September 2021 Books Monthly Review of books and stories magazine - on the web since 1998...
  books monthly
New titles for August 2021


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.

Chris Scullion: The NES Encyclopedia

 Published by Pen and Sword 2nd October 2019

The NES is one of the most iconic video game systems of all time, and is often credited with saving the American video games industry in the early 80s when it looked likely to collapse. The NES Encyclopedia is a complete reference guide to every game released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo's first industry-defining video game system. As well as covering all 714 officially licensed NES games, the book also includes more than 160 unlicensed games released during the system's lifespan, giving for the first time a definitive history of this important console's full library. The NES continues to enjoy a strong cult following among Nintendo fans and gamers in general, with games like Super Mario Bros, The Legend Of Zelda and Metroid remaining well-loved to this day: both for older fans who remember them the first time around, and younger gamers discovering the system for the first time through Nintendo's regular re-releases of its older games. Nintendo's most recent console, the Switch, is the fastest selling video game console of all time in the United States and Japan. With Nintendo recently launching an ever-growing library of classic NES games for download on the Switch, a new audience of gamers is discovering the NES for the first time.

Excellent history of the NES and its influence on subsequent games players such as X-Box and the like. Such a short time ago we were playing these games, and now - well, things move at such a rapid pace in the digital age.

Ian Baxter: Nazi Concentration Camp Overseers

Published by Pen and Sword 8th April 2021

The Nazis' vast concentration camp network and, later, the 'Final Solution' programme made heavy demands on the SS whose responsibility it was. The use of 'overseers' minimised costs and enabled the camps to run with fewer SS personnel. As this well researched book describes, there were three principal groups of 'helpers': Sonderkommandos, Kapos and Trawniki. The Sonderkommandos' duties included unloading Jews from trains, collecting their possessions and allocating work details. Under SS supervision, they also ran the gas chambers and crematoria. The Kapos oversaw the Sonderkommandos. Many were originally prisoner functionaries recruited from violent criminal gangs and had a well-deserved reputation for brutality. The third group, known as Trawniki or Trawnikimanner, were Central and Eastern European collaborators recruited from Russian POW camps. While some served in a military capacity, others played an instrumental role in the Holocaust programme, rounding up and transporting Jews from the ghettos to the concentration camps. The graphic images and text of this Images of War series work demonstrate that the 'overseer' system was extensive and effective as its members competed without scruple to maintain the favour of their SS masters while pitting victim against victim.

This is a difficult read, about the men who condemned millions to death during WW2. Luckily we have long memories and will never forget what these inhumane monsters did during the war...

Volker Koop: The Commandant of Auschwitz - Rudolf Hoss

Published by Pen and Sword 30th April 2021

Described as one of the greatest mass-murderers in history, Rudolf Höss, was born in Baden-Baden, on the edge of Germany’s Black Forest region, on 11 December 1901. As a child, his aim was to join the priesthood, but in his early youth he became disillusioned with religion and turned instead to the Army.

Höss joined the 21st Regiment of Dragoons, his father’s and grandfather’s old regiment, at the age of just 14. He served with the Ottoman Army in its fight against the British, serving in Palestine and being present at the Siege of Kut-el-Amara. During this period, he was promoted to the rank of Feldwebel, becoming, at that time, the youngest non-commissioned officer in the German Army. He was also decorated, receiving among other awards the Iron Cross, First and Second class.

In the midst of the political upheavals in post-war Germany, Höss was drawn to the hard-line philosophies of Adolph Hitler, joining the Nazi Party in 1922. His ruthless commitment to the Nazi cause saw him convicted of participating in at least one political assassination, for which he spent six years in prison.

Predictably, Höss joined the SS and in 1934 became a Blockführer, or Block Leader, at Dachau concentration camp. His ruthless dedication led to him becoming the adjutant to the camp commandant at another concentration camp, Sachsenhausen. Then, in May 1940, Höss was given command of his own camp near the town of Auschwitz.

In June 1941, Höss was told that Auschwitz had been selected as the site for the Final Solution of the Jewish question. Höss set about his task with relish, and a determination to kill as many Jews as quickly and efficiently as possible. By his own estimation, he was responsible for the deaths of at least 3,000,000 individuals.

