Review: The Long Shot

“Jack Adams works as a gamekeeper. The Great War has already started when a chance meeting with a serving officer introduces him to a new kind of warfare, sniping.” – Blurb

This is an incredibly easy-to-read fictional story of a young lad facing the atrocities of war, becoming a hero and a man, and yet still trying to have a life back home that he misses dearly. By all accounts, it would resonate with most soldiers and families at that time, and what Atherton does is create a world that you can become totally transfixed with. As a reader you find yourself routing for most of the characters and despising others because of their actions. Using real places and battles, the books is a reminder of the horrors of war and doesn’t let it slip past you that it is based on true events.

It can seem sometimes that accounts of history in fiction novels can carry a much clearer message than a memoir, diary or even photograph. The use of language can be interpreted differently in fiction and create deeper meanings and, I think, allows for a more thorough understanding of war. The freedom to be creative and use a whole host of adjectives can sometimes create a more vivid image than when just recounting factual events. Atherton does this brilliantly. In just the first page you conjure up images of the wildness of war in his comparison between the cold nights in France and the rabbits running wild at home. He shows very simply how easy it is to be so unlucky in war; “…it had been two days since that shot, the one that had had his name on it and which missed by less than an inch. Clearly, his name had been spelled incorrectly.”

Sometimes, though, the descriptions of war can become tiresome and I found myself flicking through pages to get on with the story. The constant use of the word ‘stupid’ to describe the war, although accurate, seemed lazy and irritating.

However, the general story was exciting, full of action, friendship, and heart-break. The story conveys Atherton’s in-depth knowledge of the subject perfectly. The need to find out what happens to each and every character means you won’t put this book down and leave it for a few days, you’ll want to steam through every page.

I don’t think that there is any age limitations on reading this book. Secondary school students should definitely be told to pick it up as it’s an effortless read that says so much so simply, and is akin to Michael Murpurgo’s Private Peaceful. Adults alike would be interested whether they have a passion for military history or not thanks to the personalities of the characters and how easy it can be to relate them to real-life. Highly recommended.

The Long Shot is the first instalment of the story, followed later by A Shot in the Shadows.

The long shot pb
Published by Michael Atherton
284 pages
October 2014

Available from and Amazon

You can also follow Michael’s official blog and Facebook.

Review: Over There – America in the Great War

Robert J. & Rebecca S. Dalessandro

Over There: America in the Great War by is great collection of photographs and informative text, with a concise introduction that covers America’s entry into the war in little easy-to-digest chunks. Whilst it is not a book for those who want an in-depth exploration into the US’ entry and involvement in the First World War, the bitesize introductions, though generalised, give enough significant information to tempt readers into reading further or researching more themselves.

Over There Casemate

Although it could be read altogether, this seems less of a ‘book to read’ and more like a documentary or keep-sake thanks to all the photographs and captions. Due to the chronology of chapters, readers are able to use this book as a reference for a particular period or event.

The photographs throughout are incredible and really help to tell the story, especially the inclusion of propaganda posters. The addition of colour photographs later on in the book just add that something ‘special’. Be careful of the photo on page 123 though: it might just make you go ‘aww’.

Stackpole Books have published a tremendous photographic document of American history.

Stackpole Photo Series
208 pages
January 15, 2016

Available from Casemate UK 

Review: The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones…

… Confronting the New Age of Threat

Benjamin Wittes & Gabriella Blum

This book does exactly what it says on the tin. It covers new age threats from biowarfare to specialised robots with the prime purpose to kill. As the world faces new threats everyday, Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum open your eyes to killer insect drones, attack spider drones that equally match the agility of real-life arachnids, the simplicity of cyber warfare: no one is safe online, and how easily accessible a strain of DNA is – scarily so. If you weren’t paranoid about stepping outside your front door and being infected with a lethal virus, you will be after you read this book. The Washington Post’s review: “A lively and often terrifying exploration of the dark side of our technological age” is not far from the truth.

In 268 pages, the co-authors cover a lot, and impressively in-depth too. This book could almost benefit from being a trilogy, covering each topic singularly, rather than altogether. Its downfall is the chronology of events and topics – one minute you’re reading about the ILOVEYOU computer virus, the next something completely different. The four ‘threats’ get a little jumbled from time to time and can be difficult to follow.

