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  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,076Chief of Staff
    Lost For Words, John Humphrys.

    Humphrys presents an entertaining moan/rant about falling standards in spoken and written English. At times it reads like an extended newspaper column, but I particularly enjoyed his tearing apart of meaningless jargon and buzz words. Opinionated and merciless, as one would expect from him!
  • PendragonPendragon ColoradoPosts: 2,640MI6 Agent
    at the moment, I'm about halfway through Stephan King's ON WRITING for the 10th time

    it's part memoir, part how to. it's a really great read for fans of Mr. King's...highly reccomended

    ~Pen -{
    Hey! Observer! You trying to get yourself Killed?

    mountainburdphotography.wordpress.com
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,076Chief of Staff
    Pendragon wrote:
    at the moment, I'm about halfway through Stephan King's ON WRITING for the 10th time

    Now that's devotion! I've only read it twice and I'd call myself a King fan.
  • 00-Agent00-Agent CaliforniaPosts: 451MI6 Agent
    Tai Pan by James Clavell. This is a good book set in the mid-1800’s in Hong Kong and is about early English, American, and European traders with China. The story centers on the main character, Dirk Struan, and the birth of the “Nobel House”, for those of you familiar with Clavells’ other novel by the same name and the movie Nobel House staring Pierce Brosnan. The book was very entertaining and well worth the read. Don’t let its length discourage you. The Nobel House was also an excellent novel. I wish I had read Tai Pan first instead of The Nobel House.
    "A blunt instrument wielded by a Government department. Hard, ruthless, sardonic, fatalistic. He likes gambling, golf, fast motor cars. All his movements are relaxed and economical". Ian Fleming
  • Barry NelsonBarry Nelson ChicagoPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent
    Titan - The John D. Rockefeller story. An amazing story of one man's journey from the son of a snake oil salesman to the world's richest man. The book is overly long (about 700 pages) with too many details about the people in Rockefeller's life, but when it concentrates on Rockefeller it is quite the story. He started out as a bookkeeper, started his own commodities business and then when oil was discovered in Pennsylvania saw the future and bet it all on refining oil. Good, but overly long read.
  • John DrakeJohn Drake On assignmentPosts: 2,564MI6 Agent
    edited December 2007
    The Damned United by David Peace

    Brilliant novel about the ill-fated 44 days that Brian Clough spent as manager of Leeds United in 1974. Peace flits between 74 and Clough's past as a gifted striker whose career was cut short by injury, then as a controversial but inspired manager at Hartlepool, then Derby County.

    Clough hated Leeds and their style of play and his abrasive approach to management meant there was going to be trouble. There's a hilarious moment when a drunken Cloughie explains to a waiter why he hates Leeds and the waiter points out, "But you're the manager of Leeds United now, aren't you." Highly recommended, even if you don't know anything about English football in the 1970's.
  • darenhatdarenhat The Old PuebloPosts: 2,029Quartermasters
    Sharpe's Trafalgar by Bernard Cornwell

    One of Cornwell's later contributions to the Sharpes series, cleverly bridging Sharpe's adventures in India with the Peninsular campaign, via Nelson's battle at Trafalgar. This one surprised me since a large portion of the story takes place at sea, which was never Cornwell's genre, but the author pulls it off incredibly well. The events of the book are so well imagined that you'd think Cornwell had been writing naval fiction all his life.
  • HardyboyHardyboy Posts: 5,757Chief of Staff
    I finally found the time to read The Battle for Bond, by Robert Sellers. I'll get the sniping out of the way first and fault Sellers for clunky, artless writing, and the publisher for putting everything in near-microscopic Arial type that made me feel like I was going blind while reading. That said, if you're a Bond fan you've GOT to read this book. It answers a lot of age-old questions, such as who really created SPECTRE and Blofeld, and who contributed what to the original Thunderball scripts. It's also a warts-and-all look at some huge personalities in the Bond saga, and you probably won't like any of them. Here's how some of our favorite Bond people emerge:

    Ian Fleming: Greedy, snobbish, arrogant, and lazy.

    Ivor Bryce: Predatory, sneaky businessman who doesn't balk at betrayal.

    Kevin McClory: Naive businessman with a self-destructive chip on his shoulder and a near-obssessive desire to show himself as an "innovator" of the Bond films.

    Broccoli and Saltzman: Cut-throat businessmen.

