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Nazis on the Run: How Hitler's Henchmen Fled Justice
Nazis on the Run: How Hitler's Henchmen Fled Justice
by Gerald Steinacher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

3.0 out of 5 stars What remains unknown., 3 April 2015
The existing review by Nicholas Oglethorpe neatly sums up the mild criticisms I would have of what must have been a very difficult book to both research and write. I would add a sense of frustration (which is obviously shared by the author) in that we will never know how many wanted Nazis slipped through the net either due to a desire by the Red Cross and the Vatican (or individuals within these organisations) to help these people or to simply incompetence or inertia. The charitable will say the Red Cross in particular was swamped with refugees after the war and wanted nazi (using false identities) found it relatively easy to slip through the net. Others will point out that the head of the Red Cross was aware from an early stage that wanted nazis were using the Red Cross as an effective escape route out of Europe but only belatedly did something about it. The author, frustratingly, does not produce sufficient evidence to prove a deliberate policy of adding nazis, although the case against individuals within the Vatican is probably the strongest. However, the chances of the Vatican coming clean are about as high as meeting Elvis.


The Man without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
The Man without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
by Masha Gessen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Putin lite, 12 Mar. 2015
This is a poor book about a serious subject, Putin's corruption of a nascent democratic country into a gangster state run by the president and his cronies. The book meanders back and forth from different time periods and appears to be a collection of stories about Putin's Russia strung together with little analysis and a lot of irrelevant details attached. At times the book adopts the writing style of the magazine to which the author is a contributor, Vanity Fair. Do we really need to know that a marginal political figure had "hollywood looks and a chiselled jaw." If you are looking for an in depth analysis of the Putin period, this is not the book for you.


Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
by Daniel Ellsberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.49

3.0 out of 5 stars A thirty year post war folly, 16 Jan. 2015
An interesting book, in parts. The author, unfortunately, has a dry writing style, as befits a former policy wonk, with much analysis of government statements, and some readers may find the book a bit hard going, particularly the first half. But it does give a fascinating insight into the process of policy formation, or lack of it, in the 60s. There are also some interesting anecdotes on Nixon and Kissinger which may, or may not, confirm your opinion of these gentlemen. The book also confirms the old adage about americans politicans that "history begins with their administration" but it is remarkable that the author,whose involvement with Vietnam began in 1961, only seriously studied the post war history of Vietnam (Geneva accords) as late as 1969 - with this research substantially altering his view of the US role in Vietnam. Paradoxically the author also comes over as somewhat politically naive (or too focused on Vietnam) when discussing the motives and actions of Nixon and co. Nevertheless an interesting book but perhaps not for the general reader.


Paddy Mayne: Lt Col Blair 'Paddy' Mayne, 1 SAS Regiment
Paddy Mayne: Lt Col Blair 'Paddy' Mayne, 1 SAS Regiment
by Hamish Ross
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A more balanced picture, 2 Jan. 2015
A somewhat detached biography of the Irish war hero. The author is not helped by the subject who did not write an autobiography and was not given to self expression in his journals or letters. However, the author compounds this with a stiff turgid writing style with several of Mayne's battle reports quoted verbatim. This book would not appeal to the general reader and is only for those with a specific interest in the subject (my father met Blair Mayne in the early fifties, a couple of years before Mayne was killed in a car crash.) In fairness to the author he paints an admiring and sympathetic portrait of Mayne and quite rightly dimisses many of the hyperbole Mayne stories that became common currency, particularly after his death. What emerges is a picture of a brave,talented solder who unfortunately, like many veterans, suffered from Post Tramatic Stress in the post war years. It must have been extremely difficult for a man of action like Mayne to settle down in parochial dull Northern Ireland after the war. On a minor note the author had made some mistakes when summarising Mayne's pre army sporting life-the British Lions did not win the 1938 series against the Springboks, as the author claims, they lost it 2-1.


Lawrence Of Arabia: Mirage Of A Desert War
Lawrence Of Arabia: Mirage Of A Desert War
by Adrian Greaves
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A desert flower, 18 Dec. 2014
An excellent and well written, if short, account of Lawrence's time in the desert. This is not a biography of Lawrence per se and his early and post desert life are condensed into a couple of chapters. The book discounts many of the "lawrence" myths to reveal a picture of an eccentric brilliant far-sighted arabist, but one who was not above embellishing his version of events in the desert - the author convincingly proves that the famous capture,torture and rape incident at Derra,mentioned in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, was a figment of Lawrence's imagination. But, to Lawrence's credit, he also downplayed a lot of events. There were many skirmishes with the Turks in the desert that lawrence never mentioned in his writings. For anyone with a limited knowledge of the Middle East (like myself) the book also offers an introduction to the creation of the modern Middle East and its many attendant problems.