Future of Violence

What this book does well is pose more questions than it answers. Whilst this might cause frustration for others, it allows for further research and heightens the interest in the subject.

By using everyday examples – part II, chapter 4 begins with an introduction to M’s character in James Bond – the ideas are put into perspective, allowing those less knowledgable on the subjects to have reference points, thus aiding a better understanding. However, some of the links between theories and threats are tenuous, for example, the Ancient Romans building roads: “a network of more than eighty thousand kilometers of passable stone roads…” (pg.177) are compared to new technologies of mass empowerment: “New platforms unleash human creativity and provide bases on which to build new frontiers of power and culture.” A simple and arguably well-linked idea, but a little far-fetched.

In reading this book, it appeared that it would be great as a reference, sifting through to find relevant chapters and theories rather than reading as a whole.

The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones not only has a very catchy title, it also cannot be criticised for its thorough research and in-depth study across history. This is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the future of warfare.

Released: 10th March 2015
RRP: £16.99
Publisher: Amberley Publishing
Author: Benjamin Wittes & Gabriella Blum
Type: Paperback
ISBN: 9781445655932
Pages: 324

Gloster Javelin: An Operational History

Golster Javelin.jpg


The RAF’s only delta-winged fighter – the Gloster Javelin was also Britain’s first true All-Weather Fighter. Based in the UK and in Germany, the RAF’s Javelin squadrons formed the front line of Britain’s air defences in the late 1950s and early 1960s. During this time Javelin crews pioneered the operational use of guided missiles and air-to-air refuelling by fighter aircraft. In the Far East, Javelins were involved in operations during the Indonesian Confrontation and the aircraft was also deployed to Zambia during the Rhodesian UDI Crisis.

In this history, which is richly illustrated with many previously unpublished photographs, Michael Napier blends official records with personal accounts to describe the operational history of this iconic jet fighter.

Paul Moorcraft Q & A

Jihadist Threat
The Jihadist Threat available from Pen and Sword Books

Paul Moorcraft is certainly a character that needs more than nine lives. Despite his many roles, he’s someone that doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a visiting professor at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, the Director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Analysis in London, Crisis Management Consultant for international companies, author of many controversial titles, has been a freelance TV war correspondent in over thirty war zones in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Balkans, and finally, one of the few military experts who has actually lived and worked with Jihadists.





“Jihadism is a major threat to Britain and the West,” he said. “It is not a clear and present danger compared with the Nazis in World War Two, but over a generation or two Islamism could undermine our whole life in Europe.”

Paul Moorcraft’s timely and controversial publication; The Jihadist Threat, explores the international and domestic threats to the West from Jihadism. It begins with a brief trace into the origins and history of Jihadism from the time of the Prophet and then goes on to analyse the fall-out from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It examines how these events have fuelled the rise of the Islamic State, as well as other terror groups, and what dangers they may pose to European society. Explaining simply the dangerous cycle of Jihadism since it first conquered much of Europe in the Middle Ages, this book proves itself to be an important read.

Considering himself more of the Danny deVito type, rather than the Special Forces ‘Rambos’ he works with, his life has definitely been put at risk more than once.

“In the summer of 1984 in Afghanistan, near Kabul, I experienced daily attacks during the Soviet offensive. Bullets, mortars, tank shells, sub-sonic and supersonic aircraft were dropping 1,000kg bombs and worst of all the Mi24s, the Hind flying tanks that the Russians deployed. When they dropped down on me and my Jihadist companions, there was not a lot you could do except try to hide and certainly entreaty God to help. Eventually, the Americans answered for God and provided Stingers so the Mi24s could be brought down.”

That wasn’t the only time. He tells of a second attack he faced on Mount Igman, near Sarajevo, Bosnia in 1994 when a depressed Serb anti-aircraft gun opened fire on a stranded bus full of women and children.

“Eventually I managed to get out and help my translators and two Bosnian females crawl on all fours through long grass and minefield to avoid further attacks from Serb forces with torches and AKs.”
Twenty-four hours later, he was helped into the city by a British sergeant in the peacekeeping force.
Not one to shy away from laughing at himself he states: “I may have to don a blonde wig and hide in central Wales as Salman Rushdie did. At least I will be able to speak my native tongue.”

