books monthly august 2017

Remembering Jack Kirby...

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Freeman Wills Crofts: The Groote Park Murder

 

Published by The Detective Club 20th April 2017

 

From a murder in South Africa to the tracking down of a master criminal in northern Scotland, this is a true classic of Golden Age detective fiction by one of its most accomplished champions. When a signalman discovers a mutilated body inside a railway tunnel near Groote Park, it seems to be a straightforward case of a man struck by a passing train. But Inspector Vandam of the Middeldorp police isn’t satisfied that Albert Smith’s death was accidental, and he sets out to prove foul play in a baffling mystery which crosses continents from deepest South Africa to the wilds of northern Scotland, where an almost identical crime appears to have been perpetrated. The Groote Park Murder was the last of Freeman Wills Crofts’ standalone crime novels, foreshadowing his iconic Inspector French series and helping to cement his reputation (according to his publishers) as ‘the greatest and most popular detective writer in the world’. Like The Cask, The Ponson Case and The Pit-Prop Syndicate before it, here were a delightfully ingenious plot, impeccable handling of detail, and an overwhelming surprise ‘curtain’ from a masterful crime writer on the cusp of global success. This Detective Club classic is introduced with an essay by Freeman Wills Crofts, unseen since 1937, about ‘The Writing of a Detective Novel’.

 

A brilliant package, as always, and with the added benefit of a short story by Monica. These stories are among the finest ever written for youngsters, faultless writing, brilliant characters and the GGBP package is as superb as ever.

 

 

 

 

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Mark Evanier: Kirby, King of Comics

Published by Abrams 1st Auguste 2017

 

Revised and expanded! Jack Kirby created or co-created some of comic books' most popular super heroes, including Captain America, The X-Men, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, The Mighty Thor, Darkseid, and The New Gods. More significantly, he created much of the visual language for fantasy and adventure comics. Almost everything that was different about comic books began in the 1940s on the drawing table of Jack Kirby. This is his story by one who knew him well - Mark Evanier. First issued in 2008, Kirby: King of Comics was the first overview of the legendary comic book creator's career. It is now available in a smaller, more affordable package, revised and expanded for Kirby's centennial.

 

Jack Kirby will be forever associated with Stan Lee, the genius behind Marvel Comics - my own preference was always for DC Comics, back in the 1950s, but there is no denying the importance or the brilliance of Jack Kirby, and this fantastic book provides some of the very best examples of his amazing work. A real gem.

 

 

 

Mabel Esther Allan: Swiss School

Published by Girls Gone By Publishing 4th July 2017

 

Felicity is dismayed to learn that, for health reasons, she must leave her beloved co-educational school in Wales and go to a girls school in Switzerland. However, she determines to face the new life and the more restricted ways of the Swiss School as cheerfully as she can. She is helped by her delight in the great mountains that surround the lovely Wildenthal and by all the joys of the winter - skating, ski-ing and tobogganing. 
   She makes friends at once with some Swiss girls and with the only day girl, Carola, who is English. Her friendship with Carola, and with Tamina, a weak but charming younger girl, leads her into trouble and adventure, especially as she makes an enemy of Tamina’s one time friend, Brigitta.
   Gradually Felicity learns to love Switzerland and to resign herself to the ways of the new school, and in the end most of the problems find happy solutions. 
   We have included a short story Ski Jump which features Felicity and really adds something to Swiss School.

 

The latest title in Casemate's brilliant war fiction series, The Whistlers Room was first published in 1929, this edition having been translated from the original German. Mabel Esther Allen was not as prolific as EBD, but this foray into continental boarding schools shows that she was prepared to take on EBD at her own game, and the result is a brilliant school story set in the most stunning surroundings imaginable. A brilliant new title from GGBP.

 

Captain Rory O'Conor: Running A Big Ship

Published by Casemate 13th July 2017

 

Having completed the highly prestigious commission of commanding HMS Hood, then the most famous warship in the world, in her halcyon pre-war years, Captain Rory O'Conor brought together all of his experiences to create the ultimate officers' guide for running a steel fighting ship.

Published in 1937, and now recognized as one of the most influential, yet highly accessible, volumes on naval command and organisation, Running a Big Ship provides a truly unique insight into life at sea during the Second World War.

O'Conor famously commenced the book with his ‘ten commandments', a concise code of orders that comprise ‘a little that everyone must know' so that every man knows what is required of him, whilst each was equally ‘entitled to the understanding and consideration of his officers'. Credited with making a significant contribution to the wartime navy's esprit de corps, the book had a lasting impact on shipboard understanding and relations on vessels large and small, as young, diverse crews withstood the considerable strain of actual war.
Such credit is due in large part to the main body of the book which sets out each of the duties required of a Royal Navy Officer in detailed, clear terms and through O'Conor's insightful advice. In effect, a vital and essential guide for those set in authority to learn ‘the great deal that relatively few need to know'. Such knowledge ranges from tips on the issuing and execution of orders, through to attendance requirements, the treatment of defaulters and shipboard theft, midshipmen training, ceremonies, uniforms, cleanliness aboard ship and on through to the management of the Fleet Air Arm and the high-speed service boats. There are fascinating observations and explanations of the finer points of bugle calls, the treatment of guests and complete instructions for many forms of recreation from cinema to regattas.

Running a Big Ship truly sets us below decks and at sea in the Second World War. The book was described by The Naval Review as detailing so much that "… Oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed" and is complete with an extensive introduction by one of the foremost historians of the Royal Navy, Brian Lavery.

 

Fascinating insight into running a "big ship", essential reading at the time and a welcome facsimile for today's avid collectors.

 

The War Office, United States War Department: The Jungle Survival Pocket Manual

Published by Casemate 1th July 2017

 

During the Second World War, British and American soldiers were sent to new and challenging theatres, fighting to survive not only encounters with the enemy but the landscape they found themselves in. Being posted to South-East Asia and the Pacific to fight the Japanese meant soldiers had to learn to survive in the tropics, fighting and living in endless steamy jungle and perilous swamps. In this environment, men had to be able to take care of themselves rather than relying on their unit to supply their needs, something which did not come naturally to the many soldiers born and raised in cities.

To help them in this completely alien environment, the British and US armies produced a number of official training manuals and guides to explain to the men how to identify and fight the Japanese and avoid their deadly panji traps, but also ‘jungle lore': how to find and cook plants that were safe to eat; which animals and insects could kill them; how to identify and treat tropical illnesses and diseases; and avoid the dangers of polluted water and cannibals. The Jungle Survival Pocket Manual brings together the official manuals and information that enabled the Allies to fight in Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Indochina, Singapore and the Pacific Islands and win the war.

Clothbound and presented in the Pool of London Press retro-styling, this volume will appeal to those interested in the South-East Asian and Pacific theatres of WWII as well as those researching their family history. It makes a unique gift for all those interested in survival techniques, and those of travelling to Asia. The Jungle Survival Pocket Manual is complete with some 20 diagrams and drawings reproduced from the original guides.

 

Another brilliant facsimile from Casemate - this time essential reading for anyone being sent to fight in climes with which most men were unfamiliar.

 

 


 

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its sixteenth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.