January 2022 Books Monthly Review of books and stories magazine - on the web since 1998...
  books monthly 2022
New Pen and Sword titles for the new year


Welcome to the Pen and Sword page, on which you'll find a wide array of books on various social and historical subjects. Pen and Sword are the world's foremost historical and military publishers, and I hope to always have a large selection of their latest brilliant titles in Books Monthly.

Martin W Bowman: The Men Who Flew the Vought F4U Corsair

Published by Pen and Sword 19th October 2021

First flown in 1940, the prototype Vought F4U Corsair instantly became the fastest fighter in the world and the fastest US aircraft of any description. Powered by a huge 18-cylinder Pratt and Whitney Double Wasp engine driving an enormous 13 feet 4 inch propeller, the first Corsairs were capable of 417mph. This figure would rise to nearly 450mph in later versions despite the fact that fuel load and overall weight was increased. Production began in 1941, not only by Vought but also by Goodyear and Brewster. The F4U entered service with the US Navy in September 1942, although carrier-borne operations were initiated a little later not by the Americans but by the British Fleet Air Arm. The aircraft subsequently came to be extensively used from land and sea by the US Marines, Royal Navy and Royal New Zealand Air Force. Famous squadrons like VMF-214 'The Black Sheep' and VF-17 Jolly Rogers', along with many others, maintained total ascendancy over the Japanese for the rest of the war - a remarkable achievement for a single type. After the Second World War, the Corsair stayed in production and was used with distinction by the French in Indo-China and again by the US Navy in Korea. Since then Corsairs have achieved significant success in air races and more and more are being restored to fly for museums and warbird enthusiasts the world over. Martin Bowman's comprehensive new book combines technical information and detailed development history with a fascinating combat history told, in many cases, by the Second World War pilots themselves. Well researched, readable and illustrated with dozens of rare and previously unpublished photographs, The Men Who Flew the Vought F4U Corsair is the perfect book for any fan of the bent wing bird'.

I'm pretty sure I had an Airfix model of this plane when I was a teenager - a beautiful looking aircraft - Martin Bowman's appreciation of it is comprehensive and readable...

Guy Warner: Atlantic Linchpin

Published by Pen and Sword 4th October 2021

On a map the Azores appear as nine tiny specks in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but their location was to prove strategically vital in two world wars The Atlantic became a crucial battleground twice within the space of 25 years, as the US ‘arsenal of democracy’ sent firstly stores, arms and equipment, followed by many thousands of troops to fight in Europe. In both desperate and closely fought struggles at sea, Germany sought to stem the flow and thereby win the war, by cutting this vital lifeline, using a new weapon – the ocean-going submarine. In the First World War the Azores became a mid-Atlantic refuelling location, a base for US and Portuguese naval vessels and – in a hugely innovative contribution to the anti-submarine war – for the patrol seaplanes and flying boats of the US Marine Corps. Portugal was neutral during the Second World War but when Winston Churchill invoked a treaty dating from 1373, permission was given in 1943 for an RAF Coastal Command base to be very rapidly established at Lagens. From there convoys could be protected and U-boats could be harried and sunk, so closing the notorious mid-Atlantic gap. Later, it also became an important staging post for US aircraft, as it had been in the previous conflict. The significance of the Azores has been overlooked in most military histories, but this extensively researched and copiously illustrated book from historian Guy Warner provides a detailed but balanced appraisal. The author has had access to archives and photographic collections in the UK, USA, Portugal and the Azores, consulting with local historians to produce a book that sheds much new light on a hitherto under-appreciated facet of twentieth-century history.

A fascinating account of the islands that make up the Azores and their role in global conflicts.

Michael Green: United States Tanks and Tank Destroyers

Published by Pen and Sword 4th October 2021

Only after the Nazis invaded Poland and France did the United States Government authorize mass production of tanks. By the end of the War American industry had built nearly 90,000 tanks, more than Germany and Great Britain combined. The first big order in May 1940 was for 365 M2A4 light tanks, the initial iteration of the Stuart series, with almost 24,000 constructed. The Stuart series was supplemented by almost 5,000 units of the M24 Chaffee light tank. There was also the failed M22 Locust light tank intended for airborne operations. The M4 series of medium tanks, best known as the Sherman, were the most numerous with some 50,000 in service with not only the American military but British and other Allied armies. It was not until later in the war that the M26 Pershing heavy tank was built. Initially the US Army doctrine saw tanks as primarily for the exploitation role. Later the concept of tank destroyers evolved to counter large scale German armored offensives. These defensive AFVs included the half-track-based 75mm Gun Motor Carriage M3 and the full-tracked M10, M18, and M36. This comprehensive and superbly illustrated book describes in authoritative detail the characteristics and contribution to victory of these formidable fighting vehicles.