Paul has held down many professional roles, and continues to busy himself in military issues.

“The best time of my life was working in Rhodesia in the 1970s as a teacher, journalist and policeman. It was a fabulous country despite the cruelties of war.”

He was able to interview Robert Mugabe for Time magazine in January 1980. Whilst being very impressed by him at the time, he found himself disappointed by Mugabe’s actions in becoming another “African dictator [that] totally wrecked a once-successful economy”.

He claims that above all, he found working for high-level PR in Whitehall the most exhausting position he has held, more so than being shot at, especially whilst working in the Ministry of Defence in the lead-up and immediate aftermath of the 2003 Gulf War.

“It is often harder to risk your pension and career than your life. I walked out of my office and never returned.”

But how does Paul Moorcraft relax in the midst of the danger, writing, saving the world and running a think-tank dedicated to conflict resolution?!

“I work most of the time, including weekends, and very rarely take holidays, but I do
live next door to TWO pubs. I eat, drink and make merry with good friends.”

He doesn’t sit still for too long, mind. Despite his almost complete blindness, he is adamant that he will continue going to war zones and writing his books. Having just returned to Khartoum, where he lectured and promoted the paperback version of his book on Africa’s longest war, he has also been asked to visit a central African country to help its president survive an election. And if that’s not enough, this master-of-schedules has also just produced a film on the dictatorship in the Maldives.

“When I get back to my tiny riverside cottage in the Surrey Hills, I can then relax and drink to celebrate surviving another dangerous adventure.”

Review: Shot Down

Shot Down by Steve Snyder

Nate Sullivan, of War History Online, perfectly sums up Steve Snyder’s well-executed story of B-17 pilot, Howard Snyder and his crew:

“ A masterful work. Enjoyable for those interested in the Eighth Air Force and/or the B-17 Flying Fortress, but it is also broad enough to appeal to general history readers. Insightful, engrossing, and succeeds on every level. Bravo.”

Shot Down is not just a story, but a perfect memoir to the men that flew and cared for Susan Ruth, Howard Snyder’s B-17, and to all those that fought, flew and died during the Second World War. Not only to the Americans, either. Snyder’s story is equally inclusive of Americans and Brits and does not do one more justice than the other – making sure that this book appeals to readers on both sides of the pond. It is in no way patronising, and it’s simply written nature allows for readers of all interests.

The amalgamation of story and historical facts is seamless, creating an informative and incredibly interesting read.

You find yourself waiting eagerly for more humorous, loving and tear-jerking letters from Howard to his wife, Ruth and laughing at how nothing has really changed from young lovers then, to young lovers now. Snyder retells the tale of how Ruth became pregnant with Baby Susan in 1941; “Ruth pleaded with Howard, ‘Let’s not use anything just this once.’”

Snyder’s perception of the British is absolutely spot-on and brings a smile to your face. The mere mention of Britain instantly brings the story home – it is no longer about a pilot from a far-away land. It starts to have far more substance and meaning for those in Britain. Snyder is sure to mention the prudishness of us Brits and, of course, the English weather; “It has rained every day that we have been in England.”

The mention of rations further aids the readers understanding of the cruelties of war. This is no longer a Hollywood-esque, love-struck tale of two young people surviving the war, it’s a harsh reminder of what war does. No longer do you think of these men as young larks, having fun being pilots. The thought of Michael Caton-Jones’ Memphis Belle (1990) slips away, and you find yourself resisting the urge to skip chapters to find out what happens to Howard Snyder and his crew.

Steve Snyder has done an excellent job of documenting history in a fascinating and gripping way. This is a testimony to his parents, and all those who fought in the war. Definitely worth reading – just try and put it down.

Buy from Amazon:

Lion King Roars Again

The Best Film. Ever. End Of.

1994. You’re a 3 year old again. Not that you remember this because you are now 20 if you were born in 1991 and you can’t remember that far back. What you can remember is this; every bedtime, putting on the Lion King VCR, that scratchy, jumpy video, wishing that it doesn’t get chewed up in the player and hoping you rewound it the night before, so you don’t have to sit there for 10 minutes and wait for it to get back to the beginning. Oh you DVD’s and Blu-Rays, you, what a novelty you still are.

