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Didier Sept (Birmingham, UK)

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Bomb Hunters: In Afghanistan with Britain's Elite Bomb Disposal Unit
Bomb Hunters: In Afghanistan with Britain's Elite Bomb Disposal Unit
Price: £2.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if not particularly well-structured, 15 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book has a lot of very interesting stories in it which make it clear just how brave the RLC high-threat IED operators are (not to mention the Royal Engineers search teams which accompany them). There is also a lot of discussion around the operational context in Afghanistan and the unbelievable casualty rates being suffered by the front-line by the IED threat. It's clear that the author, and ex-army officer, really understands his subject and the army and that he took considerable risks to research the book.

However the book is not that well structured. Chapters explaining fundamental principles (the use of disruptors, the role of the RESA) are placed in the middle of the book which makes earlier chapters a bit baffling to the layman. Editing is also an issue, with the same facts, phrases and sentences being found in close proximity. Also there is a suspicion that there wasn't enough material on the ATOs alone to fill the book, hence some of the broader operational context chapters.

I'd still recommend it - the material itself is very good.

The Great Train Robbery: Crime of the Century: The Definitive Account
The Great Train Robbery: Crime of the Century: The Definitive Account
by Nick Russell-Pavier
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but needed better editing, 13 Feb. 2016
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This book contains a great deal of information about the robbery and the thoroughness of the authors approach cannot be doubted. They have used a wide range of sources including memoirs of the robbers and detectives involved and the national archives and GPO records.

However the book is badly in need of editing. Chunks of text are occasionally repeated within seconds few pages and the organisation of the book disrupts the flow of reading. In addition there are some annoying errors (the GPO investigation branch is referred to as the intelligence branch in some parts) and a lack of basic fact checking (appeal courts don't use juries).

It's worth a go, but not at the full paperback price, which would be better spent on the fictionalised account 'Signal Red' by Robert Ryan.

LIFE The Day Kennedy Died: Fifty Years Later: LIFE Remembers the Man and the Moment
LIFE The Day Kennedy Died: Fifty Years Later: LIFE Remembers the Man and the Moment
Price: £13.66

4.0 out of 5 stars Not compatible with Fire HD 8, 1 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'm sure the book is great etc. - however be aware that although it says it is compatible with Fire HD, Amazon's Kindle specialists have confirmed that it is NOT compatible with Fire HD 8 due to the audio-visual contents. It will therefore not download correctly to these devices.

Bronx Is Burning [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Bronx Is Burning [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you are into baseball, or US sports in general, then this series is well worth a watch., 1 Sept. 2014
This ESPN commissioned mini-series looks at the New York Yankees road to the World Series as well as other key events which took place in the New York of 1977.

The main focus is on the relationship between the owner (George Steinbrenner, played by Oliver Platt), the manager (Billy Martin, played by John Turturro) and newly signed star player Reggie Jackson (Daniel Sunjata, practically unrecognisable from Rescue Me). Earlier episodes also deal in illuminating detail with the NYPD's hunt for the 'Son of Sam' murderer and the NYC mayoral elections, although these side plot lines fade out as the Yankees' season continues towards October.

It has to be said that baseball fans will probably get more from the dialogue, but even non-US sports fans will get the main thrust of the plot easily. The series is also brilliantly acted (by Turturro in particular) and the 1970's era is well recreated using clothes, hairstyles, a good range of archive footage and (some rather hit and miss) special effects - all of which manage to avoid the worst excesses of stereotyping.

Call the Fire Brigade
Call the Fire Brigade
Offered by Audible Ltd

4.0 out of 5 stars Fire-fighting in inner-London in the 1970s, 27 Jan. 2014
I enjoyed Allan Grice's book about fire-fighting in inner London.

Broadly set in the East End (although including Islington in that definition is stretching things a bit) during the mid-70s it provides a window into a time when serious, fatal fires were a much more common occurrence than today. The combination of cramped, poor-quality housing and portable paraffin heaters seems to have been a deadly one, and you can only admire the bravery and fortitude of the fire crews dealing with such incidents, often using equipment which (by the standards of today) sounds to have been both uncomfortable and occasionally rather primitive (e.g. the hook ladder).

It is also clear how much respect Allan had for his forebears, the 'smoke-eaters' who survived not just a life of fire, but also the Blitz on London. There also is a terrific link in the book to the classic Report From Engine Company 82.

The book has a very conversational tone and is rather lyrical - the drawback to this is that Allan's sentences can seem rather endless, filled as they are with asides, analogies and the author's musings. This wasn't a massive problem in the audio book, but might make the text version a bit long-winded in places.

The book could have perhaps been edited rather better. There are some discussions which are repeated at different points within the text (this may reflect the fact that some of the material has been published before). This includes quite a bit of consideration of health and safety culture; whilst Allan has certainly earned a right to his opinion, the sheer number of times which the subject is revisited (both through his own voice and those of his cast of colleagues) meant that the subject started to become tedious.

Finally - the audio book narrator is terrific and able to take off at various times convincing yorkshire, irish, and cockney accents.

