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W. J. Turton (The Midlands, England)
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Night of the Necromancer (Fighting Fantasy)
Night of the Necromancer (Fighting Fantasy)
by Steve Jackson
Edition: Paperback

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Matter of Life...and Death, 31 Mar. 2010
Jon Green is now an established name in the Gamebook community. An author of no mean competence, he has (amongst other achievements) produced some celebrated titles in the long-running Fighting Fantasy series.

Night of the Necromancer is a tale that centres around the bloodthirsty murder of a proud knight in the kingdom of Ruddlestone. Slain upon returning from a crusade, the adventure concerns his spirit's quest for vengeance, determined to learn who ordered his death and to exact a fitting revenge upon them. It soon becomes obvious, however, that his own death is the least of his concerns...

Green's device of placing the adventurer as a Ghost is decidedly novel, and adds rather than detracts from the quest's theme. It is an excellent premise, combining acquired skills (the ability to control objects in much the same way as a Poltergeist, for instance) with solid storytelling - making for a creative tale with a great deal of reader/player involvement.

Green is also keen to strike a balance between appealing to older and younger audiences. This doesn't suggest that he is unsure of who to aim the book at, but indicates his capability as a writer to craft a work so as to be of interest to a broad spectrum. As a result, Night of the Necromancer is a book that can easily be enjoyed by teenagers and adults alike - the common element required for all generations is an imagination!

As a result, at this bargain price, Night of the Necromancer is certainly worth consideration, both to Fighting Fantasy fans and also anyone curious of the gamebook concept. Whether it is your first or just one of many, this volume doesn't disappoint.


North Staffordshire Railways: Scenes from the 1980s (Landmark Collector's Library)
North Staffordshire Railways: Scenes from the 1980s (Landmark Collector's Library)
by Terry Moors
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent photographic memory of North Staffordshire's railway network, 15 April 2009
Terry Moors is clearly both an accomplished writer and photographer. 'North Staffordshire Railways' is an excellent book which draws on a wide collection of photographs and focuses on the changing railway scene in the 1980s around the hub of Stoke on Trent. As Moors remarks, the 1980s was a period of rationalisation for the rail network, a development which was corollary to the widespread desertion of freight flows from rail to road.

Regrettably, this led to a decline in freight traffic and often the closure of sidings, yards, depots and even lines in some cases. As a result, the photographic memories captured in this book are undoubtedly valuable, for little has so far been published for that period in the region and today so much has disappeared. Moors' book will certainly be much appreciated by enthusiasts, railwaymen of past and present and local historians, as well as those keen to catch a glimpse of the (recent) past in and around the Potteries.

All in all, an excellent clutch of photographs with good explanatory captions and maps. Highly recommended at its current price! (Moors has also since written a similar volume of quality on the lines around Crewe, which can also be purchased from Amazon).


Stalin's Folly
Stalin's Folly
by Constantine Pleshakov
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good readable history of those critical days..., 23 Feb. 2007
This review is from: Stalin's Folly (Hardcover)
To be derogatory about Pleshakov's work is quite ridiculous. The author does not claim to expose a whole new way of thinking regarding Stalin's position in 1941, nor does he make such generalised assertions as the previous reviewer appears to suggest. (And no, for the record, I'm not a relation of the writer!).

What Pleshakov does instead, as in his other works (see 'The Tsar's Last Armada' for further examples), is to convey an understandable, realisable series of events, writing in a readable way that does not prevent the inclusion of important detail and relevant fact. Quite rightly he challenges the previously held thesis, and goes a long way to provoking a reappraisal of the USSR's terrible leader.

Stalin, in his opinion, was not lulled into a false sense of security, but became a victim of his own paranoia. He purged the Generals he could not trust, he shot one time political friends once they moved into the limelight and he distrusted spies who were only discredited in their information by Hitler's ever changing plans. Pleshakov confirms, Stalin expected the Germans to come clubbing their way eastward, but he intended to pre-empt them. The Russians, when invaded, often trade space for time. Between the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact and the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, Stalin traded resources for time, not wishing to provoke the Germans in any way before his own expansionist ideas came to fruition.

Ultimately, the USSR suffered while Stalin survived. His actions throughout the 1930s had led to the lamentable stage of affairs in June 1941 where the Red Army was in a seriously weak position vis-a-vis the Wehrmacht. A master manipulator of the tools of repression, the war was in many senses a blessing, distracting the Russian people from the base incompetence of their leader. Quite rightly then, is Pleshakov in terming the period 'Stalin's folly'. In effect, the 'Red Tsar' failed the ultimate test, and only the lack of effective opposition prevented his removal from office and disappearance from public life. The USSR in the 1940s had many failings and was never the utopia it claimed to be. But, the more one reads in Pleshakov and indeed elsewhere, there is but one name that is rightly tainted with the vast majority of the blame: Joseph Stalin.