The film starts. Excitement runs through your veins, you hear the start-up music, Zazu flies across your screen. And it starts. The magical journey of Simba’s life, the ups and serious downs that make you sob like a baby over and over again.

The soundtrack, written by Elton John and Tim Rice, with original score by the exceptional Hans Zimmer, does nothing but remind you of the Sega Megadrive Lion King game, the glitchy new technology, that would infuriate you because you couldn’t complete various levels, but every scene of the Lion King provides a memory of  jumping on Giraffe heads and being swung by Monkeys to the tune of ‘I just can’t wait to be King’ and Timon saying ‘It starts’ at the end of the loading screen. This film is not just a film. It is a memory of a childhood filled with Disney.

And it starts again. This time in 3D,  17 long years later. Even more magical and fantastic than before. And it reached our home screens again on November 7 re-released on Disney Blu-Ray and DVD; the Diamond Edition.

Your eyes begin to fill as if you are a 10 year old at DisneyLand for the first time, and this is before the film even has time to start. Tinkerbell flies over the, in the instance of Lion King, rich orange castle on a contrasting black backdrop and you hear “aaa winya…” except no one really knows the words, they just know the feeling, the feeling that they are about to watch the greatest Disney film ever to exist. Sit tight for 1hour and 29 minutes of greatness.

Lion King was produced during the Disney Renaissance, a time that began in the 1980’s and ending in the late 1990’s where Walt Disney Animation Studios returned to their most-loved fairy tales in a bid to get interest back into Disney films – well, that worked. Based on Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ with hints of the Bible’s story of Joseph and Moses, Simba must return to Pride Rock after running away, guilt-ridden, from his father Mufasa’s death to avenge his Uncle Scar who has become King of the Pride Lands in Simba’s absence.

This film is a true to form Disney love story between Simba and Nala, the film follows a heartfelt and tissues necessary death, (as usual in all Disney films, except for once it’s a father and not a mother, and not within the first 15 seconds of the film) unusual friendship with Timon and Pumbaa and a final fight scene where good must triumph over evil.

Following Disney’s first 3D movie, G-Force in 2009, a movie that marked the first scripted live-action 3D movie with Disney Digital, the 32nd Disney Classic was to be put under the same fateful torture that all 2D films seem to be enduring.

Linda Sharps, a Mother who describes herself as a woman who lives “in the Seattle area with her family, where she works from home while wrangling two small children always carrying a caffeinated beverage in hand and a LEGO embedded in her foot” expresses her views or sarcasm on Disney venturing into 3D on blog-page “Finally someone is bringing that necessary extra dimension to a much-hated collection of movies that has bored children throughout the ages. Boy, I can’t tell you how often I’ve suffered through a Disney film, thinking to myself, if only I had a migraine-inducing pair of plastic glasses perched in my face, I would enjoy this so much more!

“Too bad the studios can’t focus on coming up with exciting new worlds instead of patching cosmetic enhancements on the ones that already exist. The prospect of milking more cash from already-proven films is just one more reason we’re going to continue seeing a decline in Hollywood creativity and risk-taking. To me, that’s even worse than the idea of watching a beloved Disney movie from behind a pair of uncomfortable glasses.”

The only bonus is you get to cry behind shades… in the dark… and can claim you have a cold to cover up the sniffing.

No matter how much the world dislikes the, clearly un-fashionable, 3D glasses, Lion King racked up $71.9 million gross by the end of the month in September after its re-release. No wonder then, that Disney and Pixar are planning to re-release The Little Mermaid, Monsters Inc, Beauty and the Beast and Finding Nemo in that wonderful new technological feature; ‘headache in 3D.’

At least children world-wide are able to live the way their parents did. In the magical world of talking animals and cheerful song of ‘hi ho hi ho it’s off to work I go’ and ‘With a smile and a song..’ because I for one, was worried they were missing out.

“You follow old Rafiki he knows the way.”

My Neighbour Totoro by Hayao Miyazaki


A strange collection of characters, from a girl, Satsuki, who acts older than she is, to a young girl, Mei, who you just want to step on, and a big fuzzy creature who smiles scarily like Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire Cat. This is a film made by Miyazaki fiilms, who made such films as the well known Miramax film ‘Princess Mononoke’, as well as ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Howl’s Moving Castles’.

