to make their fortunes by trapping beavers whose skins were used to make hats for the fashionable folk in the east and in Europe. From about 1804 to 1840 when the fashion diminished these trappers, known as commonly mountain men, became a legend and many of them later acted as guides leading covered wagon trains through the Rockies to Oregon and California. The mountain men were more like native Americans than white Americans, they lived off the land, they moved around a great deal, they went to places where no white Americans had ever been and unlike most of those who followed in their footsteps they made a point of trying to get on friendly terms with native Americans and often traded with them and in some cases married them. The west they came to know, to fear and to love has largely disappeared. They were the pathfinders for later explorers and the hundreds of thousands of settlers that came pouring westwards from about 1840 to build the towns, cities, dams, roads and railroads that we see in such abundance today.

Win Blevins has produced a superb, fascinating and vivid picture of these men and the lives they led, the adventures they had and the contribution they made to the exploration of the American west. The names of the mountain men will become familiar to you through his pages - John Colter, Jedediah Smith, Bill Sublette, Jim Bridger, Tom Fitzpatrick, Kit Carson and many others. In many ways I envy these larger than life characters and have often wondered what the American west was like in their day. The American west they experienced was pristine, unspolt by the destructive and polluting hand of man that came later and nature then ruled supreme. It must have been a wonderful place in those days. I have been there several times and you can still get some idea of how it must have been like even today.

It is a terrific read and I thoroughly recommend it to you as a great escape and a slice of awesome history. It gives you a brief glimpse of a world that has made the American west a place that is unique, spectacular, thrilling and almost beyond the imagination.


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