Justice caught up with Höss after the German surrender when he was arrested on 11 March 1946, after a year posing as a gardener under a false name. He was found guilty of war crimes and was hanged on 16 April 1947.

Another similar book to the one above - painful as they are to read, I think it's important that our military historians write about them so that we can honestly say "we will never forget".

Anthony Tucker-Jones: Tank Battles of the Cold War 1948-1991

Published by Pen and Sword 12th April 2021

As Anthony Tucker-Jones shows in this highly illustrated, wide-ranging history, for most of the Cold War the tank retained its pre-eminence on the battlefield. The Arab-Israeli wars witnessed some of the biggest tank battles of all time, and tanks played key roles in conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan as well as in the Iran-Iraq War and the wars fought between India and Pakistan. But then in the mid-1960s anti-tank weapons became ever deadlier and the Mechanised Infantry Fighting Vehicle (MIFV), which was designed to support infantry and fight tanks, emerged and the heyday of the tank was over. Chapters cover each major phase in the evolution of the tank and of tank warfare during the period, from the battles fought in the late 1940s and 1950s with Second World War armoured vehicles like the T-34 and the Sherman, through to the designs common in the 1960s and 1970s like the T-55, Centurion, Challenger and M60 Patton, to the confrontation between the M1 Abrams and the T-72 during the Gulf War in 1991. Technical and design developments are important elements throughout the story, but so are dramatic changes in tactics and armaments which mean the tank has an increasingly uncertain role in modern warfare.

When one thinks about tank battles, one automatically thinks of the Second World War. In this excellent book, Anthony Tucker-Jones reminds us that, in reality, there never was a cold war, but simply a period after WW2 when things slowed down a bit whilst there were still armed conflicts going on in the Middle East and elsewhere. Brilliantly illustrated.

Ben Warlow & Steve Bush: Pendant Numbers of the Royal Navy

Published by Pen and Sword 30th May 2021

Pendant (or pennant) numbers have been used by individual ships of the Royal Navy for purposes of identification for more than 100 years. They were also used in all the navies of the British Empire so that ships could be easily transferred from one navy to another without changing their number. They offer the simplest and clearest way to identify a ship, but until now there has been little in the way of consistent and accurate information, and certainly no single location where you can look up or research complete pendant numbers. The book is designed as an easy-to-use reference work and as such is, in the main, composed of alpha-numeric listings to enable the user to find and identify warships by reference to ship name and to identify specific pendant numbers assigned to that name; or by pendant number to identify specific vessels assigned that number at various times. It begins with an introduction and a brief history of visual signalling used by the Royal Navy before industrialisation, and explains how the large numbers of identical ships being built brought about the need to identify specific ships within fleets to aid signalling and tactical deployment. There follow chapters covering the pendant numbers of the surface fleet and submarines (which stopped using them once boats began to spend so little time on the surface), and then pedant numbers by ship name. A significant chapter lists the pendant numbers assigned to the British Pacific Fleet during the Pacific campaign of WWII together with an explanation of why numbers were assigned, and an examination of missing ‘A27 series pendants known to have been carried by some vessels during the conflict. The BPF numbers have only recently come to light and there is still much that is not known but this section provides the most comprehensive study of available data at this time. There is also an appendix covering deck letters assigned to aviation capable ships. This is a genuinely new and significant reference book and is destined to become a major new aid for Royal Navy warship and auxiliary identification.

Authors Ben and Steve have compiled a significant list of Royal Navy pendant numbers which will be invaluable to maritime historians and the like. Painstaking work.

Les Brown: British Sloops and Frigates of the Second World War

Published by Pen and Sword 26th May 2021

The 'ShipCraft' series provides in-depth information about building and modifying model kits of famous warship types. Lavishly illustrated, each book takes the modeller through a brief history of the subject, highlighting differences between ships and changes in their appearance over their careers. This includes paint schemes and camouflage, featuring colour profiles and highly detailed line drawings and scale plans. The modelling section reviews the strengths and weaknesses of available kits, lists commercial accessory sets for super-detailing of the subjects, and provides hints on modifying and improving the basic kit. This is followed by an extensive photographic gallery of selected high-quality models in a variety of scales, and the book concludes with a section on research references - books, monographs, large-scale plans and relevant websites. This volume covers the majority of British wartime escort classes, from the inter-war ASW and minesweeping sloops that culminated in the superb Black Swan class, to the wartime designs that were originally known as 'twin-screw corvettes' but were eventually classed as frigates - the 'River' class, and their derivatives of the 'Loch/Bay' classes that were modified for prefabricated construction. Also included are the American-built destroyer escorts which became RN 'Captains' class frigates and the earlier ex-US Coast Guard cutters that were listed as sloops. With its unparalleled level of visual information - paint schemes, models, line drawings and photographs - this book is simply the best reference for any modelmaker setting out to build any of these numerous escort types.