DMichael Green on the contribution of US Army tanks during the second world war is fascinating.

Gabriele Esposito: Armies of the Germanic Peoples 200BC - AD500

Published by Pen and Sword 3rd November 2021

Gabriele Esposito presents an overview of the military history of the Germanic peoples of this period and describes in detail the weapons and tactics they employed on the battlefield. He starts by showing how, from very early on, the Germanic communities were heavily influenced by Celtic culture. He then moves on to describe the major military events, starting with the first major encounter between the Germanic tribes and the Romans: the invasion by the Cimbri and Teutones. Julius Caesar's campaigns against German groups seeking to enter Gaul are described in detail as is the pivotal Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, which effectively halted Roman expansion into Germany and for centuries fixed the Rhine as the border between the Roman and Germanic civilizations. Escalating pressure of Germanic raids and invasions was a major factor in the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. The author's analysis explains how Germanic warriors were able to crush the Roman military forces on several occasions, gradually transformed the Roman Army itself from the inside and, after the fall of the Empire, created new Romano-Germanic Kingdoms across Europe. The evolution of Germanic weapons, equipment and tactics is examined and brought to life through dozens of colour photos of replica equipment in use.

These would be the people who resisted the might of Rome during the rapid expansion of the Roman Empire before and after the birth of Christ. Gabriele Esposito is a regular writer for Pen and Sword and always turns in a brilliant story.

Ian Baxter: Waffen-SS Armour On The Eastern Front 1941-1945

Published by Pen and Sword 3rd November 2021

Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, codename Operation Barbarossa, was arguably the pivotal moment of the Second World War. Initially the onslaught was staggeringly successful with, as the superb contemporary images in this book show, Waffen- SS armoured divisions leading the charge. But the Nazis had underestimated the Russians' determination to defend their homeland and the logistical problems compounded by the extreme winter weather conditions. After early victories such as the recapture of Kharkov in early 1943 and the Kursk offensive, commanders and crews of armoured vehicles such as Pz.Kpfw.I, II, III, IV, Panther, Tiger, King Tiger, assault and self-propelled guns had to adapt their tactics and equipment to what became a desperate defensive withdrawal eventually back across a scarred and devastated Eastern Front. Even during the last months of the war as the Panzers withdrew through Poland and into the Reich, these exhausted elite units, broken down into small battle groups or Kampfgruppen, fought to the bitter end. With authoritative text supported by a plethora of rare fully captioned photographs, this classic Images of War book informs and inspires the reader revealing the key role played by Waffen-SS Panzer units in this most bitter campaign.

Latest title in the IMages of War series looks at German military might in the early days of the second world war. Brilliant photographs...

Lindsay Powell: Bar Kokhba

Published by Pen and Sword 13th October 2021

AD 132 began the bloody struggle between two strong-willed leaders over who would rule a nation.

One was Hadrian, the cosmopolitan ruler of the vast Roman Empire, then at its zenith, who some regarded as divine; the other was Shim’on, a Jewish military leader in a district of a minor province, who some believed to be the ‘King Messiah’. It is also the tale of the clash of two ancient cultures. One was the conqueror, seeking to maintain control of its hard-won dominion; the other was the conquered, seeking to break free and establish a new nation: Israel.

During the ensuing conflict – the ‘Second Jewish War’ – the highly motivated Jewish militia sorely tested the highly trained professional Roman army. The rebels withstood the Roman onslaught for three-and-a-half years (AD 132–136). They established an independent nation with its own administration, headed by Shim’on as its president. The outcome of that David and Goliath contest was of great consequence, both for the people of Judaea and for Judaism itself.

So, who was this insurgent Shim’on known today as ‘Bar Kokhba’? How did Hadrian, the Roman emperor who built the famous Wall in northern Britain, respond to the challenger? And how, in later ages, did this rebel with a cause become a hero for the Jews in the Diaspora longing for the foundation of a new Israel in modern times? This book describes the author’s personal journey across three continents to establish the facts.

