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Ten-Thirty-Three: The Inside Story of Britain's Secret Killing Machine in Northern Ireland
Ten-Thirty-Three: The Inside Story of Britain's Secret Killing Machine in Northern Ireland
by Nicholas Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A vital tale to be told - but not the best telling of it, 19 Aug. 2012
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Two things are helpful to know from the outset:
∑ The British government used a High Court injunction to halt this book's publication for a long while.
∑ The author isn't the same Nick Davies who investigated the Murdochs for the Guardian.

The core charge in this book is that the FRU, a secret British Army Intelligence Unit, worked with Ulster Loyalist terrorists to help them kill some of their own proposed targets and to suggest other people for the same treatment. The FRU would supply addresses and get road blocks and police patrols removed from the chosen route to the murder victim's home.

I have no doubt that this happened. But it is also the case that there are grave problems with this book.

It's often repetitive and sometimes contradictory - as if two separate manuscripts had been merged. Did this result from passages being censored out? Parts of the book employ quasi-fictional reconstructions. These certainly make it livelier but they seem a regrettable choice on a subject like this, where truth is so hard to ascertain.

Also, the book needs much more analysis and discussion. What are the grounds for believing these death squads were authorised from the very top? What was their true purpose? One alleged purpose was to divert Loyalist killers away from killing Catholic non-combatants by making attacks on IRA combatants easier; that's what the FRU foot soldiers were told. Another suspected purpose was simply to assassinate IRA men and suspected IRA allies whom Britain couldn't get at otherwise - never mind protecting Catholic non-combatants. Yet another suspected purpose was to vet Loyalist death squads' own choices of target in order to protect British Intelligence's secret collaborators within the IRA plus other IRA figures whom Britain found useful. This book could do with lengthier analysis about which goal seemed Britain's true priority in helping the Loyalist death squads.

Since this book was published, increasing evidence has emerged about the last function - preventing useful IRA men from being killed. This book does dwell informatively on how the FRU intervened to prevent a Loyalist assassination of Gerry Adams and speculates on his possible collaboration as the reason. But it was written just a bit too early to grasp the large scale of infiltration and manipulation of the IRA by British Intelligence, which is what's now filtering out into more recent writings. One of the murders described in Ten Thirty Three is more recently reported to concern an elderly, non-combatant, retired IRA man whom British Intelligence deliberately framed as an active terrorist in order to divert a Loyalist death squad from its own plot against a high-ranking IRA officer, who was actually a key British agent. So much for protection of Catholic non-combatants.

When a government gets a court injunction to stop publication, you can be sure that something important has been written. It was brave and worthwhile of the author to have struggled and taken major personal risks to get this book published and thus place this scandal in the public domain. Hence Four Stars. But it is most certainly not the last word nor the finest account in this strange and horrible saga.


Cat and Mouse: Two sisters fight for women's rights (Women of Courage Book 1)
Cat and Mouse: Two sisters fight for women's rights (Women of Courage Book 1)
Price: £3.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't beat this novel for a memorable finale, 7 Aug. 2012
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As far as summarising the plot is concerned, there's not much that can be added to the previous reviews without spoiling surprises for readers. And surprises there certainly are.

Suffice it to say that this book contains a remarkable number of separate plots, that the author orchestrates their parallel progress with much skill, and that these plots converge in an extraordinary finale. The latter is tense, protracted, well-narrated and as horrifying and memorable as the climax of De Niro's `Taxi Driver' - though much more thought-provoking through the anguished dilemmas which arise for each participant. What a nightmare situation for each individual to face, each for different and often secret reasons! If nothing else, keep reading so you can understand the threads which converge in the utterly gripping last five chapters.