Essentially aimed at model makers, Len's history of sloops and frigates that were used in WW2, together with their designs and markings is also part of our military heritage. A beautiful piece of work.

Douglas Hardy: Wargames Terrain and Buildings - WW1 Trench Systems

Published by Pen and Sword 30th May 2021

Although it was a global conflict, for many WW1 is synonymous with the war in the trenches of the Western Front.  For anyone wargaming these battles a good trench system is a must.  Douglas Hardy is a very experienced wargamer and terrain modeller and a member of the Western Front Association who has walked the battlefields many times. From the initial choice between stand-alone pieces on a mat or a fixed, bespoke layout, through to final detailing, he shares his experience, giving practical advice on building your own trench system.  He considers the differences between British, German and French trenches, which differed in design and construction, as well as developments in defences through the phases of the war.  A trench system is not just the trench itself of course, but also the dugouts, barbed wire entanglements, sandbags, gun emplacements and pillboxes. Shell holes and shattered forests are also covered. Each element is explained in step-by-step detail, illustrated with numerous colour photos and there are also reference photos of real trenches.

The trench system was such an overwhelmingly integral part of WW1 warfare, that to have it described and examined in such minute detail is something quite special.

Emilie Woodger-Smith: Simply Sustainable Beauty

Published by Pen and Sword 30th June 2021

Sustainable Beauty is a collection of easy to follow recipes for you to create your fresh, head to toe zero waste beauty routine. Learn how to make everything from exfoliating scrubs to body butter, face wash bars to dry shampoo, Emilie's amazing natural deodorant recipe and everything in between. This book is full of simple recipes using sustainable, environmentally friendly ingredients to give you naturally beautiful skin.

It is a sad fact that the vast majority of beauty products are scandalously overpriced. Emilie's book offers a practical and affordable alternative which young ladies and older ladies alike might wish to investigate.

Becki Clark: Paint Make Create

Published by Pen and Sword 30th June 2021

Paint, Make Create showcases seasonal, multi-craft projects all woven together by painting. Designed for all abilities, the 20 engaging activities will guide you through the seasons and include working with clay, printing, collaging, sewing and embroidery with a fun and modern painterly twist. Including a comprehensive guide to getting started with painting, Paint, Make Create will help you develop an understanding of types of paints, surfaces, colour palettes and mixing your own colours whilst also arming you with the tools and confidence to create your own original pieces. Drawing on author Becki's vast experience in the creative world, alongside each project's step by step guide are helpful hints and tips, perfect for beginners wanting to experiment with paints. Your creativity will flourish with each contemporary craft project, from creating painterly table settings for Summer gatherings right through to painting Christmas gifts and decorations.

Superb I can't help thinking that this superb craft book could have been published eighteen months ago at the outset of the pandemic...

Gabriele Esposito: Napoleon's Imperial Guard

Published by Pen and Sword 30th June 2021

A detailed analysis of the organization, uniforms and weapons of the French Imperial Guard created by Napoleon I. The author describes how this large military body evolved from the Consular Guard created by Bonaparte as early as 1799 and how this came to include dozens of different military units belonging to each branch of service (infantry, cavalry, artillery, specialist corps). The Imperial Guard was a 'miniature army' made up of veteran soldiers, who were dressed with the most spectacular and elegant uniforms ever seen on the battlefields of Europe. The Guard also included several 'exotic' non-French units that are also covered in the text: Egyptian Mamelukes, Polish and Lithuanian lancers, Tatar scouts, Dutch grenadiers and lancers. The way in which Napoleon employed the Guard in battle is discussed and also how it differed from the rest of the French Army in terms of military dress and weaponry.

