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Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain (Extremism and Democracy)
Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain (Extremism and Democracy)
by Robert Ford
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.79

38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly yet very readable, 24 Mar 2014
I would urge readers to ignore the silly one star review above. This is a very balanced and nuanced view of the emergence of Ukip as a serious player within British politics. It traces the party from its emergence in the early Nineties to its current status as a serious player on the electoral scene that is riding high in the polls. Although based on detailed empirical social science research, using electoral data and surveys for example, the authors also seem to have talked to everyone that matters within Ukip itself. The book manages to be objective and scholarly but is also enlivened by some amusing anecdotes so it is far from 'dry' academic research. It also offers a powerful portrayal of the - normally working-class - voters who feel abandoned by the main parties and have become the bedrock of Ukip's support.

This is essential reading for anyone interested in the future of British politics.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 24, 2014 3:18 PM GMT

MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service
MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service
Price: 5.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Accessibly written summary but with some flaws, 7 Sep 2011
The positives about this book are that it's very readable, has some entertaining anecdotes and, for anyone who is completely new to the subject, it provides a breezy overview of the British intelligence services from the end of the Second World War to the present day. The author's journalistic background means that he writes well, has interviewed some of the leading participants and references some of the key books (but very little of the Internet material).

There's decent coverage of the Cold War focusing on the well known figures of Philby and the Cambridge 5, as well as Penkovsky and Gordievsky with some interesting geographical case studies on the intelligence proxy wars in Vienna, the Congo and Afghanistan. The final chapters on the political pressure on the intelligence agencies in the run up to to the Iraq War are a very good summary based on the various reports and accounts of this. The book also weaves in a number of interesting references to writers of spy fiction who were involved in intelligence (Greene, Le Carre and Fleming).

The negatives are that it's much weaker on the 1990s which are pretty much ignored, there's little discussion of the Tomlinson and Shayler controversies for example, and there is practically no material on Northern Ireland which is a major omission given the levels of intelligence activities directed against republican and loyalist terrorism. The post Iraq material is pretty scant and there is no coverage of the Wikileaks revelations and the implications of the Internet for security organisations.

If you're a general reader looking for an exciting history of Britain's spooks, then this is well worth a read. For those wanting more academic or in-depth accounts, I suggest you look elsewhere.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 18, 2011 9:42 PM GMT

The City & The City
The City & The City
Price: 3.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated blend of politics, sci-fi and noir, 2 Aug 2011
This is the first book by Mieville that I have read - it was recommended by a friend - but I will now be tempted to buy several other books by him.

The novel has a very clever central concept - two cities (with rumours of a third) in a fictional part of Eastern Europe which occupy the same geographical space but somehow exist in different overlapping dimensions. Citizens of each city state are trained from birth to ignore the inhabitants of the parallel city or else they will be accused of breaking the law by the mysterious and seemingly omniscient 'Breach' who enforce the separation of the two locations. This is a marvellous conceit whose philosophical implications are brilliantly explored throughout the book. The metaphor also deliberately draws parallels with a number of contemporary political situations from the Balkans and Cold War divided Berlin to the Israel-Palestine conflict and a broad range of political ideologies and parties feature in the novel.

This may make it seem dry or difficult to read - all high concept and poor plotting being a common sci-fi failing - but the opposite is true in this case because the book is also a murder mystery written in thrilling noir style. The plot is gripping from the very start and there is an excellent resolution which remains faithful to the fictional premises of the novel's own universe.

Combining the qualities of a page-turner with a complex and sophisticated philosophical and political underpinning is a considerable achievement - matched only perhaps by the best of Philip K Dick or Philip Kerr's "A Philosophical Investigation" - but it is to the author's immense credit that he succeeds in this.

Stop Me
Stop Me

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent value for money on Kindle and a well-plotted thriller, 27 July 2011
This review is from: Stop Me (Kindle Edition)
Firstly, this is excellent value - currently only 99p on Kindle. Unlike some of the other cheap offerings on Kindle, this was published first in paperback by a reputable small publisher so it's been looked at by a professional editor and copy-edited and proofread. For that price, it's well worth a punt if you're looking for a page-turner.

Other reviewers have explained the basic premise - a serial killer threatens to kill someone unless his email message is forwarded on to enough people so that it eventually arrives in his own in-box within a specified time-frame. A great idea although it's not actually explored that much in the book which focuses much more on the central character Leo whose girlfriend, Laura, has gone missing and is seen as a victim of the so-called 'Vacation Killer'. The book follows Leo's attempts to find out the truth about what has happened to Laura. Along the way, there are plenty of twists and turns although I was never entirely convinced by some of Leo's actions despite the detail given to his feelings and emotional turmoil. However the plot does move along effectively and the book's great strength is its ability to confound your expectations so that you are keen to carry on reading and the final resolution comes as something of a surprise.

