Category Archives: Politics

Review of “Hitler’s Soldiers: The German Army in the Third Reich” by Ben H. Shepherd


Fascinating revisionist history of the Wehrmacht

Ben Shephard pulls aside the curtain of respectability that many accounts of the German Army are cloaked in, demolishing the image of an honourable and decent fighting force compared to the SS.

In a detailed account he highlights countless occasions where the Wehrmacht are complicit in war crimes showing that many took part and a few notable exceptions complained. What some may find surprising is the early war conduct of some of July 21st conspirators.

However, the book is not purely about war crimes, but also about the combat performance of the Wehrmacht. Shephard shows how the early war effectiveness was eroded away once the gargantuan task of taking on the Soviets was clear and shows how the army still continued to retain its cohesion even when the outcome of the war was clear.

I’d recommend this for anyone who wants to read a more rounded view of the 3rd Reich and some insight into how ordinary men descend into barbarians.

I received this book free from Netgalley and was not required to write a positive review.


Review of ” A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment” by John Preston

Serious, but entertaining insight into one UK establishment coverup of the 60s & 70s

I remember this scandal having huge impact in the late 70s when I was a teenager. I had expected this book to be quite a dull resume of the trial and associated events, but from the start you are thrust (literally!) into the warts and all detail of the case.

I found the book an entertaining read and some aspects are almost farce like. There are sections do go into some detail that some may find unnecessary, but the book does give some great portraits of the characters involved, none of whom end up unblemished.

However on serious side it does show the lengths the “establishment” went in this period to protect one of their own even in the face of mounting evidence of financial fraud and attempted murder, making it quite pertinent in the light of recent Savile and Cyril Smith revelations.

Overall it reads like a fictional political thriller and I would recommend for anyone who enjoys books about power, politics and English history.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review of ” Stealing the Future: An East German Spy Thriller (East Berlin Series Book 1)” by Max Hertzberg

A fascinating alternative history of the two Germanys as well as a gripping thriller.

Max Hertzberg has come up with a fascinating alternative history of 1989 and after for Germany. It’s 1993, the Wall is open, however East Germany hasn’t been subsumed into West Germany. It has decided to stay independent and run the country via a grassroots participatory democracy, resulting in decentralising most decision making to neighbourhood committees in which everyone participates. However, all is not well in the new GDR as dark forces are trying to destabilise it.

The story revolves around Martin Grobe, a former dissident and now part of the Republicschutz, a post 9th Nov 1989 counter-espionage service which has responsibility for monitoring attempts to undermine the new East Germany. He is investigating the murder of prominent politician at a mine in West Silesia, a region looking to join West Germany.

The author certainly knows Berlin and East Germany well and captures the period in great detail even down to way the 1980s era S-Bahn train doors operate. However, what brings the story alive are the characters struggling to keep alive their dream of freedom, justice and equality in the face of corruption, West German pressure for unification and the dark forces that enforced the old regime.

Whilst some may see this book as some sort of left wing fairy tale I found the book stimulating and vastly different from standard spy thriller fare with its parallel exploration of political self-determination and de-centralisation of power.

Further books in the series are planned and I for one will be keen to follow how Grobe and the “new” East Germany fares further into the 1990s.

This book is currently free (as of Jan 2016) on Smashreads, link here…

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review of ” Go-Betweens for Hitler” by Karina Urbach

Despite the title almost half of the book is about the royal back channel communications during WW1, however this detail is a necessary precursor to understand the Nazi period.

Urbach’s account is detailed and readable covering many royal go betweens and suggesting some interesting events despite the closure of many royal archives.

Amongst other revisionist claims, Kahn suggests deeper complicity of Edward VIII with the Nazis than those stated in Phillip Ziegler’s biography.

A fascinating book that begs the question, why are the Royals still afraid to open up their full WW2 period Archives?

Review of ” Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator” by Oleg V. Khlevniuk, Nora Seligman Favorov (Translation)

An excellent scholarly yet easy to read Stalin biography.

Oleg V. Khlevniuk has dug deep into the Russian archives to create this relatively concise by most biographical standards yet authoritative account of Stalin’s life.

Whilst I was familiar with Stalin’s wartime role I was less familiar with his rise and the circumstances of his death. The author cleverly uses the dictators last days to bind a wide ranging account to a common point of reference and uses the circumstances of his death to effectively show how he became so dominant.

Several standard Stalin histories are questioned and undermined by the lack of firm evidence that Khlevniuk has found in the archives as well as questioning the reliability of some of eyewitness accounts those histories have been based on.

An excellent easy to read biography of the man who by most accounts killed more people than Hitler.

Review of ” Aftermath – The Makers of the Post-War World” by Richard M Crowder

A scholarly but accessible history of the diplomatic conflicts that began when the guns fell silent in 1945

Often books on diplomatic history can seem quite dry but this one moves along at quite a pace and at less than 400 pages not too lengthy either.

Crowder writes in an easy to read style and adds depth and personality to the characters involved. There’s some excellent pen portraits of some the great leaders of the period such as Ernest Bevin, Truman and Stalin. ( I never knew that Stalin was prone to doodling wolf’s heads during his conferences!)

The book covers the immediate post war period including the formation of the United Nations, NATO, the IMF and the Marshall Plan and is certainly a good primer for anyone studying that period.

Published on the 70th anniversary of the events it highlights how those events of 70 years ago still shape and influence so much of the world we live in today.

Review of ” Basic Law: A Mystery of Cold War Europe” by J. Sydney Jones

A good solid post cold-war thriller.
“Red Reni”, poster girl of the German left appears to have committed suicide. However her former lover, journalist Sam Kramer, believes otherwise when he discovers at Reni’s funeral that he is the executor of her literary estate and that her memoirs are missing.

As a result Kramer sets out to track down Reni and Kramer’s former friends who were part of a left wing group they were involved with in the ’60s and ’70s.

The detail of the German left wing politics in the 1960s and 70s made the story convincing and plausible with the tension building to some unexpected twists and turns toward the end.

Not brilliant, but an enjoyable read.