Bloodbones (Fighting Fantasy)
Bloodbones (Fighting Fantasy)
by Steve Jackson
Edition: Paperback

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting title, proving that Fighting Fantasy has stood the test of time, 7 Sept. 2006
As a concept, Fighting Fantasy commanded a huge following right up until the mid 1990s. Before the advent of the computer, the books offered a fantasy environment in which the reader took part in an 'adventure', (and unlike video games) one that required proper use of the imagination. Sadly, with the decline in sales that followed a mass transition to computer games, Bloodbones (the original #60 in the series) was canned.

So, at last, Bloodbones has arrived, in a slightly different form and running to 400 paragraphs, making for a longer and more in-depth read. The writer, Jonathon Green, is well known to the community and his previous works have always been well received. The setting, the state of Ruddlestone, has consistently been Green's workshop, providing the background which he then filled with colour and meaning.

The adventure itself is a story of vengeance, a quest in pursuit of the accursed pirate Cinnabar, taking in heady doses of voodoo and black magic along the way. On many occasions, failing to choose a certain item or overhear an important conversation can lead to an abrupt and often gruesome end. Should one, however, succeed in playing through the adventure successfully, they will be rewarded with numerous engaging encounters, witnessing the development of locations, observing the plot thicken over time and feeling proud for having cheated death once more.

The book, although understandably linear in places, does possess replay value, as much can be missed on the first attempt, which is likely to be unsuccessful anyway. Overall, it represents a highly likeable effort by Jonathon Green (whose maps are once again superb), and although perhaps not the best of the books (others may beg to differ!), for ex and prospective acolytes of Fighting Fantasy, it is certainly worth purchasing.


Dad's Army - The Complete Seventh Series [1974] [DVD] [2006]
Dad's Army - The Complete Seventh Series [1974] [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Arthur Lowe
Price: £5.99

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Time moves on for the veterans..., 25 July 2006
By Series 7, Dad's Army was definitely enjoying its own unique Indian summer. Much of the magic had been lost but the original cast was still largely in evidence and their misadventures remained refreshing enough to still amuse and entertain.

However, as has been mentioned already, the series was certainly incomplete without James Beck as Walker. Talfryn Thomas as Cheeseman seemed an odd appendage, and his introduction to the platoon was unconvincing, his integration none existent. This, of course, is not a complaint at the man himself, but he was unsuited to continual involvement.

Also, the development of Pike changed the chemistry in his relationship with Mainwaring, and although this was to be expected as he grew older, his newfound cockiness is a surprise to the Pike we came to know and love from Series 1 through 6.

A gem on the DVD is a featurette on Arthur Lowe, a very accomplished actor by all regards. It is certainly interesting to see him talk (in later life), about his role in Dad's Army and to hear the opinions, views and recollections of the surviving cast members.

Overall, I think it fair to conclude that this remains a good purchase, and not only for the hardcore Dad's Army fan. Viewers merely need to adapt to the platoon's change of circumstances and enjoy the differences in the comedy they indulged in.


Dad's Army - The Complete Sixth Series [1973] [DVD] [2006]
Dad's Army - The Complete Sixth Series [1973] [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Arthur Lowe
Price: £8.28

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Always amusing, but fast fading as a comedy force..., 6 Jun. 2006
Series 6 was the beginning of the end for Dad's Army. Not only was the length of the series shortened by half (as would happen in later years), but at times the episodes seem lacklustre, a mark perhaps that Dad's Army's appeal had peaked. Certainly, the cast were not getting any younger, a fact that was only confirmed through the loss of James Beck, a vital component in the platoon's front rank and indeed, an accomplished actor.

This said, one cannot be too critical. The episodes are very enjoyable, one of the most delightful being 'We Know Our Onions', featuring a Home Guard training weekend in which Mainwaring and company are pitched against Hodges, an electric fence and an authoritarian officer (a superb performance from Fulton Mackay of Porridge fame).

The transfer of the film to DVD appears to have gone well, with only slight and occasional deterioration in quality and colour. The use of two DVDs for a short series may seem a waste, yet this is surely preferable to a double-sided DVD. In any case, a single DVD would have prevented the inclusion of the feature on John Le Mesurier, which provides a brief insight into his character, and focuses on more than merely his role as Wilson.