Some compelling tales from history form the backcloth behind this story. These are tales which largely have been muted in British history books or censored altogether. The extremes to which British Suffragettes took women's struggle for the right to vote, for instance, and the horrors of force-feeding of Suffragette hunger-strikers. The huge armed revolt by the original Ulster Volunteer Force and the help it received from Fifth Columnists within government forces. The underworld of vice and child prostitution serving the Edwardian gentry. The culture of sexual abuse in the British Empire's exclusive boys' boarding schools and the resulting misogynistic homosexuality common among officers in Kitchener's army. The darkest part of `Cat and Mouse' is a double saga of gay revenge between misogynistic militarists of the 1914 warmonger kind. `Cat and Mouse' presents such history with the lightest of touch. There are no heavy-handed passages over-explaining things. Some readers may find a peep at Wikipedia helpful to further illumine real events, like some Suffragette tactics, about which nowadays so many Britons are ignorant.

But while `Cat and Mouse' features such historical issues, they are not its focus. First and foremost it is a novel and about people, a mixture of romance and thriller. First it engagingly explores its characters' very different worlds. Then it carefully brings them together for a shattering conclusion. You won't forget this book!


North Yorkshire Travel Guide - What To See & Do in 2012
North Yorkshire Travel Guide - What To See & Do in 2012

1.0 out of 5 stars Original Wikitravel articles are better than these doctored copies, 16 Jan. 2012
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The Product Description conceals that everything in this book is copied from Wikitravel - text, photos, even the spelling mistakes. On [...] you can find links to this book's full text for all the destinations it lists.

14 of the 16 copied Wikitravel articles are rated by Wikitravel as `Outline' articles - by which by Wikitravel means it "does not address its subject sufficiently to be very useful for other travellers". In this book, the publisher has removed every Wikitravel message that an article lacks sufficient information. As a result, the minimal text in some unfinished articles can make some lovely places, like Settle, sound like there's not much to say about them.

The Wikitravel York article is worth a word because it's this book's main component. And because some of the other Kindle guidebooks on York also copy it without advertising this. Much space in this article (apparently from 2008/2009) goes to restaurants and, especially, drinking places. Remarkably little space on York's historic sights. For example, here's all you get on York's famous cathedral:
"York Minster,the sub +44 1904 557216. M-Sa 9AM-5PM Su noon-3:45PM. The largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, York Minster dominates the skyline & has a history of building that dates back to the 8th century at least. The one place that everybody visits. Stay for Evensong service if you can, especially if you've never been to a church service before. Adult £9.00, concession £8.00, child under 16 free." Read for yourself on [...]
This book is from a large new series subtitled `What to see and do in 2012'. But it gives no 2012 dates for Yorkshire events. From the Wikitravel York article's festival list for 2009, this publisher has removed many dates, so that it's less obvious that it's outdated, but has not bothered to replace them with 2012 dates. As a result the performer lists for the 2009 Folk Dance and Christmas Music Festivals read like they apply to events coming sometime in 2012! Much worse, 2012 is York's big 800th anniversary year with several new festivals and all this is missing from this book.

I could go on. The more you compare this book with the Wikitravel originals, the more you spot misleading aspects to the book. These free Wikitravel originals mostly aren't that good. But in them you can often see what's incomplete or outdated. In this book, the publisher seems to work on masking these things.


Champion Cider: The Ultimate Collection of the World's Finest Cider Recipes
Champion Cider: The Ultimate Collection of the World's Finest Cider Recipes

1.0 out of 5 stars The Product Description misled me, 6 Dec. 2011
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One general major complaint about this brief `book'. "Only the very best Hand-Picked True and Tested Cider Recipes" says the Product Description. But I can discern no sign that the author has tested a single recipe herself. You can't meaningfully say you've specially selected these recipes unless you have tried them out yourself. Some of these recipes aim at a similar product, like the 23 `hot cider' recipes, and could be compared. If you'd tested the recipes, surely you'd include some comparisons and personal commentary about how the results differ taste wise or how long or difficult different recipes are to use. But there is not one word of this. The book is just a list of 45 brief recipes, looking like the author has just copied them from the internet (where cider recipes are easy to find for yourself, like on cooks.com) without any of the testing which is the Product Description's selling line.

