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Reviews Written by
Mr. R. D. M. Kirby "Dick Kirby" (Suffolk, UK)

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Cruel Sea [DVD]
Cruel Sea [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jack Hawkins
Price: £6.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional, 14 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Cruel Sea [DVD] (DVD)
I admired Jack Hawkins very much as an actor and this film, brilliantly directed by Charles Frend is, I think, one of his best, if not the best.

Donald Sinden gives a really compelling performance as Hawkins’ No. 1 and the rest of the cast is highly impressive, too. The film displays the life or death decisions which wartime commanders were often compelled to make - and Hawkins’ decision, through no fault of his own, is calamitous. There are no false heroics and I believe that this magnificent British film accurately depicts the often appalling conditions experienced by the wartime Royal Navy.

The Case that Foiled Fabian: Murder and Witchcraft in Rural England
The Case that Foiled Fabian: Murder and Witchcraft in Rural England
by Simon Read
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Supernaturally Good!, 5 Jun. 2014
In assembling this meticulously researched book, the author Simon Read missed his vocation; he really should have been a detective.

The circumstances of the case of 74 year old Charles Walton, who was savagely murdered in 1945 in rural Warwickshire were so bizarre that it gave rise to speculation that the death was closely associated with witchcraft. Detective Chief Inspector Fabian (‘of the Yard’) who was then the head of the Flying Squad was called in by the local chief constable and over a period of months, the Yard’s extremely successful detective carried out a highly detailed investigation. He met, for the most part, a sullen silence from the local inhabitants and yet with hindsight they had little or no information to give. Fabian’s suspicions were focussed upon one man; however, with only circumstantial evidence, suspicion was not enough to justify the suspect’s arrest, let alone a conviction.

In this eminently readable true crime book, Mr. Read, like Fabian, has left no stone unturned to unravel this mystery; over and above the criminal investigation (which he has thoroughly probed) Mr. Read has also carried out a highly detailed investigation into witchcraft in and around the area of Warwickshire. Would modern-day forensic science have brought about a successful conclusion to the case? In all probability it would, but this is now; not 1945 with a contaminated crime scene.

It all adds up to a page-turner of a book which the wise reader will not put down until it's finished.

Geordie [DVD] [1955]
Geordie [DVD] [1955]
Dvd ~ Alastair Sim
Price: £9.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Don't call me wee!", 3 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Geordie [DVD] [1955] (DVD)
The film has a very straightforward plot: set in the Scottish Highlands, Geordie MacTaggart is a very undersized boy who takes up a postal bodybuilding course and upon achieving a Herculean body, goes on to become the world champion at hammer-throwing at the Melbourne Olympics - that’s the basics.

But as you’d expect with a Gilliat & Launder film, there’s a lot more to it than that. There’s a tremendous cast: Bill Travers plays Geordie, with Norah Gorsen as his girl-friend, Jean. The younger Geordie - prior to his bodybuilding course - is very nicely played by Paul Young (“Don’t call me wee!”) and the younger Jean, by Anna Ferguson (“Och, sorry Geordie!”)

There’s Alistair Sim as the slightly dotty Laird, employer to Geordie and his father, very well played by Jameson Clark, who has some beautifully delivered, dry, one-liners.

The blissful romance between Geordie & Jean is slightly disrupted after Geordie’s encounter with the Danish shot-putter, Helga, a rather overwhelming Doris Goddard, but not for long; Geordie’s simple charm, plus the acquisition of a hat, adorned with gruesome plastic fruit for Jean is sufficient to ensure that everything ends happily.

With terrific music by William Alwyn, this is a lovely film which doesn't date - watch it and be happy.

The Infiltrators: The First Inside Account of Life Deep Undercover with Scotland Yard's Most Secret Unit
The Infiltrators: The First Inside Account of Life Deep Undercover with Scotland Yard's Most Secret Unit
by Philip Etienne
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, 29 May 2014
Make no mistake about it, undercover policing (UC) is the most dangerous police-work - anywhere. The men and women who undertake this perilous work inevitably find themselves in situations where they’re cut-off, completely on their own without any kind of communication and where there’s no back-up. Quite simply, they’re the bravest of the brave.