Drawing on archaeology, art, coins, inscriptions, militaria, as well as secular and religious documents, Lindsay Powell presents a fascinating account of the people and events at a crucial time in world history.

With a foreword specially written by bestselling archaeologist Eric H. Cline, Lindsay Powell tells the compelling story of the rebel whose legend helped found a nation: Israel.

Deep and fascinating research into a man who became an inspiration for the Jewish nation, and whose origins inspired a resistance against the might of Rome unlike anything else...

John Grehan: Hitler's Wolfsschanze

Published by Pen and Sword 30th October 2021

Set deep in the heart of the Masurian woods of northern Poland, in what was formally East Prussia, lies a vast complex of ruined bunkers and shelters that once constituted Hitler’s headquarters – the Wolfsschanze or Wolf’s Lair – for Germany’s attack upon the Soviet Union in 1941. Built in conditions of the utmost secrecy, the Wolfsschanze was surrounded by fences and guard posts, its paths and tracks were hidden, and buildings were camouflaged and concealed with artificial grass and trees planted on their flat roofs. As the war in Eastern Europe continued, so the Wolf’s Lair grew in scale and sophistication, until it’s 2.5 square miles incorporated more than eighty buildings including massive reinforced bunkers. It was also at the Wolfsschanze that Colonel von Stauffenberg almost killed Hitler in the summer of 1944. That building is still there, its roof sitting on its collapsed walls. With the aid of a unique collection of colour photographs, the reader is guided around the Wolfsschanze as it appears today, with each building and its purpose identified. Laced with numerous personal accounts of the installation and of Hitler’s routines, supplemented with contemporary images, the Wolfsschanze is brought to life once more. The Wolfsschanze, however, was not the only military complex in this small part of the Eastern Front. Once Hitler has established his command centre at the Wolfsschanze, in effect the home of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (or military high command), the other branches of the German armed forces and civil authorities quickly followed suit. Just a few miles away, for example, the German Army built its own operational headquarters at Mauerwald – a complex which amounted to an even greater concentration of buildings, many of which remain intact and open to the public. Göring duly ordered that the Luftwaffe’s headquarters, codenamed Robinson, be built further out near the current Russian border, whilst Himmler’s SS headquarters at Hochwald and that for Hans Lammers’ Reich Chancellery were situated back nearer the Wolfsschanze. For the first time, these astonishing sites, five complexes from which the war on the Eastern Front was directed, are shown and described in one book, providing a comprehensive survey of the installations whose gigantic scale still evinces awe and wonder.

It is absolutely amazing how much work was done in excavating tunnels and bunkers for the German war effort - installations intended for the launch of HItler's onslaught against Russia etc. A brilliant book.

Daryl Baxter: The Making of Tomb Raider

Published by Pen and Sword 29th October 2021

Back in 1994 at the game company ‘CORE Design’ in Derby, Lara Croft was born. Through eighteen months of pure hard work from the team, Tomb Raider was released in 1996 and became the success that we see today; taking part in the mid-nineties celebrations of Brit-Pop and Girl Power. This is the story of the team who were involved in creating the first two games, then leaving the series to a new team in 1998. Lara Croft brought class, comedy, and a James Bondian role to the game, dreamt up by Toby Gard and helped to become a pitch with Paul Douglas. The game was a gamble, but because everyone at the company believed in it, it led to huge success for everyone, except for Toby and Paul. ‘The Making of Tomb Raider’ goes into detail of how Lara and the games were born, alongside why Toby Gard and Paul Douglas left before the sequel was released. Throughout eleven chapters of countless interviews, this book will tell you who was responsible for creating the first two games; from its levels, its music, the many voices of Lara Croft, and much more. The team also reveals all about the star of the second game; Winston the Butler, and how he came to be by Joss Charmet. Over twenty people were interviewed for this story; from the pitch for what would be Tomb Raider, alongside the challenges along the way, up until the release of Tomb Raider 2 in 1997…

I never played Tomb Raider back in the days when it was just possioble to get enough processing power and memory to play more sophisticated games on an IBM PS2 with 64Kb Ram - but I was aware of its existence, as it emerged at troughly the same time as Indiana Jones, and I always thought it would be cool to have a game like this. However, having looked through this book, I can see how primitive the graphics were even for that period in the history of computing, and I've concluded that I didn't actually miss much by not playing it...