The Presidents: The Transformation of the American Presidency from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama
The Presidents: The Transformation of the American Presidency from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama
by Stephen Graubard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Less than immortals, 13 Dec. 2014
An excellant potted history and commentary on the US presidents from the beginning of the twentieth century. From a non American point of view what makes this history even more fascinating is the the views of the relevant foreign leaders - very few thought highly of Eisenhower or Carter, never mind Bush junior - which the author has researched to give a more balanced domestic and foreign view of each president. What is equally fascinating is that the author has striped away the mythology surrounding each leader to reveal a surprising number of unremarkable individuals- no one every accused Eisenhower, Ford, Carter, Regan or the two Bushes of being intellectuals. Two criticisms of the book are that the author is perhaps too diplomatic in his assessments and one has to read between the lines and also (perhaps given his background) at times he gives too much weight to foreign affairs and not sufficent attention to the domestic economy. In addition there is the assumption that readers are already well versed in the politics of the era, making the book inappropriate for someone who is not. On the whole, however,an excellent commentary on the differing individuals who have inhabited the White House.


The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957 (Peoples Trilogy 2)
The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957 (Peoples Trilogy 2)
by Frank Dikötter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A dark legacy, 2 Sept. 2014
This is the second book in the authors' Peoples Trilogy of China under Mao and professor Dikotter once again hammers a well researched and written nail into the coffin of Mao's legacy. In the 1980s and 1990s the accepted history of the post independence period, before the chaos of the great leap forward , was that this was a period of relative stability and prosperity, with the hiccup of the land reform campaign in which 1-2 million people were killed. Using new material available and looking at accounts from the 1950s previously overlooked or dismissed the author completely demolishes this myth. Mao used a completely irrelevant soviet landlord/peasant classification system under the land reform campaign as a means of wiping out opposition, real or imagined, to the communist party. Statistics from this period have to be treated with caution but it is highly likely that substantially more than two million people were killed and that the vast majority of them were completely innocent. Mao, discussing the optimum "Killing rate" to be implemented in the countryside, comes accross as a evil tyrant completely indifferent to the fate of his countrymen. He was indeed, as the author points out, China's Stalin. China's future leader, Deng Xiaoping, an enthusiastic supporter of the land reform campaign, also does not come out of this period well. The land reform,collectivisation and other programmes implemented to steer the country towards a socialist utophia had a drastic effect on the country and the economy;the author paints a realistic portrait of a society in complete chaos with centuries old village life collapsing, industries imploding and man made famines. Finally, and perhaps most importantly from a historical point of view, the author destroys the historical legitamacy of the communist party;pointing out that their rule was based on terror and extermination or removal(to labour camps)of their opponents,again real or imagined, rather than acceptance by the people. This trilogy, with the third book on the cultural revolution still to be released, may become the definitive history of China under Mao.


The Devil and Sonny Liston
The Devil and Sonny Liston
by Nick Tosches
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars New Detective trash, 17 July 2014
This is a dreadful book. As a former amateur boxer with a good knowledge of the boxing world I can say with confidence that the author knows as much about boxing as I do about nuclear fussion, perhaps less. Add in a hollywood street slang style of writing and bouts of turgid amateur philisophing, it all comes over as an extended article from New Detective Magazine. Do not waste your time or money.


Twilight in Djakarta (Oxford in Asia Paperbacks)
Twilight in Djakarta (Oxford in Asia Paperbacks)
by Mochtar Lubis
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars An elegant anti Sukarno polemic, 12 July 2014
I lived in Jakarta in the 1990s but this is the first book I have read by this well known Indonesian author. Although the language is somewhat stilted - perhaps due to translation - the author perfectly captures the sense of hopelessness that anyone who has studied Indonesian history will know existed in the early 1960s, during the latter part of the Sukarno Regime. A period of revolving door governments, endemic corruption, chronic economic mismanagement and widespread poverty. The author captures all this beautifully in a cultured polemic against the Sukarno regime and, although it is a novel, an effective time capscule into a sad period in Indonesian history.
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Hellhound on his Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin
Hellhound on his Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin
by Hampton Sides
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chasing the dream, 9 July 2014
An excellent well researched and written book. Although the murder of Dr King took place over forty years ago and the assassin was caught, the author's extensive research and writing style breathes new life into this account of the impending murder (from the time James Earl Ray escaped from prison) and the subsequent manhunt and capture of JER. He is scrupulously fair when assessing Dr King who, with the civil rights momentum fading, comes accross as a well meaning but somewhat desperate and fatalistic individual who suspects his time in history may have passed. JER,for all the author's fairness, comes accross as the sort of unbalanced racist individual who, unfortunately, still thrives in some parts of the US. Of equal fascination - which illustrates the depth of the author's research - are the vignettes of some of the many law enforcement individuals involved in the manhunt, which fleshes out the second half of the book and gives it one of its many strengths. A very enjoyable and informative read.


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