Friday, 29 August 2014

Three more books

Parkys People - by Michael Parkinson - a collection of interviews by Michael Parkinson. A good book to dip into -

I am not convince that Michael Parkinson is a great interviewer - for example in 1999 still asking Paul McCartney about his first meeting with John Lennon - surely something that had been covered endlessly.  On the other hand, the rather dull and banal nature of the questions often lets the interviewer get across what they want. Occasionally this results in the person going through the motions and repeating answers to the well known top 10 questions I am always asked, more often it does allow someone with something interesting to say to say it.  Putting people at their ease to be interviewed is a skill and Parkinson has that and he does try some tougher questions too. Overall I prefer his style to the interviewer who is all about themselves.

Hitler - the Victory that nearly was by Bruce Quarrie plots an all too convincing alternate version of WW2 in which Hitler wins. 

Churchill Defiant - 1945-1955 by Barbara Leaming. This is a great book setting out the political life of Winston Churchill from 1945 to 1955 a period usually skipped over with a brief oh he became Prime Minister again didn't do much and resigned.  This book gives a great insight into Churchill's  struggles within the Conservative Party,(where many people were keen he should step down as soon as WW2 was over, (some before that even had never wanted him to be leader at all) and his efforts to secure a peaceful settlement between the USSR and the USA and Western Europe which would avoid a war, use of nuclear weapons and more besides.   As this elderly and quite ill man out manoeuvred his Cabinet and US Presidents, they couldn't quite decide whether he was senile or in possession of  devilish cunning.  It seems he had the cunning but not in the end the ability to shape events as he would have wished.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Prime Ministers who never were

The Prime Ministers who never were - edited by Francis Beckett. A collections of political counterfactuals, I found it rather disappointing in that a couple of the examples seem to stray a bit to far from reality and into wish fulfilment.  On the other hand, they weren't afraid to paint some less than rosy pictures - George Brown being PM instead of Harold Wilson ending up losing his seat in the following general election. The most interesting and convincing was though the idea that Oswald Mosley might have stayed in the Labour Party and ended up party Leader and Prime Minister if he hadn't gone off instead to form the New Party and later the British Union of Fascists.

Treblinka - A survivor's memory by Chil Rajchman

Chil Rajchman was 28 when he was arrested and sent to Treblinka death camp where more than 750,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis. This is the story of how he survived long enough to take part in an uprising and escape. Writing down while he was in hiding it is an almost matter of fact description of the horror of mass murder.  Unpublished until 2009 this is a horrific reminder of the evil humanity is capable of.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Re-writing the 'Myths of Churchill'

Blood sweat and arrogance the myths of Churchill's war by Gordon Carrigan

A strange book that not only points out that Churchill interfering ways sometimes hindered his generals in World war II but also tries to blame Churchill for budget cuts to the armed services after 1918.

Quite frankly the later of these charges is rather odd, Churchill, even in his few years as Chancellor of the Exchequer was not single handedly responsible for Government policy neither was there any real chance in the 1920's or early 1930's of anyone keeping up the levels of military expenditure advocated by the author.

The earlier charge that Churchill interfered and often made things worse, is already well known, and on the other side of the argument has to be set the fact that he often led or interfered and made things better.  Surely on balance his contribution to the allies winning WWII is undoubted.