Two such officers - Philip and Martin - have their stories told in this very cleverly cobbled together book by Tony Thompson. Individual tales of UC are recounted and in so doing, criticism is quite properly levelled at the senior officers who make some incredibly stupid decisions - and bringing in Jamaican Yardies in the hope that they might infiltrate British gangs and pass on information to the police, when in fact they run amok and carry out their own appalling crimes - is just one of them.

But when the lives of Philip and Martin are well and truly put on the line during an operation involving a highly dangerous gang of drugs dealers in Birmingham, thanks to some ill-thought out decisions by some very ill-informed senior officers, it makes gripping reading. You may agree with me that the treatment meted out to them thereafter by the authorities was shabby, to say the very least.

I’ve always admired UC operatives; this book was given to me by a friend who told me he thoroughly enjoyed it. He was, by the way, one of the Yard's top UC men - his recommendation speaks for itself.

by Patrick (editor) Howarth
Edition: Hardcover

2.0 out of 5 stars A Rushed Job, 18 May 2014
This review is from: SPECIAL OPERATIONS. (Hardcover)
In 1955, the Special Forces Club - formed in 1946 as a meeting place for former members of the wartime Special Operations Executive (SOE) - was in a parlous state with its finances, especially with regards to its benevolent fund. One of the members, Patrick Howarth decided to ask other members who had already published their accounts of their part in SOE to permit extracts from their books to be included in an anthology and for such a good cause, they and their publishers willingly agreed.

It was a concept which should have resulted in a thrilling book; and it didn’t for several reasons. Firstly, many of those members of SOE were famously self-deprecating to such an extent that their accounts minimised the enormous courage they exhibited and/or the dangers they encountered. Xan Fielding (whose contribution to this anthology is one of the better ones) was once asked why he was decorated with the DSO and replied, “For going into a town”.

And next, when one is going to edit an anthology, it is essential to have a lead-in to the stories contained in it; this one hasn’t. Therefore, the reader, often not knowing why the character has arrived in enemy occupied territory and what he or she is going to do next, is left floundering.

I got the impression that this book was cobbled together in a frenzied hurry; this is backed up by three double-sided sets of plates, plus a single-sided plate with just two photographs on it, when those photographs could easily have been encapsulated into the previous plate pages.

Members of the club would no doubt have known - or guessed - what was happening on these pages; either that or they could have asked the authors when they next visited the club. But the book was - or should have been - aimed at a much larger section of society to bring in the rewards needed so badly for the club and the benevolent society.

A great shame that the heroic deeds of the former members of SOE could not have been given a wider airing to a bigger slice of society.

Yellow Sky [DVD]
Yellow Sky [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gregory Peck
Offered by SKYETORI
Price: £14.65

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor Plot, Pardner!, 18 May 2014
This review is from: Yellow Sky [DVD] (DVD)
‘Wild Bill’ Wellman was a brilliant director and in ‘Yellow Sky’, he assembled some top-notch actors, Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter and Richard Widmark, together with a strong supporting cast.

A gang of outlaws, led by ‘Stretch’ Dawson (Peck) rob a bank and the resultant chase is thrillingly filmed, followed by a slow trudge across salt flats which is similarly very well shot. They arrive in Yellow Sky, a ghost town where the only inhabitants are an elderly man and his grand-daughter, ‘Mike’ (Baxter) who, the hormonal gang are informed ‘was raised by Apaches’ - a likely story!

One of the gang, ‘Dude’ (Widmark) comes to the conclusion that the couple have successfully mined the area for gold and he’s right; they’ve amassed gold valued at $50,000 which is a reasonable sum now and was an absolute fortune in 1867. The gang are consumed with a mixture of greed for the gold and lust for Baxter and there’s an inevitable shoot-out where the really unpleasant lustful members of the gang are popped off.

What lets the film down is the plot, which is paper-thin - and although comparisons are made with Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, the resemblance to The Bard’s play is as thin as the film’s plot. It begs the question, having amassed a fortune, why are the couple living in a dump like Yellow Sky? Where do they get their provisions from? And leaving aside the nonsense when 80 year old Grandpa gets shot in the leg and a couple of days later he’s hopping about like a two-year old, it’s the last few minutes of the film which descend into a farce which would not disgrace the stage of the Whitehall Theatre.

