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Reviews Written by
Edward B. Crutchley "Ed Crutchley" (UK)

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Joseph Goebbels: Life and Death
Joseph Goebbels: Life and Death
by T. Thacker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true Mephistopheles, 1 Oct. 2014
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This book draws largely from Goebbels’ diaries written between 1923 and 1945. From the very early days mention is made in them of his obsession against Jews (even though they represented less than 1% of the German population in the 1930’s.) It describes his rise in the ranks of the Nazi party and resulting closeness to Hitler to whom he remained devoted until the end, despite frustration with his increasing absenteeism. We are living with the character as we learn about his marital problems, womanizing, enmities and doubts up to and after the apex of Nazi success in 1942 and the heavy bombing of Germany and Allied advances that followed. Whereas, as Allied pressures increased, most of his colleagues retreated into isolation, he remained publicly active, continuing to encourage mass hysteria and xenophobia and giving propaganda a dirty name, cunningly making sure that there was enough truth in it so as to continue to be listened to. He was an intelligent, hardworking, cultured and gifted man of the people, loved music, a first class orator, a man with very scary views. Like his associates, he exploited the fragility of democracy and opportunities for enacting evil, forcing the perception of an omnipresent enemy, the Jews, which had to be liquidated at all costs. All types of ‘asocials’ had to be exterminated, but although his own physical handicap invited comments, it did not hold back his career. Death or subservience was due to all who were considered different or of inferior race. He believed that the Jews were controlling the Allies, and even implicated them in the Soviet murder of the Poles in Katyn Forest in 1940 and the Dambusters raid in 1943. The biography is admirably crowned by a 27-page epilogue that discusses the many differing perceptions of Goebbels, identifies the misconceptions, and defines a very evil man indeed able to profit from the national psyche of the time. This is a harsh lesson for those inclined to believe in the innate goodness of human beings.


A Dry White Season
A Dry White Season
by André Brink
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and tragic, 9 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: A Dry White Season (Paperback)
This is a compelling and tragic story that arises out of racial division in South Africa before the end of apartheid. Those that have, in this case the Afrikaners, give themselves the right to employ any means at all to destroy opposition, and get away with it because of the collective paranoia of their side that prevents questions being asked. Although focused on events rather than labouring the underlining morals, this is a powerful argument against any kind of polarisation, division or separation in society, and there are plenty of those around or in the making.


Very Special Intelligence: The Story of the Admiralty's Operational Intelligence Centre, 1939-1945
Very Special Intelligence: The Story of the Admiralty's Operational Intelligence Centre, 1939-1945
by Patrick Beesley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A competition of wits and resources, 1 Sept. 2014
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This is a gripping and tortuous insider account of how a combination of talent, organisation and improving resources arrived at anticipating German navy moves during the WW2. It inevitably largely focuses on the 6-year Battle of the Atlantic and the struggle against the U-Boats and occasional sorties of equally deadly battleships. The book precedes most of what has been written on Ultra, but usefully talks extensively of how the information gleaned was used. Vital convoys dangerously travelled between the USA and Britain at a rate of one every two days, and others to Russia. In a competition of wits and resources, the man in charge of U-boat tracking, Godfrey Winn, developed the ability to read Admiral Donitz’s mind. As the U-boat population grew to several hundred, half of which might be operational at any one time, and in part supported for fuel and armament by underwater ‘Milch Cows’, a centralised operations room underneath the Admiralty sifted through a combination of radar direction tracking, secret reports of departures from German naval bases, code-breaking from Bletchley Park, and information from the Canadians and Americans, in order to see the picture. By grouping often vague and sometimes contradictory pieces of information from different sources, German moves became increasingly visible and predictable, but the pressure was relentless and marred by as many failures as successes. It reached a climax in March 1943 when 95 ships were lost, one grouped convoy losing 21 ships out of 100 to a forty U-boat Wolf Pack. The hidden struggle between cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park and B. Dienst met a close shave when the Germans changed from 3 to 4 rotors on their Enigma machines in March 1943, but the outage was fortunately short-lived. Allied successes thereafter increased, and for a while Donitz even gave up attacking convoys. New developments included German acoustic torpedoes (derogatorily referred to as Gnats), ‘Foxer’ devices towed by Allied ships in order to counter them, pressure-sensitive (oyster) mines developed by both sides, and Allied 10 cm radar capable of spotting small objects on the surface, and in the later stages, German introduction of snorkels and high-speed submarines. By the end of 1943 less than a quarter of U-Boat commanders were expected to last a year, and over the entire war German submariners suffered 28,000 casualties out of an effective of 39,000. The war of attrition gradually favoured the Allies, the Americans created their 10th Fleet (an organisational move rather than materiel), Iceland and the Azores counted among important staging posts. Terrific reading.