1914 - 1918 : The Great War And The Shaping Of The 20th Century [DVD]
1914 - 1918 : The Great War And The Shaping Of The 20th Century [DVD]
Dvd ~ 1914-18

52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, interesting, a worthy effort, 15 May 2006
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
1914-18 went a long way to updating the first full documentary of the Great War, itself taking that name as its title. Engaging from the outset, the series attempts to relate the events of the war, not in any kind of brash, modern sense, but calmly, factually, through the controlled narrative of Dame Judi Dench.

Aided by the resources of literature, poetry, photography and film, the war assumes a relavance in one's mind, providing a sure explanation to the war, the best that one can hope for without studying the period oneself. Effective as a condemnation of war, it provides an accessible serialisation of the conflict, one which should, in my opinion, have been repeated on British television.

If you have any interest in documentaries of this nature, then 1914-18 will not fail in its attempt to move you, and impress upon you the magnitude of that first global struggle.


Dad's Army - The Complete Fifth Series [1972] [DVD] [2006]
Dad's Army - The Complete Fifth Series [1972] [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Arthur Lowe
Price: £5.99

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Many hours of TV's finest..., 30 Jan. 2006
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
At last! The Fifth Series of Dad's Army. Having viewed the episodes, I can say with confidence that the transfer to DVD has not impaired the audio and visual quality of the material in any way.
The episodes themselves include some of the classics from the many years that Dad's Army was on our screens. 'Asleep in the Deep' will be a familiar favourite for many, while 'Keep Young and Beautiful' and 'The King was in his Counting House' are true gems.
The extras include a selection of photos from the sets and of the cast, and also the third episode in a mini-series on the cast
(this episode focuses on the troublesome Fraser, played by John Laurie). The latter extra is most interesting, following in the footsteps of the previous installments (on Arnold Ridley as Godfrey and James Beck as Walker).
As a final comment, it is sad that the two-disc set includes nothing else inside the case (that is, an episode breakdown card, into the scenes that can be selected from the DVD menus). This is, however, a minor point, and once again, it's great to watch another amusing series of one of the nation's favourite comedies.


Prisoner of war (PC CD)
Prisoner of war (PC CD)

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 18 Jan. 2006
Codemasters' 'Prisoner of War' is certainly an unique game, focusing on a theme popularised through films such as 'The Great Escape' and 'The Colditz Story'. This is obvious through the setting of four of the game's 'levels' in Stalag Luft (III) and Colditz itself.
Therefore, a first consideration for anyone who might purchase this game is that, does such a theme appeal to you? In my opinion, playing through the various camps, it was indeed exhilarating to fool the guards, steal items from under their noses and to consistently escape.
But what of the game itself? The gameplay is compelling, but the interface could certainly be simplified. A legacy of its Xbox release perhaps, but it does not detract greatly from the enjoyable nature of the game. Centered around a day with a strict routine (as there would be in a POW camp)
The graphics are average for the date of release, and while dated now, still represent prisoners, guards and items quite accurately. The musical score is relatively passive, except when you attempt to miss a Morning or Evening Roll Call, and then the tension begins to build! The sound effects are relatively minimal, and are therefore hard to comment on. The voiceover of prisoner and guards is often amusing, and as the words do not often match mouth movements, you could be forgiven for believing the game is dubbed! This is especially true considering the Germans themselves speak heavily accented English, but for some reason, the British have always found accents like this amusing!
Overall, the game is a valiant attempt in an unexplored niche in the genre, and although there are elements that might be developed further, as a game it remains most enjoyable.


Hitler's Mediterranean Gamble: The North African and the Mediterranean Campaigns in World War II
Hitler's Mediterranean Gamble: The North African and the Mediterranean Campaigns in World War II
by Douglas Porch
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, 18 Jan. 2006
Northern Europe, Russia, the Pacific, these are the campaigns at the forefront of the world's minds when they think of the Second World War. Yet, there were other conflicts and theatres, and the Mediterranean was certainly not the least amongst them.
For five years, from 1940 until 1945, there was conflict within or on the borders of the Mediterranean. Douglas Porch's book brings the battles and struggles of this period alive. Although other reviews have (quite truthfully) remarked upon a number of minor errors within this work, it is otherwise a brilliant and comprehensive account of the war.
It follows not only the fluid battles of the Western Desert, but also the German moves in the Aegean, the Naval conflict, as well as the thorn in the Axis' side that was Malta. It also focuses on the landings of Operation Torch, on the invasion of Sicily and the subsequent struggle slowly up the Italian boot.
Porch obviously draws upon the experience of his previous works (on imperialism and conquest in Africa), and it is, perhaps, no exaggeration to say that this is his best book so far.
If you are of a mind to learn anything about the war in the Mediterranean, this is definitely the place to begin.


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