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Ian Fleming's Commandos: The Story of 30 Assault Unit in WWII Hardcover – 6 Oct 2011
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'Nicholas Rankin's fascinating book reads like a Boy's Own's story, so flamboyant are the characters and so vivid Rankin's accounts of [the commandos'] deadly scrapes and firefights. The research is prodigious and lucid.' --William Boyd, Guardian
'Arrestingly well researched and rich in detail.' --Sam Kiley, The Times
'Entertaining, informative and insightful.' --Saul David, Daily Telegraph
Ian Fleming's Commandos: The Story of 30 Assault Unit in WWII by Nicholas Rankin tells the true story of Ian Fleming and the 30 Assault Unit during the Second World War, the real-life inspiration for James Bond.See all Product description
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I must be honest in saying that, at first, I loathed the including of material about James Bond since I wanted to read about war and not another series entirely. I found myself reading between the lines and picking out the materiel I wanted to read, in the first few chapters at least. For the most part of the book, after the begging and until the end, James Bond features only lightly across each chapter but by the end I'd come to the conclusion that it would be impossible to tell the story of Ian Fleming and 30 AU without writing about the James Bond series. Footnotes largely relate to James Bond and I ignored most after realising. I can't be quite sure how to conclude my opinion on such including of material. I've read it, I don't feel like it wasted my time, that is all.
Beside the above, and on the whole, I found it a valuable account of WW2 to read. It includes detail of much but keeps them light. It provides a chronological account of 30 AU throughout WW2 and concludes in the modern day. It has interesting bits in the intelligence that was obtained and stories of how famous writers like Ernest Hemingway was involved in the war, if only briefly. There is another author mentioned that struck me but fail to recall a name. I'd say if spies, intelligence and alike are favourable reads then this is a volume that might take your interest for that angle.
The book includes a section of photographs that span some handful of pages but beside that the book is a wall of text. Given all this time on I can't help but feel additional material in the forms of maps, scanned documents and alike would have positively expanded the work and only added to its contribution of books on WW2. The book doesn't fail without the including of such material but certainly other volumes of WW2 books provide content that show me things this one does not. The book serves its purpose mind, and tells the story, so that's most important.
There's a couple of full stops missing on two unrecorded pages and a sentence that starts and makes no sense on an unrecorded page also. I'm surprised proof-readers, editors and alike haven't picked this up. One for the sharp eyed that has no real effect on anything when all considered.
The covers a nice design and makes it easy on the eye. The font of the book is spaced for an engaging read but not so much that one is left looking from top to bottom of a page to read the next sentence (metaphorically). Very well typesette'd and formatted. Printed on cream like paper that makes the blackness stand out and easier on the eye.
Overall for the small fee, perhaps less than £3, you can pay for a used copy of this volume on Amazon it really is a steal. Despite my three star rating for the various disagreements stated above I'd recommend this without a doubt to the addition in ones collection. I think perhaps my next hunt is to obtain the other titles from this author and see how they compare. But then that's an authors job done, isn't it? When a reader feels the need to explore more volumes and purchase another copy the book must have left an impression.
Although I was aware of the existence of 30 Assault Unit from biographical books about the author Ian Fleming, those authors did not attempt to delve into the mechanics of this unit and therefore, if I thought about it at all, I simply wrote it off as another ad hoc unit, such as RM Detachment 385. But the author, Nicholas Rankin has performed a sterling job in producing this thoroughly well-researched book, having spoken to many members of the unit, crammed the book chock-a-block full of background information and injected it with crafty humour. Above all else, it is extremely well-written.
In the `acknowledgements' section, Mr. Rankin mentions that his daughter chided him for writing too slowly - but it's paid off. The meticulous attention to detail will, I hope result in this book being in the best-sellers lists for a long time to come.
The footnotes are greatly welcomed, especially those touching upon the Bond connection. For those seeking a biography of Ian Fleming, purchasing this book may be a disappointment because the title revolves around commandos rather than Ian Fleming but he adds another interpretation to an important chapter of his life. Most importantly though, the author has brought vividly to life a whole series of people, whose courage and exploits, helped to win the war against the brutal Fascist dictators.
That said, Rankin seems to be trying to write several different books at the same time - a biography of Ian Fleming, a history of 30 Assault Unit and an account of the inner workings of British naval intelligence during WWII. You get a lot of information about the latter and there are an awful lot of names, organisations and departments which you have to try to keep track of to follow later developments. The narrative struck me as a little disorganised at times as the author jumps around from one topic to another (sometimes without bothering to change paragraph) - not sure why the publisher didn't iron that out...
Overall, there's lots of interesting material here and I don't regret buying it. I think it would have been a better book, however, if it had stuck to a tighter focus and been more selective about how much historical context to include. Unsurprisingly, the book is at its most interesting when the focus is on the officers and men of 30AU. Oddly, the reformation of the unit in 2010 merits just over one page though.
Lovely cover by the way!
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