    The person who comes across best is screenwriter Jack Whittingham, whom Sellers champions as an unsung hero in Bond film history. Again, all Bond fans should read this book. . .but it's a bit like watching sausage being made: it ain't pretty.
    Vox clamantis in deserto
  • 00-Agent00-Agent CaliforniaPosts: 451MI6 Agent
    Hardyboy wrote:
    Here's how some of our favorite Bond people emerge:

    Ian Fleming: Greedy, snobbish, arrogant, and lazy.

    Ivor Bryce: Predatory, sneaky businessman who doesn't balk at betrayal.

    Kevin McClory: Naive businessman with a self-destructive chip on his shoulder and a near-obssessive desire to show himself as an "innovator" of the Bond films.

    Broccoli and Saltzman: Cut-throat businessmen.

    The person who comes across best is screenwriter Jack Whittingham, whom Sellers champions as an unsung hero in Bond film history. Again, all Bond fans should read this book. . .but it's a bit like watching sausage being made: it ain't pretty.

    I finished reading this book last week and thought it was a interesting read. I felt that the portrayal of Fleming, Broccoli, and Saltzman was rather one sided and felt this to be unfair. I think the portrayal of McClory was fair until the last few chapters when he trashed the man's personal character it seems on the basis primarily of one persons opinion. He seemed to throw in all the slanderous material he came across to spice up the book.
    Thing's like suggesting that McClory had dirt on Bryce and that's why he settled and further suggesting that this dirt might have suggested that there was more than a business relatsionship between Bryce and McClory based on very scant evidence.
    "A blunt instrument wielded by a Government department. Hard, ruthless, sardonic, fatalistic. He likes gambling, golf, fast motor cars. All his movements are relaxed and economical". Ian Fleming
  • Lazenby880Lazenby880 LondonPosts: 525MI6 Agent
    I have gone on about Eric Ambler on AJB before (such as here. Nevertheless I'm going to do so again as I recently re-read Ambler's 1951 novel Judgement on Deltchev. This was Ambler's first post-war novel written under his own name (1950s Skytip' written as Eliot Reed) and it marked something of a new diversion for the author. The familiar 'amateur gone wrong' element is still very much central, however this time the setting is very different from his pre-war works, necessitated by the onset of the Cold War. Foster, the protagonist, is a writer well-known in London's theatre society. He has never written for a newspaper before, however he is asked to cover the trial of Yordan Deltchev in an East European country. Deltchev is accused of being a traitor by the People's Party regime: "president of the Agrarian Socialist Party and formerly a member of the Provisional Government of National Unity". Deltchev was the leader of the only effective opposition to the regime.

    Of course, things are a lot more complicated than that. I find this novel one of Ambler's most complex, in terms of plotting. The final twists of the plot are extremely surprising, and Ambler as ever grips the reader with the fluidity in his writing and his journalistic ability at detailing information in a fascinating way. The characterisation is very strong. Pashik, especially, is most memorable as the twitchy local representative to aid Foster, who ends up as having far greater importance than one would believe. However, the strongest facet of the novel for me was in the atmosphere. The scenes in the trial convey the bizarre nature of the mock trials of 'dissidents' held behind the Iron Curtain around this time. As Foster communicates with Pashik, another character Sibley, and the Deltchev family the novel captures perfectly the creeping sense of paranoia that existed. Ambler is excellent at painting a vivid picture and it is difficult not to get drawn right in.

    Wesley Britton's book Beyond Bond: Spies in Fiction and Film (2005) has some interesting thoughts on Ambler and writes "While some claim his novels in the 1950s broke little new ground, [Ambler] brought in new levels of sexuality while pointing to the new worries about truth versus illusion conflicts in the cold war that would dominate spy fiction in subsequent decades. In particular, Judgement on Deltchev, about a mock trial of a supposed traitor, included misdirections, tricks, and courtroom diversions, making it impossible to clearly establish guilt either for observers in the book or readers of the text" (p 26). The inablility to establish guilt on the part of the reader is a strong facet of the book. This maintains the air of mystery surrounding Deltchev as we journey with Foster to discover the truth behind the greater plot he uncovers.

    Judgement on Deltchev is an outstanding Ambler novel, certainly one of the strongest of his post-war works. Is it quite up to the pre-war works? Well, not quite. Cause for Alarm and Uncommon Danger remain the gold standard. Judgement on Deltchev is only *just* below.
  • HardyboyHardyboy Posts: 5,757Chief of Staff
    How the Scots Invented the Modern World, by Arthur Herman. (I hope my friend Moonraker 5 is very proud of me! :007) ) This is what a good history book should be: scholarly, informative, and informing; but never dry or dull, and always shows you something interesting and usually fascinating. Basically, it's about the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment, and how its greatest figures--Adam Smith, Lord Kames, and the like--transformed Western politics, education, and industry. Toward the end of the book there's even a three-page consideration of our man James Bond, who is seen as embodying the dilemma of post-Enlightenment Scots: he has the best of the Scottish mind and work ethic, but instead of being a leading light he's essentially a hired hand. Anyway, I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks Scotland can be summed up as kilts and haggis.
    Vox clamantis in deserto
  • John DrakeJohn Drake On assignmentPosts: 2,564MI6 Agent
    Hardyboy wrote:
    Anyway, I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks Scotland can be summed up as kilts and haggis.