Double Negative
Double Negative
by Ivan Vladislavic
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Littered with gems, 21 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Double Negative (Paperback)
Ivan Vladislavić is a treat to read. His writing is extraordinarily vivid, expressive and usually very funny. Neville Lister is influenced into photography and we encounter him before and after the end of apartheid in a series of scenarios littered with gems.


1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry
1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry
by Andrew Bridgeford
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.40

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hidden meanings of the Bayeux Tapestry, 12 Aug. 2014
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This is a fascinating and very readable analysis of each frame of the Bayeux Tapestry and the historical background to the Norman invasion. All is not what it seems. Bringing together contemporary writings, and works of scholars since the re-discovery of the Tapestry almost 300 years ago, Andrew Bridgeford presents the arguments that this is not a piece of Norman propaganda after all, but a subtly disguised work probably carried out in Canterbury. William the Conqueror’s ally Eustace II of Boulogne is discretely portrayed as the real hero of Hastings, and by implication the originator of the Tapestry. But there is a lot more besides. Harold lost to William the Conqueror having quelled a Norse invasion only weeks beforehand and after rushing down to Hastings just in time. According to the author the slaughter at Hastings subsequently preyed on the church’s mind, and knights who has participated were required to do penance or build churches for their atonement in proportion to the number of people they had killed. A wonderful book.


The Trouble with Europe: Why the EU isn't Working, How it Can be Reformed, What Could Take Its Place
The Trouble with Europe: Why the EU isn't Working, How it Can be Reformed, What Could Take Its Place
by Roger Bootle
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars The EC has done its job - it’s time to move on, 5 Jun. 2014
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Created as a refuge from European war, dictatorships and tariff barriers, the raison-d’être of the EC now seems surpassed with the arrival of quick and easy travel, the internet and free movement. But the actors at Brussels and Strasbourg appear ever more controlling, remote, unaccountable (we can’t seem to boot them out), and overpaid, and the club is unfairly protectionist with regards to poorer countries around. Despite the theoretical arguments thrown our way, there is no proof that the organisation has been responsible for economic success. Unemployment is staggering, the EC has been accused of squandering money, and the arrival of the Euro has cost less-performing countries dearly. The US is sometimes presented as a role model, and yet in reality individual states there play a major role in most people’s lives, and Washington has been in political gridlock for years. Centralisation is contrary to current trends. We can now begin to understand why the Americans so dislike their Feds. There is, all the same, a need for a European organisation that promotes coordination, free trade, common standards, coordination on policing, and defends the region from monopolistic practices such as exorbitant mobile roaming charges. It just doesn’t have to rule our lives and be growing into a megalith obeying Parkinson’s Law and increasingly resistant to change. An EFTA-type arrangement would perhaps be more beneficial.


Do You Want it Good or Do You Want it Tuesday?: The Halcyon Days of W.S.Cowell Ltd. Printers
Do You Want it Good or Do You Want it Tuesday?: The Halcyon Days of W.S.Cowell Ltd. Printers
by Ruth Artmonsky
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage WS Cowell, 5 Jun. 2014
It was a pleasure to discover this interesting account of vintage WS Cowell and the geniuses who were Geoffrey Smith and John Lewis, as well as some of the books realised that meant so much to a generation. A great find.


Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February, 1945
Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February, 1945
by Frederick Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, 2 Jun. 2014
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This haunting but great book traces the grim history of aerial bombing of civilians before and during WWII and the rapid descent towards acts of revenge intended to boost morale at home, as well as the accidental discovery of firebombing. Up to fairly late in the war Dresden had escaped attack. There is a description of the importance of its precision manufacturing base to the war effort, the city’s growing significance as a command and transport centre (including for increasing numbers of refugees) as the Russians advanced to close to 100 miles away, and the Allied decision to help the limited Russian air capability by bombing key strategic centres just ahead of their lines. Stories of local slave labour and the persecution of the Jews in Dresden add to providing a picture that the city sooner or later would have to pay a price. ‘Bomber’ Harris has historically been held responsible for the attack, but the book makes it clear that decision was made higher up, and made worse by on-the-spot decisions during the second wave. Tragically, Dresden’s air defences had largely been moved to other tasks shortly before the raid, and a combination of uniquely favourable circumstances on the night meant that the three massive raids were exceptionally effective in their terrible purpose. In columns of aircraft stretching over 100 miles, the finely-tuned killing machine that was bomber command delivered just the right cocktail of explosive and incendiary devices in a carefully orchestrated flight pattern dispersion designed to provoke a firestorm, the heat from which would even be felt by the aircrews. Accounts from dozens of survivors, including half-Jewish citizens having not yet been sent to the camps, describe the carnage, tornados and water troughs used for refuge boiled dry. There is discussion not only about the moral aspect of bombing cities but also the almost negligible effectiveness of pin-pointing targets that inevitably led to carpet bombing. Even the German hierarchy itself admitted that the Allied campaign accounted for the loss of a third of industrial capacity in 1944.


Restless Supermarket, The
Restless Supermarket, The
by Ivan Vladislavic
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiringly funny, 2 Jun. 2014
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The writing is inspiringly funny, intensely rich, and full of gems from the very first quotation: Q: where do you find happiness . . . A: in the dictionary. The story takes place in Johannesburg at the end of apartheid, and recounts the demise of the Café Europa as well as one of its clients, a retired proof-reader of telephone directories intent on expounding his art of corrigenda in his opus “The Proof-reader’s Derby”. Perfection in his art is when no trace is left. The scene painted on the café wall even becomes a story in itself. Terrific fun.
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The Fashoda Incident of 1898: Encounter on the Nile
The Fashoda Incident of 1898: Encounter on the Nile
by Darrell Bates
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Colonial spats and French heroism, 2 Jun. 2014
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The story of Anglo-French rivalry to be the first to take possession of the upper Nile region, in particular the source of the White Nile, which was believed to have bearing on influence in Egypt. The challenges were unimaginable via the route taken by the French under Marchand. Timescales were in months and years rather than days or weeks. Peace had to be made with tribal leaders and emperors who may be inclined to play one European nation against the other at a whim or be adverse to any white man at all. A party hundred or so required thousands of porters each carrying up to 30 kilos, kilos of glass beads for currency, steam boats weighing tons able to be dismantled into hundreds of parts for carrying or dragging along when there was no water. Sometimes they made only a couple of miles a day in territory occupied by cannibalistic tribes, pygmies with poison darts, and tribal leaders hundreds of wives. Boats were subjected to hippo attacks. But what is most surprising to the layman is the fact that this all took place almost into the twentieth century – the time of our fathers and grandfathers. In contrast to the 2 years it took for the French expedition to reach Fashoda (now Kodok), it only took 16 days for one of the party to reach Paris via Egypt from where the Brits arrived second, but with greater resources, at Fashoda. In the end Paris gave way, leading to the entente cordiale but leaving a permanent chip on the shoulder of many.


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