On plot, price and accessibility, this scores very highly. Where the book is weaker is in characterisation and context. None of the characters apart from Leo and his online nemesis Bookwalter are sketched out in any convincing depth and the section of the book set in New Orleans fails to do justice to the manifold mysteries and unique atmosphere of one of America's most interesting cities.

In summary, great holiday reading, especially at this price, and I hope that the author produces another thriller as he has fine control of plotting.

He Died with His Eyes Open
He Died with His Eyes Open
by Derek Raymond
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Weclome reissue of original British noir writer, 7 July 2007
Derek Raymond was the pseudonym of Robin Cook (used to avoid confusion with the medical thriller writer of the same name) who, despite his upper class background, ended up involved in the demimonde of criminality, alcoholism and drug abuse. He wrote 5 crime novels in his 'Factory' series as well as several other non-series novels set in Soho and France where he lived for a long time. The books were published from the 60s until early 90s (he died in 1994).

This book is the first in the 'Factory' series (the 'Factory' is the name given by cops and criminals to the police station) where the unnamed detective works for the department of Unexplained Deaths. This department has to deal with the 'lowest' murders i.e. those of the poor, the unimportant and the marginalised. In this investigation the detective gradually becomes obsessed with a sad middle-aged nobody who has been found kicked to death. Details of the victim's background are revealed by writings and tapes that he has left behind and which come to haunt the driven detective. The style is lean, terse and very dark despite the occasional lyrical flourish and leavening of the mood with black humour and the usual sharp dialogue. The atmosphere is grim and unsettling and many of the characters are deeply dislikeable but this is still strangely compelling, well-plotted and with a slightly bizarre but satisfying conclusion. Raymond's dark vision makes him the first truly modern noir British writer (continuing a tradition of Graham Greene, Gerald Kersh and Patrick Hamilton et al.) and his is a singular voice that has contemporary echoes in the work of writers such as James Ellroy, Ian Rankin, Ken Bruen and especially David Peace. If you like your fiction dark and sparse, this is an excellent writer to try.

This is a very welcome reissue and Serpent's Tail are to be congratulated on having the foresight to republish most of Derek Raymond's backlist. I very much hope that they continue with their program of reissues although I have not yet seen any future publication dates for the remaining books in the series, How the Dead Live, I was Dora Suarez and Dead Man Upright.

The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction (Rough Guides Reference Titles)
The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction (Rough Guides Reference Titles)
by Barry Forshaw
Edition: Paperback

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good guide but some flaws in the coverage, 30 Jun 2007
This is a useful book for both crime afficionados wanting tips on some more obscure new directions and for newcomers who just want to know where to start.

Each chapter recommends and reviews a selection of crime novels (over 200 in total) and there are the usual Rough Guide boxes and sidebars on related areas such as films, author profiles and crime genres. The chapters are organised thematically and range from the origins of crime fiction (Edgar Allan Poe, Conan Doyle) and the 'golden age' (Christie, Allingham, Sayers) through hard-boiled (Chandler, Hammett, Thompson) to more contemporary genres such as police procedural, espionage, serial killers, organized crime etc. The reviews maintain a fine balance between criticism and enthusiasm and cleverly avoid the 'spoiler' pitfalls of revealing too much plot.

The book is much stronger on contemporary writers and most of the selections are books published in the last 30 years so if you want lots of recommendations for 'classic' golden age novels then you would be better served looking elsewhere. Despite the focus on the contemporary, the book has several flaws - it is fairly weak on foreign fiction despite there being one chapter devoted to this and contains nothing on important writers such as Jean-Patrick Manchette, Peter Hoeg, Jo Nesbo, Ake Edwardson, Janwillem van de Wetering, Manuel Vazquez Montalban, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, Massimo Carlotto, Jose Carlos Somoza etc. There are also a number of important contemporary writers who are also absent (the outstanding John Franklin Bardin, Don Winslow, Jonathan Lethem, Christopher Fowler, Andrew Vachss, Jeff Lindsay, Reginald Hill, Ken Bruen, Shane Stevens etc). While there will always be constraints on who to include because of space considerations, I find it strange that writers of this calibre were omitted and yet space was found for hacks such as Andy McNab, Chris Ryan and Michael Crichton. There are also a number of errors (The Godfather was published in 1969 not 1978, it's Iain not Ian Sinclair, Rankin's 2006 book was The Naming of the Dead etc.) but these are minor quibbles.

In summary a good first attempt and I hope that it is successful enough for a 2nd edition to include some of the great writers above. Oh, and where is Face on the Cutting Room Floor...?

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