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Jeremy Duns (Mariehamn)
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The Snowden Operation: Inside the West's Greatest Intelligence Disaster (Kindle Single)
The Snowden Operation: Inside the West's Greatest Intelligence Disaster (Kindle Single)
Price: £1.15

33 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb and long-overdue analysis of the Snowden situation, 25 Jan. 2014
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This is a brilliantly lucid and careful analysis of the Edward Snowden case, and makes many points I wish had been given greater prominence in the debate so far. Among them is Lucas' observation that the context for Snowden's documents has often been lacking - Der Spiegel or another publication trumpets a sensational, shocking revelation based on a handful of slides, but as readers we have no way of knowing whether the programs in question are ongoing, were indeed ever put into place in some cases, who the audience for the slides were, if they raised objections to the presentation, what the slides before and after said, what other discussions were held on the issue, and so on.

Hardcore Snowden supporters will either ignore this uncomfortable book or attack it for being a hit-piece by a lackey of the surveillance state or somesuch. But if you're in any way on the fence or have a rather more open mind than Glenn Greenwald and Jacob Appelbaum's most ardent supporters, I highly recommend you read this. It may change the way you view the situation. And the conclusion shows that Lucas is very far from being an advocate for the surveillance state. In fact, I'd say that, whatever your views on Edward Snowden and the NSA, if you're at all interested in the subject this short ebook is a must-read.


Ratcatcher (John Purkiss Thriller Book 1)
Ratcatcher (John Purkiss Thriller Book 1)
Price: £0.00

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb spy thriller, 6 Jun. 2012
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(Disclaimer: I know Tim Stevens.)

This is a cracker of a spy thriller. Introducing John Purkiss, a British agent charged with tracking down rogue and criminal elements in MI6, the novel is a tense cat-and-mouse chase set in Estonia. The prose is so vivid you can almost feel the action as it takes place, while the plot fits together so well it reminded me of the masterly Desmond Bagley. One can only hope this is the first in a series - I for one would love to read more Purkiss stories. If you enjoy gripping and twisty spy novels, don't miss this.


A Million Shades of Green: The Real Story Behind Fifty Shades of Grey
A Million Shades of Green: The Real Story Behind Fifty Shades of Grey
Price: £1.99

29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent analysis of a fascinating phenomenon, 24 Mar. 2012
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(Full disclosure: Sean shared an earlier draft of this book with me before publication.) In this clear and well-structured essay, Sean Black provides a wealth of surprising information and thought-provoking analysis on the phenomenon of the best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. Black looks at the origins of James' book and its sequels as Twilight fan fiction, and their subsequent related success - James' initial fan fiction work, Master of the Universe, had over 30,000 reviews from Twilight fans before the characters' names were changed and it was republished by an Australian company specializing in 'filing off the serial numbers', as this practice is known in fan fiction circles. The staggering level of James' success, and the fact that a major publisher is now publishing the novels (with no editing for the initial print run, I understand) after a bidding war that resulted in a seven-figure deal is a dramatic and unprecedented event in publishing, and the issues it raises are fascinating. Black lays it all out in a way that will give anyone interested in writing and publishing considerable food for thought. Highly recommended.


Nobody on the Road
Nobody on the Road
by Rose
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting thriller, 7 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Nobody on the Road (Hardcover)
Along with Rose's novel A Clear Road To Archangel, with which it has a lot in common, this novel should be much better known by thriller enthusiasts - indeed, both books deserve, I feel, to be seen as classics of the genre. Our narrator drifts into the life of a mercenary in an African nation, but this is The Dogs of War as though told by Omar Khayyam: luminous, haunting prose that cuts right through to the heart of the matter. Extraordinary stuff - seek it out.


Clear Road to Archangel
Clear Road to Archangel
by Geoffrey Rose
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb thriller, 7 Sept. 2010
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This is a superb thriller, and should be regarded as a classic of the genre, along with Rose's Nobody On The Road. I still have to read his third novel, The Bright Adventure, but am confident it will be as impressive as these two. A Clear Road To Archangel is a virtuoso piece, a sustained monologue by a British agent on the run in Russia in 1917, a prose poem about the survival instinct and what war does to men. If you appreciate masterworks of chase fiction like Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male and Adam Hall's Quiller novels, you will probably enjoy this. It is a little more fantastic than those, in that the whole adventure seems to be taking place almost as a feverish dream, but the language, ingenuity of the twists and the Rose's observational powers and sensitivity are all captivating and compelling. Highly recommended.