The latter impression isn't exactly weakened if you look up the author's name on Kindle and see that all on one day she uploaded 10 books with this same selling line (about beer recipes, sherry recipes etc).

A more specific complaint concerns the 23 `hot spiced cider' recipes (call that a select number?). I bought the book purely to learn varied ways of serving the alcoholic cider which I make myself.
∑ It's never made clear whether these recipes refer to alcoholic or non-alcoholic cider. `Cider' here in England always means alcoholic apple cider but in USA it seems often to mean a non-alcoholic fruit drink. The terms `cider' and `apple juice' are both used in this book, as if they're different, but `cider' is often used in ways which must also mean non-alcoholic.
∑ A challenge in making hot spiced alcoholic drinks is how to heat it without evaporating the alcohol and there are techniques for this. But this book never raises this issue, though it includes recipes where alcoholic spirits are added.

Two other complaints:
∑ The Product Description says: "You will be able to make your own delicious and healthy Cider". But there's actually only one recipe for making a drink direct from apples. (It's definitely a non-alcoholic drink, without any fermentation stage.)

∑ "This perfectly and beautifully formatted book includes a Table of Contents" says the Product Description. Including this quip makes me feel she's laughing at her customers because she hasn't bothered even to include hyperlinks from TOC heading to each recipe.

I've gone on at length about this little book because I'm so angry at people who abuse the wonderful opportunity of Kindle self-publishing and flood the system with spam & scam books, which make customers wary of the Kindle Store. All this `author' needed to do to produce a helpful book was to try out a few recipes herself, then communicate the results. Will she reply under Comments?


Smear!: Wilson and the Secret State
Smear!: Wilson and the Secret State
by Stephen Dorril
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for understanding British politics today, 22 Sept. 2011
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This is a valuable and unusual tour of the secret history behind the last 50 years of British government. At its heart is the tale of Harold Wilson, an honest and dedicated moderate socialist whose 1964 election as Prime Minister rattled the cages of some powerful beasts. It was the Cold War. Britain's secret services were reeling from disclosures of Soviet penetration and were keen to prove their purity to the US. Wilson's election had unexpectedly bypassed the established crown prince in the Labour Party, who was a CIA collaborator. Wilson looked popular and set to roll forward the post-war Welfare State. A fantastical theory got cooked up between MI5, MI6 and the CIA that Wilson was a Soviet agent who must be driven from power. This book is the story of their campaign over the next 10 years to achieve this.

It was a campaign instigated and intermittently directed by MI5, MI6 and CIA but, once in motion, largely waged by their secret helpers in Parliament and the press, and within networks of right-wing extremists - some with Forces links. An awful lot of what is described in this book is simply organised smear stories and press harassment. But twice at least serious practical planning for a coup does seem to have occurred. Remember how during the Falklands War some Cunard liners were requisitioned as troop carriers? Well, in 1975 Cunard got a similar official request for use of the QE2 as a floating prison for Wilson and his ministers in the event of a coup (p 285).

This book covers a vast swathe of recent history - Vietnam, Rhodesia, the early miner's strikes, Northern Ireland, the Chilean coup, the `private armies' plotting to rescue Britain in the early seventies, the `Spycatcher' affair. Some topics seem touched on all too briefly and frustratingly - many short chapters on utterly disparate topics. Re the plots against Parliament by the South African and the Ulster-based intelligence services, for instance, it's tantalising not to be told more. Likewise for startling comments about an intense, multi-decade feud between MI5 and MI6, which may be running still. And yet this is how it must be, for the book is long as it is - and a very dense read. There's no way yet more could be squeezed in.

