Summer 2018 Book Reviews – 3 (non-motoring)
Armed with a shelf-load of the latest titles, the following books have a strictly NON-motoring flavour, from authors new and renowned and established publishers, which Iain Robertson recommends for the sheer pleasure of reading at home, or abroad.
Missing in Shanghai
By Jean Harrod
ISBN: 978 0 992997 17 5
York Authors Coffee Shop
One of my favourite novelists of recent times is Jean Harrod. A former diplomat but now a most talented writer, I revelled in her previous two works (‘Deadly Diplomacy’ and ‘Deadly Deceit’), having found them to be outstandingly engaging and eminently readable. While I often ‘leaf through’ books, not to obtain the ‘money shot’ but to assess aspects of depth and the lengths of chapters, I cannot do so with Ms Harrod’s efforts…I just cannot put the books down! So it was, with ‘Missing in Shanghai’, where present day, London-based diplomat (Jess Turner…clearly a foil for the author) is played off against a Shanghai-based diplomat (Marianne Henderson) from 1984. Two key diplomatic characters are dead but their records are obliterated, which leads to intrigue, via entrapment, betrayal and espionage. Jean writes from a strident pool of knowledge, which does beg a question about possible breaches of the Official Secrets Act, although I am sure that she knows how to circumnavigate any issues in that arena. Yet, it provides a voluble edginess to the content, which not only ups the pace but also makes it most credible. Well, thank you, Ms Harrod, for making me read 425pp so speedily, my head spins! Another great novel.
Urban Rambles – 20 Glorious Walks through English Cities
By Nicholas Rudd-Jones
ISBN: 978 0 7112 3974 6
Frances Lincoln (part of The Quarto Group)
While walking is a great and effective means of taking exercise, it is also a fantastic way to see places, especially those of interest, and the prospect of rambling through some of our country’s most lovely and, in many cases, thoroughly revitalised urban areas, has immense appeal. The author, Nicholas Rudd-Jones, is a well-regarded best-seller in the walking world. Using his immense powers of observation, he pinpoints key zones on well-constructed walks, highlighting architectural and historical details in a series of different length treks, across a variety of terrains (all urban, of course), as well as including rest halts, eating points and copious sight-seeing. Residing, as I do, close to the City of Lincoln, I even learnt something new about my county town. Informative, well-written and concise, ‘Urban Rambles’ carries easily-read maps, reference points and colour photographs, to ensure that you will not get lost physically. A most useful and enjoyable book.
A Wartime Journey Revisited
By Ian and Sandie Schagen
ISBN: 978 1 788 037 70 9
While I can live with books, in which the stories are based on facts, I have to admit to being a non-fiction fan. In fact, stories from life experiences are so significantly fulfilling that I can find myself drifting into various eras, with consummate ease, as long as the writer engages and does not rankle my sensitivities. Well-travelled and well-educated, in this case, both writers, husband and wife, followed their hearts and a route inscribed by Ian’s father, Dutchman Pieter Schagen. Fleeing from Nazi-controlled Holland, the young man travelled through the Low Countries to France and Spain, where he was imprisoned but managed to escape to Gibraltar. From there, he continued to travel to the UK, whereupon he signed-up to fly for the RAF. Amazingly, 54 years later, he wrote a book about his travels (‘An Odyssey through Occupied Europe in 1943’). Eighteen years later, his son Ian and his wife Sandie set out on an identical trek, partly to find the places and also the people that Pieter had encountered. Hugely inspiring, this is no ordinary travelogue.
Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know – Conspiracy theories that won’t go away
By David Southwell and Graeme Donald
ISBN: 978 1 787 3907 44
We all love a bit of a conspiracy, it makes life more fulfilling! Messrs Southwell (journalist and author) and Donald (historian and author) have investigated around eighty conspiracies, delving into records, interviewing key suspects and prising open cover-ups to create 208pp of ‘wow-factor’, supported by photography and evidence that will make your head spin. Needless to say, politics is well covered but so too are the organisations known for perpetrating innumerable ‘falsehoods’. Each chapter of the book highlights the facts as we all know them, followed by the extenuating circumstances and the most convincing and often contrary evidence. However, it is mildly disturbing to discover areas of commonality in ‘the usual suspects’ and also ‘the strange parts’. In truth, the book is constructed most neatly and follows a set system to either debunk, or support individual beliefs. Great fun to read and sure to raise more than a few post-prandial discourses.
The Ultimate Encyclopaedia of Tennis
By John Parsons and Henry Wancke
ISBN: 978 1 787 3905 77
It is summer. Summer means sport in the UK, with Henley, the Grand Prix, Goodwood and Wimbledon all commanding their share of attention. However, most compelling to the majority of spectators, TV viewers and radio listeners is the wonderful world of tennis. First published no less than two decades ago, this latest imprint is the updated version of a world-renowned book. Sadly, its main protagonist (John Parsons) died in 2004 but his colleague from the journalists’ box, Henry Wancke, continues to update the contents and JP’s legacy for the sport he loved above all. Sadly, the history of the sport misses a mention of the walled Real Tennis Court, at Falkland Palace, in Scotland, which is a small error in an otherwise concise and comprehensive book on the Sport of Kings. Each nation, each venue, each legendary player and even the rules of the game are annotated in Technicolor detail, complete with a chapter on the scandals, another on the oddities and, finally, the records set over the years. A usefully handy large format book to park next to your favourite armchair, as you indulge in another season of one of the greatest games in the world.