Everything you could possible wish to know about Napoleon's elite Imperial Guard.

Gareth Glover: Nelson's Navy in 100 Objects

Published by Pen and Sword 8th June 2021

The Royal Navy of Nelson's time was such a huge organisation, that it is sometimes hard to comprehend its full scope. Indeed, during the Napoleonic Wars it was by far the largest employer in the entire world. Not only did the Royal Navy maintain a fleet of close on 1,000 ships, including over 100 line of battle ships, but it was also responsible for the entire organisation of maintaining them at sea. From the recruitment of crews, the maintenance and protection of bases throughout the world, the production and delivery of food supplies to feed this vast fleet and the procurement of naval supplies to keep the ships at sea, it was all the responsibility of this vast organisation. The Royal Navy was often Britain's last line of defence and many of its most successful officers became superstars, although none eclipsed Admiral Lord Nelson, who became the personification of the Navy. The whole country revelled in their successes and ‘Jolly Jack Tar' became a source of national pride and a huge number of naval terms were taken into normal life and many are often still used to this very day. Nelson's Navy in 100 Objects investigates all aspects of this incredible organisation and the lives of the men who served within it, including Nelson himself, using historical artefacts and naval terms that are now part of everyday language to illustrate them.

This is the latest in Pen and Sword's "100 objects" series, this time focusing on Admira Lord Nelson. Excellent.

Sarah Durber: Make Your Own Indoor Garden

Published by Pen and Sword 30th June 2021

This book aims to cover the most commonly asked questions by new plant owners and will help people who want to have more greenery in their lives but don’t know where to start. It will advise on the best plant for a variety of home conditions so that everyone should be able to find plants that suit their space. Having and maintaining an indoor garden can be possible for anyone, the book will give you step by step guides to creating and designing your own terrariums, cacti & succulent gardens and even kokedamas (Japanese for Moss Ball). It will include descriptions of the equipment needed, and how to find this inexpensively so that the hobby is accessible to everyone. Readers of the book will discover a newfound joy of plants and nature as well as learn a brand-new skill. The book will go into detail about what may be causing damage to a plant, and how to look after plants so that they last. It will also focus on how plants can improve physical and mental health, to encourage readers to fill their homes with greenery for practical and aesthetic reasons. The innate human need to be around nature is called Biophilia, and this book will tap into that need without over complicating things. The focus will be on low maintenance, good-looking greenery.

With gardening in the ascendancy because of the pandemic, this is a practical and priceless look at how to install plants and flowers within the home - primarily for people living in flats or simply without access to gardening space. A superb book.

Phil Carradice: A Hundred Years of Spying

Published by Pen and Sword 30th June 2021

Early espionage organisations like Walsingham’s Elizabethan spy network were private enterprises, tasked with keeping the Tudor Queen and her government safe. Formal use of spies and counter spies only really began in the years after 1909, when the official British secret service was founded. Britain became the first major proponent of secret information gathering and other nations quickly followed.

The outbreak of war in 1914 saw a sudden and dramatic increase in the use of spies as the military quickly began to realise the value of covert intelligence. Spying ‘came of age’ during the war on the Western Front and that value only increased in the run up to the Second World War, when the threat of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany began to make themselves felt.

The Cold War years, with the use of moles, defectors and double agents on both sides of the Iron Curtain saw the art of spying assume record proportions. The passing on of atom secrets, the truth about Russian missiles on Cuba, it was the age of the double agent, the activities of whom managed to keep away the looming threat of nuclear war.

A Hundred Years of Spying takes the reader through the murky world of espionage as it develops over the course of the twentieth century, where the lines of truth and reality blur, and where many real-life spies have always been accompanied, maybe even proceeded, by a plethora of spy literature.

This book will look at the use of and development of spying as an accepted military practice. It will focus on individuals from Belgians like Gabrielle Petite to the infamous Mata Hari, from people like Reilly Ace of Spies to the British traitors such as Philby, Burgess and McClean. The activities of American atom spies like the Rosenbergs will also be covered as will Russian double agent Oleg Penkovsky and many others.

Fans of the TV series Spooks will be captivated by Phil Carradice's look at the history of spying during the last 100 years. Absolutely enthralling.

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 and I'll let you know where to send it.



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