This review is from: Jungle Soldier: The True Story of Freddy Spencer Chapman (Paperback)
I came to this book already knowing a fair bit about Spencer Chapman's exploits, but wanted to learn something of what he did after he returned to 'normal' life. That period was 25 out of his 64 years, but gets a paltry 8 pages out of 324 in this book.
Most of the book is devoted to Spencer Chapman's travels in the Himalayas & Tibet, Greenland, and Malaya during WWII. I am always worried when, in books like this, I find rudimentary mistakes. In an incident in Greenland, Spencer Chapman and two others deduced they were close to, but north-west of, a tent they were trying to locate. Moynahan describes how the three of them spread out and then walked in a north-westerly direction!
The major part of Moynahan's book covers what is in Spencer Chapman's "The Jungle is Neutral". Apart from pointing out that in a few details what is in that book is not 100% true(!), Moynahan adds very little to the subject. He comments in places about what locations look like today, which seems totally irrelevant (but he'd obviously like us to know that he's visited them). I have just started re-reading "The Jungle is Neutral" and felt insulted by Moynahan's efforts. The maps in Moynahan's book are a straight lift (uncredited) of the originals, and the title of one of the most noteworthy chapters is the same ("The Mad Fortnight") as in Spencer Chapman's own book.
Moynahan's acknowledgement to others is scant, and there are no references. While reading his book I kept thinking that he was just re-telling what's in Spencer Chapman's own books.
Spencer Chapman was a remarkable survivor, and what he did is worth reading about, but do yourself a favour and get hold of his own books: Watkins' Last Expedition (Greenland), Memoirs of a Mountaineer (Tibet & Himalayas), and (especially) The Jungle is Neutral, which in my view read better than this biography.
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Initial post: 9 Jul 2012 18:31:57 BDT
Postscript: I've just taken delivery of the biography by Ralph Barker ("One Man's Jungle"). Unfortunately not cheaply available, but seems much more balanced (70pp up to end of university, and about 100 post WWII), and with a much better selection of photos.
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