This book is essential for anyone who cares about British democracy. Some themes are highly relevant today.
∑ A network of covert assistants for MI5, MI6 and CIA among MPs (including ministers) and senior journalists - has this changed?
∑ The power of the popular press to bully and discredit elected politicians- think Murdoch's phone-tapping operations and private detectives.
∑ The cumulative long-term effect of the orchestrated mass repetition of lies.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 17, 2013 7:33 PM BST


Public Servant, Secret Agent: The Elusive Life and Violent Death of Airey Neave
Public Servant, Secret Agent: The Elusive Life and Violent Death of Airey Neave
by Paul Routledge
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No answers to my questions, 22 Sept. 2011
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This book covers in depth 4 aspects of Airey Neave:
∑ His celebrated escapes from Colditz Prisoner of War Camp
∑ His role as a lawyer at the Nuremberg Trials
∑ His spell as Margaret Thatcher's confidant and as an agent behind her rise.
∑ Repeated rumours that UK secret services somehow colluded with his murder.

I read the book primarily out of interest in the latter two topics. But I got no clear answers on either. Either the man was mysterious beyond investigation. Or there has been some exaggeration of his image as an MI6 kingpin who pulled secret strings in democratic politics, an image which this book repeatedly endorses.
As this book quotes, after Neave's murder, Thatcher declared: "I feel like a puppet whose strings have been cut." What had Neave been doing which could make her say a thing like that? That's what I wanted to know - and what part current MI6, MI5 or CIA officers were playing in this. Well, this book reveals nothing on this score. It keeps affirming that Neave covertly retained his wartime MI6 links but it never demonstrates what this could mean in practical terms. Its account of Neave's deceitful orchestration of Thatcher's campaign to oust Heath reveals nothing which isn't common garden politician deceit and ruthlessness.

The book paints a consistent picture of Neave as a pedestrian, unimaginative, low energy, rather wooden politician, who gravitated towards rigid, cliché-ridden, traditional Unionist positions as Tory spokesman on Northern Ireland. He sounds like a nightmare for any conflict resolution role! What did Thatcher see in him? Must there have been more to him? Decide for yourself!

This book cites only a little evidence for Neave's continued covert role with MI6 and these anecdotes can equally make him sound like a former Intelligence insider, trying to get back in. Had he lived, via Thatcher he might have succeeded with this - big-time.

Re his murder, the author daringly interviews some INLA men involved in the plot. But nothing fresh of substance is learned. Various conspiracy theories are examined, though not that rigourously, and no conclusions emerge. The author seems surprisingly vague about the different arms of British Intelligence in Northern Ireland and the important tensions between them. While he repeatedly quotes from Dorril & Ramsay's `Smear! Wilson and the Secret State'[ASIN:0586217134 Smear!: Wilson and the Secret State], he doesn't seem to have absorbed their strong messages on this subject. However, re Airey Neave's murder, this book does make informative comments on reprisal murders of far Left Irish politicians.

The book is an easy read. The early bits about the famous escapes from Colditz are quite pacy. (Reading between the lines, it was Neave's accomplices who made all the bright decisions for him. Even here, it's hard to see how he got his reputation.) But, concerning my key questions, I'm none the wiser.


The Milk Lady at New Park Farm: The Wartime Diary of Anne McEntegart June 1943 - February 1945
The Milk Lady at New Park Farm: The Wartime Diary of Anne McEntegart June 1943 - February 1945
by Anne McEntegart
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book will appeal to lots of people, 17 Sept. 2011
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There are so many strands to this diary. First and foremost it's a feel-good story of the author's joy and enthusiasm in throwing herself into the hard work of old-fashioned farming and horse-drawn milk rounds, keen to support Britain's war effort. She thoroughly enjoys life alongside the Land Girls, farm hands, gypsies, and the soldiers assembling nearby for D-Day. It's full of entertaining tales - about wayward individuals amongst the ponies and cows, about Land Girls' love affairs, about rivalry between official and unofficial Land Girls. Also it gives a detailed, interesting picture of old countryside ways. And never far away is the war - the V1 air raids, breathless news of victories overseas, and friendly dealings with the Forces locally - British, Canadian and black GIs. Copious illustration includes period photos of the actual people and places in the story and a map which helps you follow the tale. Whether for a cover-to-cover read or just dipping into, this book's sheer variety will engage many people.


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