The Ninth Directive
The Ninth Directive
by Adam Hall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best spy thrillers of all time, 6 Aug. 2010
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This review is from: The Ninth Directive (Paperback)
I love this thriller. It is taut, tense and brilliantly written. Predating Frederick Forsyth's The Day of The Jackal by five years, it takes you into the mind of a British agent given the task of assassinating an assassin. Bangkok leaps off the page and the narrator, Quiller, is one of the finest creations in espionage fiction: a real alleycat of a spook, but also a deeply sensitive man. All the cliches, perhaps, but Hall (aka Elleston Trevor) make them real. Quiller is a living breathing human being, and you're there with him every step of the way, sweating with him, frightened for him. This entire series of novels (there are 19) is amazing, but this and The Tango Briefing are probably my favourites. Criminally unknown today - do check them out. If you like the Bourne films or the recent Bond films with Daniel Craig, this might be right up your street. I can't recommend it highly enough.


The Quiller Memorandum [1966] [DVD]
The Quiller Memorandum [1966] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Senta Berger
Price: £5.00

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been so much more, 5 Aug. 2010
This seems to have it all: Pinter writing the script, Guiness, von Sydow, John Barry score, and filmed on location in Berlin. But it doesn't quite work. This is partly because the source material is superb, but not easily filmable, especially some of the tricky stuff at the end. But it's mainly through the miscasting of George Segal as Quiller. He's very different from the Quiller of the novels, but that could have worked: there's a marked difference between Sean Connery and Ian Fleming's James Bond, for example, but both work. Segal's Quiller just doesn't work, though: he's too glib and flip to be convincing as the agent who is doing what he does in this film. I think the script just plays against his style so much that it is distracting. The plot is also just very hard to follow. It is at times in the book, as well, but reading a book is a different experience. Read the novels if you haven't, though: they are stunning.


In Pursuit of Life
In Pursuit of Life
by Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating biography, 5 Aug. 2010
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This review is from: In Pursuit of Life (Hardcover)
This is the real deal, the memoirs of a man who was a daredevil and a hero, and led several fascinating lives. It's also very well written and has a great flow to it. The highlight is the section in which he works with MI6 and the Dutch resistance in the war, but all of it is interesting. One of the best memoirs I've read. Highly recommended.


Ian Fleming
Ian Fleming
by Andrew Lycett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb biography of a fascinating man, 5 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Ian Fleming (Paperback)
This is a superb biography of Ian Fleming, and well worth reading if you're interested in him. It makes two substantial additions to the picture provided by John Pearson in his (also superb) biography published three decades earlier: it gives the story of Blanche Blackwell, Fleming's lover in later life; and provides a much deeper context for the success of James Bond that followed Fleming's death. Neither of these were in Pearson's book, the first I imagine for reasons of diplomacy, and the second because most of it hadn't happened yet. Lycett occasionally overdoses on the connections and backgrounds of very minor figures in Fleming's life, but then again he leaves few stones unturned. While the book is generally more sympathetic than Pearson's, he spares us no detail, even of Fleming's sexual preferences. Fleming was a much misunderstood man during his life, and remains an undervalued writer. The popular perception is that his novels were superficial fantasies, simple Boy's Own adventures. This book shows that they were deeply ingrained fantasies and rather complicated Boy's Own adventures. This book also gives a context to the times in which Fleming lived and to his achievement both in that time and beyond it. While no book could ever present the whole portrait of a writer, taken together with John Pearson's work, one feels that Lycett comes very close.


The Devil is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley (Biography/Dark Masters)
The Devil is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley (Biography/Dark Masters)
by Phil Baker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive Wheatley biography, 30 Jan. 2010
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Dennis Wheatley led a fascinating life, both as a writer and a war planner, and it's high time a decent biography of him was published. This is it. Despite Wheatley having written several volumes of revealing memoir, this book is a must for anyone interested in his life. Wheatley was often vague on dates, especially for the latter part of his life, and was not the person to put his own life into meaningful context. Phil Baker's biography is a great read, but is also invaluable as a reference tool, as it is meticulously researched and sourced, and uncovers all sorts of intriguing connections in the literary, cinematic and military fields. At this length, it's perhaps not a book to take to the beach and read in one sitting: it is more of a rich meal to savour over time. The writing is lively and often laconic - Baker is as attuned to literary establishment snobbery as he is to Wheatley's own pretensions - but it is his hard work in reference libraries and newspaper archives that has really paid off, and which makes this the definitive Wheatley biography.


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