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Junius (London, Middlesex United Kingdom)

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Portrait of a Bad Man (Ronald John Chesney)
Portrait of a Bad Man (Ronald John Chesney)
by Tom Tullett
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but dated, 5 Jun 2014
This is a well written, readable and well illustrated book about the life and crimes of Ronald Chesney, also John Donald Merrett/Milner, by a crime journalist. The villain of the piece was also a forger and smuggler, too, as well as being a womaniser. It is the only substantive work on the topic, unlike those books on the era's other major killers such as Heath, Haigh and Christie. However, the book often feels rather vague and sometimes inventive - conversations between killer and victim are sometimes reported without the author being able to know whether these occurred or not - both being dead by the time the author wrote the book. Feels imaginative at times.There's also more evidence available now, such as the hefty file at the National Archives.

Worth a read, but perhaps not the definitive account.

The King's Revenge: Charles II and the Greatest Manhunt in British History
The King's Revenge: Charles II and the Greatest Manhunt in British History
by Michael Walsh
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good idea, poor 'execution', 24 May 2014
There are a great many books about the civil wars of the seventeenth century and their aftermath so a book in this already crowded field needs to be pretty special. This had the potential to be so, covering an aspect of the Restoration normally not covered in detail.

Regrettably the authors don't have the historical knowledge to put it in context in order to pull it off. Most historians, not all of whom are fans of Charles II nor do they think he and his governments did a good job, consider the two Acts of 1660 which deal with the regicides and other supporters of Cromwell, as reasonable and statesmanlike. In fact many of the MPs, mostly Royalists who had suffered under the Republic, wanted a far stiffer revenge on their former enemies. Charles, eager not to go on his travels again, pressed for a more moderate solution. Yes, this did involve executions. But in the context of the times it is what anyone would have expected unless the King was to seem weak (George I showed firmness and mercy after the rebellion of 1715). Elizabeth I and James II had far more rebels executed than did Charles II. This is not acknowledged. It was as much The Cavalier Parliament's Revenge rather than the King's. But by personalising matters, its simpler, I suppose, though inaccurate.

The authors tend to be Whiggish and anachronistic in the worst sense of nineteenth century history; Charles I in trying to increase royal authority was not swimming against the tide. Both his sons and his European contemporaries strove to do so, often successfully. The Republic is praised for its tolerance but without any real examination; Anglicans, Catholics, the Scots, the Irish and former royalists would have disagreed. At one point the authors think the Levellers wanted universal suffrage for all men!! And at another point say this was not the case.

'Historians' who support the authors' case are quoted; yet Burke was a Whig politician and Cobbett a radical journalist: natural enemies of the power of the Crown. The bias in the book is undeniable.

The 1688 revolution is minimised - actually it was more significant because it lasted and worked unlike the republican experiment in the 1650s which failed. To dismiss 1688 as the authors does shows ignorance of the event; and there's some decent books about on this matter so there's no excuse for it.

It is a shame the authors do not display more knowledge of the seventeenth century both in Britain and elsewhere.The book comes across as very much a hatchet job and an anachronistic one at that. Disappointing.

The King's Mistress: Scandal, Intrigue and the True Story of the Woman Who Stole George I's Heart
The King's Mistress: Scandal, Intrigue and the True Story of the Woman Who Stole George I's Heart
by Claudia Gold
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 8 May 2014
For a biography this has remarkably little about the subject; there's far too much padding about other people in the story and lengthy digressions in eighteenth century London and royal palaces. Presumably a word limit had to be hit, given the relatively scanty information about the countess. There's a few contradictions, eg Britain had a population of 6 million and 8 million, George arrived in England in August and September 1714.The author expects the reader to know who Gustavus Adolphus is and who Harley is without explaining (yet goes on to state who Horace Walpole is). There's factual inaccuracy; rather more than 28 men were hanged for treason in 1715-6 and Wyndham was not in Northumberland with Forster in 1716. The scanty military details of the '15 are confused; there were two main Jacobite armies; one in Scotland and an Anglo-Scots one in the north of England. Riots in 1715-6 were not confined to London, the Midlands and the South. Bolingbroke left England before the '15 not afterwards. The author hasn't read Szechi's The Great Jacobite Rising or Margaret Sankey on that rising's consequences - the latter shows that the king's handling of it was far from barbaric (qv the Bloody Assizes of 1685). George, Elector of Hanover, was hardly a 'brilliant' general (he was hardly in Marlborough's league) and he was not alone in contemporary European rulers to be energetic; eg Frederick William the 'Great Elector', Louis XIV, Peter the Great et al.