A story with no particularly clear moral message or underlying meanings, My Neighbour Totoro is a film for young children blessed with a very vivid imagination, and for those who do not mind young children screaming, crying and shouting throughout a long and unnecessary film.

The general theme of the film is vague, the children move into a house, assumed to be haunted, but instead they find Totoro, a large creature who lives in trees and can call for a large tabby cat bus, yes a cat bus, which no one else can see.

Unless you are between the ages of 5 and 10, this film doesn’t have much impact on your life, and you find yourself drifting off to sleep to make the film end quicker. With good intentions as a deep and meaningful anime film for younger people, alive with imagination and a heart felt story, it’s found to be a one watch film.

The english version was adapted by Disney for the USA Hollywood Film Festival in October of 2005, with such voices as Dakota Fanning, playing older sister Satsuki.

The Time Travellers Wife Review

Theoretically, the novels of such intimacy, adventure, fantastical stories and mystery, when exploited on the big silver screen, should behold have the same expectations, hype and grip, such as those of Tolkeins’ Lord of the Rings, Rowling’s Harry Potter, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, or that of the old ‘classic‘ by Audrey Niffenegger; The Time Traveller’s Wife.

In practicality, it is always the way that director’s sitting in their big directors chairs get a little lost along the way and it rarely lives up to the imagination. Now, of course, the director cannot look into the mind of every Harry Potter fan and imagine how Harry Potter should look when he’s sincerely casting his spells, but there are scenes of such magnificence in said novels that just get forgotten.

As is what happens between the novel and film of Time Traveller’s Wife. Granted the film realises the bases of the story …. boy meets girl, they fall in love, tragedy strikes and everyone cries a little. But it seems that Director Robert Schwentke gets very lost in his translation of such artistic written talent, albeit a little testing and at times frustratingly insufficient in its explanations of the working science of time travel,  and simply jumbles the story line and misses out the most significant of scenes that I am sure any reader would much have liked to see in the story line.

The story is for those critical of science, the meaning of existence and the nature of love, and the novel simply addresses these topical areas with brilliance. Their first meeting was so dramatic in the novel, yet lacked on the screen, failing to address that a young six-year-old as found a naked man in the bush at the end of her garden. Character Claire Ashbire, on her 18th Birthday, experiences the ‘first time’ with love Henry DeTamble, and this is simply cast aside, to any reader this is a momentous moment in the book, it links their present with their past, and pieces the story together.

For 107 minutes, Schwentke doesn’t really addresses any serious emotion, and merely skirts over serious scenes that, I’m sure, Niffenegger spent hours deliberating how to get such emotions across to her audience in order to pull on those heart-strings.

This novel/film was merely a science fiction novel that perhaps didn’t explain time travel very well, but never the less provided a sufficient four-day read, and 107 minutes of viewing, with a a lot of cutesy, mushy romance thrown in, but it certainly wasn’t worth the hype it was given.

Achilles and The Tortoise by Takeshi Kitano


Achilles and The Tortoise

So the film….

Takeshi Kitano, the writer of such films as ‘Brother’ (2000) and ‘Dolls’ (2002) opens the world to his latest film, which exubes a sense of accomplishment that could only be found in films based on the creators personal experiences. The ideas of school dropouts who dream of chasing their careers is found within the story of the film, but not in the ‘Grease’ Rizzo beauty dropout sense, a more desperate need to achieve, but with unfortunate consequences.

Kitano’s engagement with art in the film can be seen as distressing to some, as the events take severe turns whenever art is apparent in the scenes. And as becoming an artist for the young boy is largely what the film is about, one can imagine that the film isn’t all sweet and innocent. It is no magical fairytale where someone ‘finds’ their innerself without any hassle. There is a lot of hassle. 

The film lacks any emotional expressions such as love, in the romantic sense of the word, but evokes a true meaning of friendship, loneliness and greed (by other characters, not the young boy himself.)

But to look at the film as an innocent, just scraping the surface, the audience is left feeling deflated by the events and finds themself with not even a dose of sympathy left, as this is strewn across the film from the very beginning.