Lindsey Newns: Modern Crochet Style

Published by Pen and Sword 29th October 2021

Colourful Crochet Accessories is packed full of crochet makes for you and your home. Designer Lindsey Newns, of Lottie and Albert, has created 15 different projects to delight and inspire throughout the seasons. From t-shirt yarn bath mats and raffia beach bags, to luxe Christmas stockings and leopard-print cowls. With advice on yarns, detailed stitch descriptions, and step-by-step photo instructions, the projects are accessible to all, including beginners.

A brilliant selection of crochet patterns for experienced makers to attempt.

David Bilton: Badges of the Regular Infantry 1914-1918

Published by Pen and Sword 29th October 2021

Badges of the Regular Infantry, 1914-1918 is based on over thirty years research in museums, archives and collections. It is an exhaustive study of the development of the battalion, brigade and divisional signs of the twelve divisions that formed the regular army during the Great War. It also looks at the badges of those battalions left behind to guard the Empire. While the divisional signs are well known, there has been no authoritative work on the signs worn by the infantry battalions. The book will illustrate the cap and shoulder titles used, as well as cloth signs worn to provide easy recognition in the trenches. Each regular and reserve battalion of a regiment has a listing, which provides a brief history of the unit and detailed information on the badges worn. It is profusely illustrated and contains much information, like why a shape or colour was chosen, when it was adopted, what size it was, whether it was worn on a helmet, what colour the helmet was and even what colours were used on horse transport; the majority of this rich and detailed information has never been published before. What helps make the information accurate and authoritative is that much of it comes from an archive created at the time and from personal correspondence with hundreds of veterans in the 1980s, many of whom still had their badges and often had razor-sharp recollections about wearing them. The book also provides some comments from these veterans. Using the illustrations will allow many of those unidentified photos in family albums to come to life.

A superb memoir of the military badges in use in the regular army during WW1.

Gabriele Esposito: Wellington's Cavalry and Technical Corps 1800-1815

Published by Pen and Sword 3rd  November 2021

While artillery has been described as the queen of the Napoleonic battlefield, this was an era when cavalry could still play a decisive role in battle, as well as being vital on campaign. This volume covers both British cavalry and artillery of the Napoleonic Wars, as well as supporting units such as engineers. Gabriele Esposito describes the history, organization and uniforms of the various units in full detail, following the evolution and combat history of each. Mounted troops deployed in the various British colonies as well as foreign cavalry units in British service will be all covered in specific chapters. The technical corps, most notably the artillery (both foot and horse) and the engineers, are given similar treatment. Royal Marines naval infantry and some other 'auxiliary' corps (like the Yeomanry/militia cavalry or the Sea Fencibles, all very little known) are also included. The book is lavishly illustrated with dozens of colour paintings.

Gabriele's second Pen and Sword book this month looks at the role of the cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars.

Jane Warren: How To Frame Your Own Pictures

Published by Pen and Sword 3rd November 2021

This visually appealing book introduces readers with no previous knowledge of the craft to simple techniques for creative home picture-framing. It shows how investing in a few essential hand tools and basic materials can save you hundreds of pounds on your framing costs, and help you create high-quality handmade gifts for family and friends. Step-by-step photos and easy-to-follow instructions - as well as useful insider tips' - reveal the secrets of DIY framing. Ten original projects include simple techniques to frame canvases and stretch canvas artworks, make standard frames and box frames using readily available timber, and even craft a 60-minute mirror frame from a plank of wood. You'll learn techniques for cutting mount-board and glass, and discover the secrets of easy gilding, decoupage and copper embossing to decorate your frames. The Woodland Pie framing style is all about accessible creativity; making easy and appealing frames from basic materials and always using hand-painted or hand-made finishes. Find out how to create a lustrous, versatile, go-to paint effect for your picture frames using nothing other than household emulsion paint, water, and wire wool! This brilliant how-to book cuts out the unnecessary and promises to get you hobby framing in no time -with creative flair.

Comprehensive instructions on how to make your own picture frames, but really, there afre hundreds of thousands of frames available to by and I can't imagine it catching on really.

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 24th 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 at paulenorman1@gmail.com and I'll let you know where to send it.


  In this issue:

  The Front Page

  Fiction Books

  Fantasy & Science Fiction
  Children's Books

  Nonfiction Books


  Growing up in the 1950s

  The Silent Three

  The Four Marys

  Living with Skipper

  Acker Bilk Sleeve Notes

  Sundays with Tarzan

  The Back Page

  Email me

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