Some good proof reading by an eighteenth century specialist - or wider reading by the author - would have made this a better book.

Secret Army - The Complete BBC Series 3 [DVD]
Secret Army - The Complete BBC Series 3 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bernard Hepton
Price: 23.12

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 6 May 2014
Series 1 and 2 of Secret Army were brilliant, but would the third series be too formulaic as with other series as they progress? Fear not, this is sufficiently varied to retain all the old genius of the earlier serieses.

The time line is the summer and autumn of 1944 after the allied landings in Normandy to the liberation of Brussells, with a coda in 1945. The emphasis changes from sending airmen down the line to sheer survival. There's a new Luftwaffe officer on the trail of Lifeline, and to argue with Kessler; a decorated ace with a contempt for his own llife. A new British agent appears. Monique has a more central role as Albert is only a bit part for he central episodes. Expect a few battle sequences as the German grip on power diminishes. This does not necessarily make life any easier for the central characters, however, as they face new dangers from many sides. Who will survive and what will happen?

All the old tension and suspence remains. Excellent drama.

The only canard I would have with this concerns certain events in the last episode. Experts on WW2 will tell whether this type of thing ever went on (if you've seen it, you'll know what I mean but newcomers will not welcome plot spoilers). I know that discipline and corruption were issues for the allied forces in newly liberated Europe, but what happens here seems very unlikely indeed.It does serve to show a major character in a very poor light indeed, but as to why the others, who are not his natural friends, go along with it, seems very far fetched.

KESSLER - The Complete Series (1981) (import)
KESSLER - The Complete Series (1981) (import)
Dvd ~ Clifford Rose
Offered by ____THE_BEST_ON_DVD____
Price: 25.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great, 6 May 2014
As others have said, this is a good drama but isn't on the same level as the excellent Secret Army. It lacks the dramatic tension and the fine characterisation that went into Secret Army; Clifford Rose's portrayal as Kessler excepted. His two main adversaries are not delineated at all. The German agent is old enough to have been in the Hitler Youth and to have served in the German armed forces in WW2, but there's no reference made to this at all. One character at the end states that killing is pointless, yet very recently he's killed and not in self defence.

It is good to see some of the other characters from Secret Army and how they have fared in the intervening decades, but they don't reappear after episode one and that's a loss to the series. It was good to see this series, but no great loss if you stopped watching after the last episode of Secret Army. .

The Last Highlander
The Last Highlander
by Sarah Fraser
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.94

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 11 April 2014
This review is from: The Last Highlander (Paperback)
This book generally reads well and seems a decent biography of Lord Lovat. There's some good pictures.

However, I found myself doubting its veracity throughout because of a legion of factual errors, errors which, had the author read some of the works cited, eg Christopher Duffy and The Gentleman's Magazine, should not have been made. I am happy to list some of them, as well as those noted elsewhere. The government was not unprepared for the '15 as new regiments were raised and forces from abroad negotiated for, for starters. It is implied that Wade, who was never commander of British forces during the '45 and was a field marshal prior to that year, had a verse in the National Anthemn written for him in 1746, Not so. The map of Culloden is inaccurate as is the description of the battle, and Charles Edward did not race to London after Prestonpans - it was several weeks alter. Nor is Derby 80 miles from London. I could go on.