A shame when it's compared with Wellman's 'Ox Bow Incident', made a few years earlier; not up to the same standard.

Offered by DELFA Gustav Dietrich GmbH + Co. KG
Price: £29.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Value, 13 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I ordered these shoe trees on the Tuesday and they arrived, from Germany, on the Friday. I really am extremely pleased with the product; they are beautifully made and are half the price of a similar pair available in the UK.

Fitzroy Maclean
Fitzroy Maclean
by Frank Mclynn
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Biography, 13 May 2014
This review is from: Fitzroy Maclean (Hardcover)
Given that this book was first published over 20 years ago, I must admit to being surprised that I’m the first reader to review it, because it is a very good book.

It is never easy to write a biography when the subject of the book is still alive because the writer can be subjected to all kinds of interference from that person, more so when someone was as forthright as Fitzroy Maclean who was also an established author, to boot. If this was the case (although the author, Frank McLynn says it was not) he fended him off exceptionally well.

Mr. McLynn has leant very heavily on members of the Maclean family, friends and army and parliamentary contemporaries of Fitzroy Maclean and the end result is a very fine biography of a diplomat, soldier and parliamentarian. Criticisms of Sir Fitzroy’s character are made but not unfairly; it all adds to the charm of the book.

It must have taken Mr. McLynn quite a considerable time to cobble this book together; it was worth every moment. A highly readable biography.

The Great Train Robbery: The Untold Story from the Closed Investigation Files
The Great Train Robbery: The Untold Story from the Closed Investigation Files
by Andrew Cook
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well researched, 13 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Some reviewers have suggested that this book is somewhat ‘dry’ and ‘academic’ and to a large degree, I agree with those sentiments. However, that’s not to say it isn’t a good, well-written book, because I believe it is.

I suppose the book could have been made more interesting by inserting mini-biographies of the main contenders, both police and crims, although that has been accomplished in other books dealing with the Great Train Robbery.

But because I knew several of the investigating team, had met a couple of the robbers and had written about what became known as ‘The Crime of the Century’ I found this book to be fascinating. Andrew Cook has delved deep into police, railway and post office files and his meticulous research has paid off. Of course, there’s a certain amount of conjecture contained in these files but some very significant information, as well. Of particular interest to me was that whilst I had my own personal list of those who had escaped capture, none of them appeared on Tommy Butler’s own list of ‘runners and riders’ for the robbery which was compiled before the fingerprints at Leatherslade Farm were found - which demonstrates how much I know!

But what I do know is that a DS is a detective sergeant, not a detective superintendent as Mr. Cook states. He constantly refers to the latter as DSs throughout his narrative, only for that rank to be correctly shown in the statements of the investigating officers and the result is confusion, particularly in the index which is badly and sloppily constructed and where my old friend, the late Detective Sergeant John Vaughan is erroneously described as being a detective superintendent, something which would have pleased John no end, I’m sure!

But those matters notwithstanding, this is a very good book; I thought I knew a lot about the Great Train Robbery - and I do - but this book educated me.

The Best We Can Do: Account of the Trial of John Bodkin Adams (True Crime)
The Best We Can Do: Account of the Trial of John Bodkin Adams (True Crime)
by Sybille Bedford
Edition: Paperback

1.0 out of 5 stars Magisterial Tripe, 11 May 2014
This book recounts the trial in 1957 of Dr. John Bodkin Adams who was accused of the murders of several elderly women patients, for monetary gain. The author, Sybille Bedford was a journalist covering the trial at the Old Bailey. It could have been an interesting book if it had been written in an even-handed way but it wasn’t.

Right from the outset, Ms. Bedford was convinced of Adams’ innocence and she has done her best to convince the reader of her beliefs as well, by attempting to trash in the most contemptuous and unpleasant way all the witnesses and evidence for the prosecution whilst the defence team are treated to gushing, slavering praise.

In an insufferably pompous manner, Ms. Bedford peppers her book with asides, italics and for some incredible reason that is impossible to comprehend, describes the utterances of witnesses and barristers in musical terms: vibrato, forte, cantabile.

If this really is 'The Best We Can Do', the final resting place for this pretentious piece of dross is the rubbish bin.

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