    That'll be the English then. :))
  • mooreisbestmooreisbest Posts: 49MI6 Agent
    I'm reading the autobiography of Eric Clapton. Quite the read!

    Moore is Best
  • RogueAgentRogueAgent Speeding in the Tumbler...Posts: 3,676MI6 Agent
    edited January 2008
    BATMAN : Year 100

    by Paul Pope


    For awhile, I was curious about this graphic novel and bought it the other day. The story was pretty good but it's nowhere as entertaing as The Long Halloween & Dark Victory novels.

    The premise of the story has The Dark Knight in a Judge Dredd-like, futuristic setting yet the hero has a very Nolan-ish, realistic setting - well perhaps more grounded than the latest movie incarnation.
    I wasn't fond of this portrayal really and I'm glad that Nolan didn't use Pope's vision when he reignited the franchise in '05. Batman actually uses fake steel vampire teeth to make his appearance more imposing.
    Paul Pope's writing and artwork were both acquired tastes for me seeing that the latter teetered on amatuerish-looking but when I surveyed over it long enough, it fit with the fabric of the story I guess. It's not Darwyn Cooke nor Tim Sale influenced per se but stylishly harsh for lack of a better word.

    There were a few things unanswered to the story as to how Bats had resurfaced and why but on a whole, decent reading to pass the time.
    Mrs. Man Face: "You wouldn't hit a lady? Would you?"

    Batman: "The Hammer Of Justice is UNISEX!"
    -Batman: The Brave & The Bold -
  • darenhatdarenhat The Old PuebloPosts: 2,029Quartermasters
    edited January 2008
    oops...double post. see below ;%
  • darenhatdarenhat The Old PuebloPosts: 2,029Quartermasters
    edited January 2008
    I have re-read Prince Caspian. Admittedly, it was always my least favorite in C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, but I wanted to give it another look before the upcoming film is released this summer. Now, though, I can see why it never really appealed to me. On the whole, there is no real character story. Prince Caspian himself does nothing but hide in a hole, summoning the Pevensie children to come to his aid. Peter fights the antagonist, while the others stand around and watch, then everyone goes home. Unlike Edmund in the first novel in the series, there's no conflict within the main characters themselves. No lessens learned, no lasting friendships formed, and thus no drama to the stories ending. The closest the story comes, and to me this was the best part of the story, is when the dwarf Trumpkin comes to grip with his self-doubt regarding the children.

    It will be interesting to see what the film version does to elevate the story.
  • Lazenby880Lazenby880 LondonPosts: 525MI6 Agent
    Danny Wallace - Join Me

    I have read this before, although this re-read confirmed this book to be one of the funniest things I have read. It basically involves Mr Wallace, part-time journalist and fan of 'boy-projects', starting up a cult because he felt like it. I say cult, Wallace prefers the term 'collective'. People join by sending a passport photo, and that is it. In the first instance there is no purpose to his organisation whatsoever, and yet membership slowly increases (dwarfed, admittedly, by mail somewhat more insulting than passport photos). Realising that his merry band of followers do perhaps need a purpose after all, Wallace gets them to undertake Random Acts of Kindness every Friday, termed 'Good Friday'. He then travels to Belgium, Norway and the Netherlands as his group takes on an international flavour, and it is going stronger than ever to this day (see here).

    I can honestly say that I have never laughed so much while reading a book. The humour is incredibly sharp, and in the fluidity of Wallace's writing takes us along the jouney with him. Not that the journey is unremittingly fun: there are a couple of sad moments, although the ending is very happy. And that is the best thing about this book. It reminds the reader of the good side of human nature, and it certainly made me happy (it even allowed me to overlook the ever-irritating 'I thought I would try *and*' as opposed to 'I thought I would try *to*').