The title of the book and comments in the book's sleeve are unsubstantiated in the text. The author does not state why and if Lovat was the last Highlander nor that Culloden led to ethnic cleansing or the end of the Highland way of life. The reference to genocide is also not substantiated. The book lacks much analysis, perhaps on the crucial points of Lovat's fatal decision in 1745 and the legacy of his life and his clan.

Not terrible, but far from good.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen [DVD]
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ewan McGregor
Price: 5.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Good ideas but flaws, 2 April 2014
This is not a bad film, but not that good either. We feel sympathy with the lead characters in their troubles, but ultimately both deal with them in cowardly and selfish ways. One tells his wife he wants a divorce by text ands the other just walks away without any verbal communication, yet we're supposed to feel sorry for these characters (the dumpers). There's also some caricatures of middle aged career women which if they were caricatures of say, homosexuals or black people would be rightly derided. Now some career women may well be awful (the same could be said of men, too), but surely the filmmakers don't think this is always the case? The Afghanistan aspect is dealt with in a fictional manner, yes I know this is a film but lets have some grounding in fact - all news from Afghanistan is bad and the British army has a major loss of life in one incident. The latter didn't happen! This is not Maiwand or Isandwhala. The emails between PM and press secretary are presumably meant to be laughable and not fact based. The Arab terrorists are given almost no credibility apart from a vague anti-West motivation. It had too much fantasy for me, though I did feel some sympathy for the main characters. A film for romantics not realists.

The Grand Budapest Hotel [DVD]
The Grand Budapest Hotel [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ralph Fiennes
Price: 9.99

7 of 48 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible, 29 Mar 2014
A cold hearted characterless drama in which I felt like cheering the would be killer of the 'hero' as he stands next to a precipice. Regrettably he escapes. I felt no sympathy with any of the characters and the surreal madcap black comedy, admittedly well photographed and scenic, though action packed with chases, escapes and murders, did not rivet me in the least. I had thought this might be akin to Gosford Park - no masterpiece either, but was very wrong. It is a matter of taste (please read reviews before seeing this film blind, as it were), but I hated it and looked at my watch regularly.
Comment Comments (14) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 9, 2014 3:35 PM BST

Secret Army - The Complete BBC Series 2 [DVD] [1977]
Secret Army - The Complete BBC Series 2 [DVD] [1977]
Dvd ~ Bernard Hepton
Offered by adfilms
Price: 24.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Another brilliant series, 29 Mar 2014
Series one of Secret Army was excellent; series 2 in no ways lets the viewer down. There's the same formula; Life Line seeks to help shot down allied airmen return to England and the Germans try and stoop them; each side is neither good nor bad and is faction ridden. Important and sympathetic characters are killed, proving that nobody is safe. This series adds new characters, such as Max the forger and a Communist, a boyfriend for one of our heroines, Brandt's wife and a lady friend for Kessler, slightly lessening his monster status, whilst Brandt flirts with opposition to Hitler. The police also feature. However, the drama is never formulaic and never flags.

the story seems to be set in early 1944 and ends on 6 June. This reviewer felt like siding with the Germans against the resistance at one point, and many may share this view (you'll need to watch it to see why). Highly recommended.

The Lodger [Blu-ray] [1927]
The Lodger [Blu-ray] [1927]
Dvd ~ Ivor Novello
Price: 13.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Classic masterpiece of suspense, 29 Mar 2014
This film works well on so many levels; suspense, romance, an evocation of a London long gone and an example of a very early Hitchcock film. Its loosely based on a novel of the same name which is loosely base don the Ripper murders of 1888. The music though, is too pervasive and at times, for me, conjures up the East of the Arabian Nights, and at times the film feels a little slow. But well worth a watch. Its a pity we don't know much about the murders, the murderer and his motivation, but perhaps that only adds to the mystery and the imagination needed (nothing is explicit here).

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