So Others May Live: Coast Guard's Rescue Swimmers: Saving Lives, Defying Death
So Others May Live: Coast Guard's Rescue Swimmers: Saving Lives, Defying Death
by Tom Ridge
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.20

3.0 out of 5 stars Hard work initially, 9 Nov. 2012
The profile of US Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers has probably never been higher with their exploits televised on the TV news, in the documentary series `Coastguard Alaska' (on the Weather Channel in the US and Watch here in the UK) and (fictionally) in the Kevin Costner film The Guardian [DVD]. You would have thought that, given the rich subject matter, the book (written by a former Coast Guard Public Affairs Officer) was bound to be hugely engaging.

Unfortunately, whilst the dedication and professionalism of the swimmers and aircrew is always evident, the book is weighed down in trying to present too much information. Whilst the operational minutae is often interesting there is far too much time spent on peripheral details which are not relevent to the average reader. This gives the book the air of an official unit history and makes the first third of the book in particular really hard work.

Things start to flow more in later chapters, which contain many mind-boggling examples of bravery and some epic rescues. For my money though the slimmer volume Brotherhood of the Fin: A Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer's Story was a better window into the world of these quiet and courageous professionals.

The Secret Life of France
The Secret Life of France
by Lucy Wadham
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The secret life of the Paris bourgeoisie, 9 Nov. 2012
Lucy Wadham has written an interesting book about France in which she examines the nation through the lens of an ex-pat Englishwoman raising a family in Paris from the late 1980s onwards. Much of the book is based on her personal experiences interspersed with the occasional chapter of history to give her arguments context. Many of her insights are valuable (and hard won) if slightly contradictory (well, this is France after all) and the book as a whole is far more serious in tone than the sub-Peter Mayle genre that Brits abroad tend to produce.

The book is not without some omissions. Many of the attitudes ascribed to `the French' are actually those of the Paris bourgeoisie of which the author was a part. Provincial attitudes don't really get a look in until right at the end when the author moves further afield. Vichy is discussed as context for French social attitudes today, as you would expect, but the pre-independence Algerian war (which led to the creation of the V Republic and reintroduced De Gaulle to politics) is not, even though its influence is still profound.

Social unrest in the banlieues is also discussed but mostly blamed on the attitude of the police. This certainly fits the La Haine (Special Edition) [DVD] [1995] view of the world and its true that the French police's history has sometimes been less than glorious; even today they have attitudes that would seem outdated elsewhere. However a reading of any of the books on the subject coming out of the French blogosphere such as the excellent Flic : Chroniques de la police ordinaire would show that the police these days are pretty much just trying to keep the lid on an element of French society created by years of poor socio-economic conditions and successive failed government policies in a range of areas.

The book, inevitably, also has a slightly dated air when discussing "Sarko" but the chapter dealing with him is still interesting, if only to highlight how short-lived the French desire for a 'rupture' with the past really was.

In summary I'd really recommend this if you are interested in modern France.

Law and Disorder
Law and Disorder

5.0 out of 5 stars First class, 11 April 2012
This review is from: Law and Disorder (Audio Download)
This is an extremely funny and very well written fictional account of the rites of passage of a pupil barrister as he tries to get a place in chambers - by fair means or foul (mainly foul).

The audiobook narrator is terrific at reading a text which captures BabyBarista's combination of general likeableness and occasional nastiness. However, for all his faults he is never a hero for which you lose sympathy, subject as he is to events beyond his control in almost all areas of his life.

Many of the characters will ring a bell for fans of North Square [DVD]or Silk [DVD], but that's no bad thing. The only slight criticism I might have is that the method of disposal of one of his rivals seemed a bit unlikely, although given the strange nature of life and barristers it's probably the one based on a real event.

Highly recommended.

The Interceptor
The Interceptor
Offered by Audible Ltd

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative but with some limitations, 11 April 2012
This review is from: The Interceptor (Audio Download)
If you read this book then there is no doubt that you will come away better informed about the `war on drugs' and the role of various UK agencies within it. Some of the facts (such as the laundering of money through Dubai) are genuinely eye-opening and the book doesn't lack on action - well certainly at first.

However it does have some faults. The tone is a bit 'pub-tale' sometimes (not helped by the audiobook narrator who seemed to be channelling Danny Dyer) and a stronger editor might have killed off things like the the verbatim radio conversations, which were initially fun and atmospheric but then became a bit of a drag.

I do think that the books `expose' of SOCA is very valuable - I can only hope that the author (notably and openly bitter on the subject) was exaggerating some of what went on, but there was a worrying ring of truth to it. Whether the demise of SOCA will clean things up or make things worse, is anyone's guess.

Worth a bash, all in all.

Crack House
Crack House
by Harry Keeble
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and informative - a very good 'cop book', 3 April 2012
This review is from: Crack House (Paperback)
This book was hugely enjoyable. Harry's account of the internal struggles he goes through within the Met will ring a bell, and raise a wry smile, with anyone with experience in certain areas of the public sector.

His descriptions of his team are genuinely (with one exception) affectionate, his description of the drugs trade interesting and he really puts a focus on the consequences of strategies which abandon the community to low level dealers in order to focus on high level gangs.

The descriptions of the raids are full of adrenalin and make you ask yourself about the risks police officers go through when undertaking such work - even these moments are not without their lighter touches though. Harry also discusses the stories of some of the users of crack, which increases the impact of the book.

Very good - recommended.

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