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Ed Crutchley "Ed Crutchley" (UK)

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1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry
1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry
by Andrew Bridgeford
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.73

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
Price: £12.91

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’Ítre 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: £8.78

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. At their retirement, Smith, Hanson and Scott left a heritage of a talented team of craftsmen and women (the company was some 700 souls) in part led by a smattering of northerners such as Bill Ogden and Ray Lumb, assisted by state-of-the-art equipment from names such as Monotype, Hell, Crosfield and Roland. Book projects were seen through the works by a team of half a dozen often charismatic experts such as Jim Lomax, and day-to-day direction of different aspects of the company led by people such as Keith Brown, Gerry Barnes, Alan Bultitude, Michael Beresford, John Millard, Carl Dent and numerous others. It was a great company by virtue of such a wide spread of professional competence and interesting and colourful products. A small shame about the seahorses used on the jacket to substitute the small fleurons employed in the original Handbook of Type and Illustration, but otherwise a great find.


Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February, 1945
Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February, 1945
by Frederick Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

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: £6.83

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.


The Fashoda Incident of 1898: Encounter on the Nile
The Fashoda Incident of 1898: Encounter on the Nile
by Darrell Bates
Edition: Hardcover

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.


The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide
The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide
by Gerard Prunier
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.95

5.0 out of 5 stars “Clearing bushes” and “pulling the roots”, 23 April 2014
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Gerard Prunier explains in very readable detail the intricacies leading up to, during, and briefly after the genocide in 1994, starting with the German colonisation a hundred years before. The history is complex, there are no simple explanations except that the population of Rwanda is divided into two ethnic groups – the majority Hutus and the taller and different-looking gifted Tutsis said to have once migrated from lands further north. By 1994 the country was being run by the majority Hutus, with the danger of invasion by the Tutsi RPF from its bases in Uganda. The minority Tutsis, who happened to be in power in neighbouring Burundi, had ruled before. Now they were being largely subdued and many had fled during previous confrontations. A rapacious Hutu clique with links to President Habyaramina’s wife saw itself losing hold, firstly after the dramatic fall in price of coffee and other key commodity exports, secondly as a result of being threatened by the impending Arusha agreements that would accommodate the Tutsi opposition. They started a programme of demonising the Tutsis and those Hutus considered moderates. A combination of strong civil organisation, heavy population density, absence of places to escape to, coupled with a naturally compliant Hutu population, all favoured their message that eventually corralled Hutu communities into “bush clearing” (killing men) and “pulling out the roots” (women and children) using machetes massively imported by the government, and aided by the actions of better-armed militia and army forces. All it took was the assassination of President Habyaramina who, although providing an obstacle to Arusha, had a stabilizing effect on the situation. For geo-political reasons (the so-called ‘Fashoda complex’ - a pathological fear of encroaching Anglo-Saxon influence, in this case via the RPF links with Uganda) France was already a compliant benefactor, and its resulting unwillingness to stand up to the regime and prevent the madness constitutes a major theme in the book. Even after the massacres, and the realisation of French military personnel landed during Operation Turquoise during the later stages, that they had effectively given a hand to the perpetrators, President Mitterrand was deviously referring to a ‘double genocide’ by vastly over-exaggerating the retributions enacted by the victorious RPF whose takeover effectively brought an end to the massacres. The extraordinary aftermath included 1-2 million fleeing Hutu refugees who, even in their camps in Zaire, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi, remained under control of the same men who had pushed them into slaughter. For all that might be said against him, Tutsi President Paul Kagame has since overseen a general rise of fortunes in the country, but one wonders how easily it could all happen again. The reason for Kagame’s recent thinly-veiled attack on France during the 20th anniversary of the genocide can be understood.


Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell in and Out of Love With Vladimir Putin
Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell in and Out of Love With Vladimir Putin
by Ben Judah
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars . . but you can’t take the KGB out of the man, 15 April 2014
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I read this remarkable but grim and unashamedly one-sided book during the 2014 Ukrainian affair, while no-one was sure how far Putin would go. Taking over after the chaos of the 90s, he has resorted to a Kremlin-controlled state. Proper checks and balances seem increasingly strong-armed by chekists in balaclavas, and right now they even seem to be crossing the border to do their dirty work.
The omens for countries bordering Russia do not seem good. Putin has little to lose or hold him back. On the one side, Ben Judah recalls the KGB’s own analysis that their then lieutenant-colonel possessed a stunted sense of danger. It stymied his career, and one could imagine that it may equally make him ignore the risk of ostracism and flight of precious energy customers in the future. On the other side, as president faced with growing resentment at home, Putin has spent furiously to placate the masses. Apart from increases in welfare spending and the like, the projects in Sochi and Vladivostok have been seen to be symptomatically of dubious priority and massively over-paid due to corruption. The state remains so dependent on oil for its income that, as a result of his actions, it has to sell at $110 a barrel to maintain equilibrium (up from $70 only five years before). With present oil prices slightly below, Putin must at least ensure that countries around him are entirely dependent on his exports, or else. That implies some degree of Kremlin control. Achieving this under the guise of protecting ethnic Russian communities outside Russia has provided the perfect context.
The majority of Russians may be behind him. The author talks of a fragile, fractured and frightened nation already prone to paranoia and still shell-shocked from the fall of the Soviet Union. The country watches European influence and NATO encroaching from the west, an internal unwanted invasion of Muslims from the Caucasus, and the threat of China from the east. It thinks that China might one day actively eye the three quarters of Russia’s landmass (i.e. east of the Urals) that Moscow subjugated only in the last 400 years. The last serious Sino-Soviet conflict was less than 50 years ago.
Putin has aggravated the tough (now calmed) Wild West situation he inherited from his mentor Yeltsin, but in new ways. Had he gracefully stood down in 2012 he might have been regarded as Russia’s most successful leader ever, overseeing (thanks to oil and gas) a massive rise in affluence during his reign. Instead, he will infamously go down in history as the man who propelled centralised state control over the majority of economic riches, as well as the media and the opposition. His crushing of any political interference from the oligarchs, appointing old friends and colleagues he could trust, not to mention his ‘castling’ with Medvedev, destroyed his credibility for ever. The country suffers a massive flight of capital by those that profited from the sell-offs of the 90s. Judah describes how it is now run by a network of cronies inclined towards patronage, official hooliganism, gangsterism, criminality and corruption, with the noted presence of leather-coated siloviks or apparatchiks from St Petersburg (per Putin’s own origins) in strong positions. The vertical system is inevitably creaky, as it was under communism. The critical gas and oil industry is starting to lag for lack of investment or the type of impetus once provided by Putin’s nemesis during the 90s, Khodorkovsky (once jailed, now exiled).
The book is a lesson on how not to run or develop an organisation, let alone a state. Russia claims to be a ‘managed’ democracy. In reality, according to Judah, the omnipresent United Russia party is ‘plastic’ and has no say. The country, bereft of strong institutions, is furthermore subjected to ‘manual control’ by its leader so as to avoid any chaos stemming from the process of democratisation. Merit has been replaced by loyalty in a vertical structure dictated to by a resented Kremlin. In the rest of the country, Moscow shares this resentment.
There are positive surprises, despite all this. These include the dramatic rise of the Orthodox Church, NGOs and free internet. But Judah doesn’t always have a lot to say for the opposition such as it exists. Navalny comes across as suspect although savvy (his labelling of United Russia as the party of Crooks and Thieves has stuck extremely well). Some other leaders appear deliberately and cynically tolerated in order to make United Russia appear a better option. Not that any of this matters; election rigging appears rife, and although regional governors are once again elected, the Kremlin has retained an ominous oversight. Although the author dismisses Medvedev as a lackey, he doesn’t actually criticise him to any great extent, and even attributes to him several positive points. I found the chapter on him in the middle of the book particularly interesting.
Judah doesn’t offer much hope. Unless Putin is ousted by his own circle (any scenario similar to the lead-up to Tsar Nicholas II’s demise seems unlikely), he seems destined to stay in power until 2018, if not 2024, and surely the situation he has created seems unalterable by peaceful means any time soon. It’s all very sad.
My criticisms of the book lie in its lack of balance, avoiding trying to better understand the motivation behind Putin’s moves, and lack of mention at all of Russia’s known talents in science and industry and explaining why they have not had more effect. But it is a great read and highly recommended all the same.


Elixir: 1
Elixir: 1
by Phil Cleary
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.11

5.0 out of 5 stars Intense, gory and fast moving, 11 April 2014
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This review is from: Elixir: 1 (Paperback)
Anything goes in this intense, gory, and fast moving thriller set in corporate USA where nothing remains sacred. Even Phil Cleary’s hero, Tom Shaw, is going to kill the president. We discover how and why, as he tries to come to terms with the momentous discovery his company has made. This book is a 339-page sprint and great fun.


Adequately Explained by Stupidity?: Lockerbie, Luggage and Lies
Adequately Explained by Stupidity?: Lockerbie, Luggage and Lies
by Morag G. Kerr
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where detail becomes fun, 6 Feb 2014
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This is an extraordinary opportunity to delve into the fine details of the forensic case against Megrahi and all its weaknesses, and scary errors, misdirections, or underplaying of evidence that might occur in any enquiry. There is a whiff of politics in the air, where the Brits and Germans offload the blame onto poor Malta who appears to have had by far the tightest airport procedures. Key testimonies from Bedford and Manly go against the grain and point to the bomb being placed in London. And what placing. The bomb was quite small, but ‘miraculously’ found itself right next to the fuselage where it could do damage. The chances of that occurring through coincidence were miniscule. A super book.


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