    Join Me is a great laugh and it left me determined to act more kindly, in a very random fashion. Wallace has another book out I have yet to read: Yes Man. If Join Me is anything to go by it will be another brilliantly uplifting read. Danny Wallace: modern day hero.
  • 00-Agent00-Agent CaliforniaPosts: 451MI6 Agent
    License Renewed by John Gardner
    I enjoyed it. I definitely felt like I was reading about the movie/EON Bond and not Flemings Bond from the novels. The book had all the gadgets and action I have come expect from the movies and a relationship between Bond and M plucked right from the films. All in all not as good as any of Flemings stories but better than Colonel Sun in my opinion.
    "A blunt instrument wielded by a Government department. Hard, ruthless, sardonic, fatalistic. He likes gambling, golf, fast motor cars. All his movements are relaxed and economical". Ian Fleming
  • Willie GarvinWillie Garvin Posts: 1,412MI6 Agent
    edited January 2008
    Meanwhile...a Biography of Milton Caniff,the creator of "Terry and the Pirates" and "Steve Canyon"--by Robert C.Harvey.

    An absolutely fascinating account of the legendary cartoonist's long career.Not only is Meanwhile... well written and scrupulously researched,it's also a beautifully bound book besides-and is packed with a multitude of illustrations-many of them extremely rare. I recommend this to anyone interested in the history of the American newspaper comic strip--particularly the Adventure strip.Caniff was a master storyteller who-with the assistance of his friend Noel Sickles-established a distinctive artistic style which continues to influence cartoonists,illustrators,animators and graphic artists to this day.
  • highhopeshighhopes Posts: 1,358MI6 Agent
    Hardyboy wrote:
    How the Scots Invented the Modern World, by Arthur Herman. (I hope my friend Moonraker 5 is very proud of me! :007) ) This is what a good history book should be: scholarly, informative, and informing; but never dry or dull, and always shows you something interesting and usually fascinating. Basically, it's about the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment, and how its greatest figures--Adam Smith, Lord Kames, and the like--transformed Western politics, education, and industry. Toward the end of the book there's even a three-page consideration of our man James Bond, who is seen as embodying the dilemma of post-Enlightenment Scots: he has the best of the Scottish mind and work ethic, but instead of being a leading light he's essentially a hired hand. Anyway, I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks Scotland can be summed up as kilts and haggis.

    I could swear I've seen a book called How the Irish Invented the Modern World. Is there a competing claim?
  • HardyboyHardyboy Posts: 5,757Chief of Staff
    highhopes wrote:
    I could swear I've seen a book called How the Irish Invented the Modern World. Is there a competing claim?

    I believe you're thinking of How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill, which is about how the Irish monasteries saved the great works of western literature and philosophy from the Viking hordes back in the Dark Ages. Another good read there!
    Vox clamantis in deserto
  • highhopeshighhopes Posts: 1,358MI6 Agent
    Hardyboy wrote:
    highhopes wrote:
    I could swear I've seen a book called How the Irish Invented the Modern World. Is there a competing claim?

    I believe you're thinking of How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill, which is about how the Irish monasteries saved the great works of western literature and philosophy from the Viking hordes back in the Dark Ages. Another good read there!

    {[] That's it. I'll have to check those out.
  • John DrakeJohn Drake On assignmentPosts: 2,564MI6 Agent
    Red Carpets and other Banana Skins

    Rupert Everett's entertaining auto-biography. It's mostly about Everett's life away from the camera, which is full of juicy gossip. Apparently Rupert and Gandalf used to know each other very well. There's some entertaining anecdotes; one about being on stage the night Laurence Olivier died had me weeping with laughter, and another when Everett upsets the obnoxious Danny Aiello during the filming of Pret a Porter had me cheering.

    But Everett emerges as a much more melancholy soul than his image has previously allowed for. There's some touching moments about people he's known over the years, be they family, friends, Parisian hookers, trannies, drug suppliers, or other showbiz pals. One of the most fascinating chapters details Everett travelling to the Soviet Union to star in an adaptation of And Quietly Flows the Don. It was a disaster and ended up never being shown, but Everett's description of his time there is wonderfully vivid.

    Sadly, there is no mention of one of his best films, Dellamorte Dellamore, other than a photograph. But this is a great read.
  • Dan SameDan Same Victoria, AustraliaPosts: 6,057MI6 Agent
    John Drake wrote:
    and another when Everett upsets the obnoxious Danny Aiello during the filming of Pret a Porter had me cheering..
    :o How was Aiello obnoxious?
    "He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back—that’s an earthquake. and then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you’re finished. Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory." Death of a Salesman
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 9,065MI6 Agent
    The Kite Runner

    I read this before seeing the Marc 'Quantum of Solace' Foster adaptation; i was lying when I said I'd seen it in Last Film Seen and it doesn't end with a Top Gun style dogfight between MiG fighters over Afghanistan in the mid 1980s... I was under a lot of stress at the time I wrote that...

    Anyway, the book is good but I have to say I enjoyed the first half more than the second, it's more nostalgic and evocative as the narrator looks back on his upbringing in Afghanistan. Then it moves to the present day and seems to evaporate and be less convincing. The guy is meant to go back and atone for his misdeeds but it all proceeds in more or less conventional manner, no plot holes but a fair few coincidences.

    The author plays a narrative trick once too many, where we meet an old familiar face who engages in discussion, only dropping a bombshell at the very end of it. You think, why didn't he say that at first.

    It would be like Hardyboy running into SiCo after a break of two years helping out natives in a Far Eastern jungle, a bit of chat about their family and the latest Bond novel, then after an hour SiCo says, "Haven't you heard? The team of Quantum of Solace died in a plane crash and film was shelved... AJB got used for leaking the script and we now owe EON five million dollars each..." :o It would be like, eh? And you tell me now? :))
    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • John DrakeJohn Drake On assignmentPosts: 2,564MI6 Agent
    Dan Same wrote:
    John Drake wrote:
    and another when Everett upsets the obnoxious Danny Aiello during the filming of Pret a Porter had me cheering..
    :o How was Aiello obnoxious?

    I don't know if you have ever had the misfortune to see Robert Altman's fasion satire Pret a Porter Dan, (if you haven't don't bother, it's dreadful), but there's a scene where Sophia Loren faints. PaP was mostly improvised by the actors. Aeillo had been annoying Everett with his reactions to anything Everett came up with, as well as his tendency to suck up to Loren and Marcello Mastroianni and play up his Italian heritage. Anyway, during this scene, Aeillo suddenly claimed his his character was a doctor, and pushed all the other actors out of the frame, and insisted that he should give her mouth-to-mouth, to which Everett quipped, "You want to kill her?" To which Aeillo reacted quite threateningly, all up in Everett's face, like one of those low-rent hoods, or bent cops he's always getting cast as, until Lauren Bacall of all people stepped in and sent him packing.
  • LoeffelholzLoeffelholz The United States, With LovePosts: 8,854Quartermasters
    "Dog-Fight: Aerial Tactics of the Aces of World War I," by Norman Franks

    Just doing a little brushing-up, and aircraft shopping...great stuff, highly recommended for anyone interested in the period.
    "Blood & Ashes"...AVAILABLE on Amazon.co.uk: Get 'Jaded': Blood & Ashes: The Debut Oscar Jade Thriller
    "I am not an entrant in the Shakespeare Stakes." - Ian Fleming
    "Screw 'em." - Daniel Craig, The Best James Bond EverTM
  • PinewoodSpyPinewoodSpy Posts: 21MI6 Agent
    Just read a book called Pirate by Ted Bell. Picked it up from my dad who is unfortunatly a big Clive Cussler fan. Awfull is not quite the word - huge plot holes and a striking inability of the author to set a book in a place he knows well enough to avoid obvious plot inconsistancy. Serves me right for abandoning my usual diet of decent writers!
  • Dan SameDan Same Victoria, AustraliaPosts: 6,057MI6 Agent
    edited February 2008
    John Drake wrote:
    I don't know if you have ever had the misfortune to see Robert Altman's fasion satire Pret a Porter Dan, (if you haven't don't bother, it's dreadful),
    I haven't seen it, and don't worry, I don't plan on seeing it anytime soon.
    John Drake wrote:
    but there's a scene where Sophia Loren faints. PaP was mostly improvised by the actors. Aeillo had been annoying Everett with his reactions to anything Everett came up with, as well as his tendency to suck up to Loren and Marcello Mastroianni and play up his Italian heritage. Anyway, during this scene, Aeillo suddenly claimed his his character was a doctor, and pushed all the other actors out of the frame, and insisted that he should give her mouth-to-mouth, to which Everett quipped, "You want to kill her?" To which Aeillo reacted quite threateningly, all up in Everett's face, like one of those low-rent hoods, or bent cops he's always getting cast as, until Lauren Bacall of all people stepped in and sent him packing.
    I had no idea. I like Aeillo alot and I always imagined he was quite charming in real life. I guess he may not be that charming. :#
    "He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back—that’s an earthquake. and then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you’re finished. Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory." Death of a Salesman
  • darenhatdarenhat The Old PuebloPosts: 2,029Quartermasters
    edited February 2008
    my dad who is unfortunatly a big Clive Cussler fan.

    :)) I read Cussler fairly regularly. In fact, there's a few of us around the office who 'came out of the closet' and admitted to it.
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