Sunday, 22 July 2018

The Cypher Bureau

The Cypher Bureau is a novel by Eilidh McGinness. It tells the story of what happens when the Polish Cypher Bureau learn that the Germans are employing a new type of code that hey cannot decypher.

The Cypher Bureau takers the decision to employ mathematics students to implement a new way of dealing with the science of code breaking.

One of these students is Marian Rejewski. With other outstanding mathematics students he participates in a top secret course in code breaking.

He is given a commercial version of the Enigma machine and a set of user handbooks, and, alone, het starts to learn how to break the code.

His work must be undertaken in absolute secrecy, but the situation is growing increasingly dangerous as the outbreak of war with Germany is becoming more obvious and time is running out for the team of code breakers.

Although the story is a fictionalised account of real events, Marian Rejewski was a very real part of the Polish efforts to defeat the German Enigma cypher.

It's a very readable account of the story of the incredibly brave and resourceful Polish code breakers and the absolutely vital part they played in helping defeat Nazi Germany.

It is published by The Book Guild at £8.99.


Fragments is a new novel from lawyer turned author John Ellison.

It's a novel that draws heavily on the maxim "Borrow from history, build from imagination."

It's a piece of historical fiction, yet a piece of recent history, set in the 1960s and beyond.

Rather than writing a 'straight' memoir, John Ellison has decided to mine memoir to create a fictionalised story which he uses to tell the life, from his point of view, of Clive Bates, who, from his position as a retired law lecturer, looks back all the way to 1968 when he leaves University with a law degree and takes up his first teaching post.

There are a rather eclectic (dare one say also slightly eccentric?)  group of fellow lecturers in the college's Business and General Studies Department of East Ham Technical College.

Potential problems are flagged from the early pages of the novel when one of his colleagues airly annonces that: "Teaching a class of pretty girls about erotic references in the poems of John Donne and being paid for it is in my view a reasonable way of making a living."

However, as he doesn't expect to remain in the employ of the East Ham Technical College for long, that might or might not be a problem for those concerned!

There's snobbish behaviour from some chap who was educated at Oxford and a colleague always ready to fulminate on the advantages of Socialism at, or without, the drop of a hat all adding to the general atmosphere of the East Ham Technical College's Business and General Studies Department!

However, this is all set against casual sexism and everyday racism, the sudden shock of the speeches of Enoch Powell, the Russian invasion of Chekassloakia, the massive anti-Vietnam war demonstration in London and the US Presidential election of 1968.

John Ellison uses the historical backdrop to interweave the life story of Clive Bates into a very enjoyable and realistic memoir, albeit a fictional one.

It's published by Matador at £8.99

The Girl in the Abbey

The Girl in the Abbey is set during the tumultuous period of World War 2.

Grimsby was an important British port and, as such, it was constantly under attack by Nazi bombers so many of the children of Grimsby were evacuated inland to places of safety.

Violet Cobb is one of the evacuees. Violet is a resourceful and brave young girl who finds herself waiting on the doorstep of Bramblington Abbey, far away from her hometown and her family and friends.

The Abbey is situated in a village called Bramblingham-in-Finalis, which is preternaturally quite and crumbling from age after age of neglect.

She meets Mr Whispers, who Violet thinks looks like a desiccated old stick who looks like a housekeeper from a scary film.

Mr Whispers makes it very clear that Violet must not enter the Abbey itself, nor is she to bother the surviving member of the family who own the abbey, Lady Ainsworth for fear of a terrible beating.

But later, Violet finds a girl who she can befriend. Her new friend is called Sarah and Sarah says that she is the granddaughter of the reclusive and mysterious owner of the Abbey.

Together the two girls explore the local area. Violet soon learns that whilst Bramblington Abbey might have its own secrets, the elderly and decaying abbey is not the only one with secrets that it might wish to keep to itself.

But eventually Violet does enter the old abbey and, amidst treasures she could only have ever seen in her dreams, she meets Lady Audrey Ainsworth. Who she finds a most engaging raconteur as she takes Violet on a impromptu guided tour of her country home.

And then secrets started to bubble out from the reason why Lady Audrey never leaves her family home to why Mrs Geddes uses paraffin in her cakes.

This is an amusing and moving novel that touches on a number of themes, including what happens on the homefront during a war, class differences, friendships and a good deal more.

It's published by the Book Guild at £7.99.   

Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Lantern

The Lantern is a piece of political philosophy.

It examines and explores the complex and myriad issues that have, unfortunately, stymied and real changes and developments in the current Arabian world.

The author, Ayman Aborabh, takes the time and trouble to reexamine these issues by introducing new and groundbreaking ways of thinking that the author hopes will challenge his readers to understand and embrace and what is commonly described as western philosophy and to meld these with the current political realities and politics that exist within the Arab world.

He is candid in his observations, but he levens this with a good deal of humour. He takes the works of the likes of Plato, Machiavelli, Burke and Hobbes and triex to illustrate his points by picturing how these great minds from previous ages would examine the political makeup of the states of modern Arabia.

He also features two "normal" Arabian citizens who he has arguing vital questions on freedom, democracy and on their ordinary lives.

Although a serious academic work it is written in an open and approachable style, the author aims it at universities that offer courses on modern Arabian politics and the like.

 It is published by Matador at £13.99.

The author also has a YouTube channel which is in the Arabian language.

The Tales of Louis the House Rabbit

The Tales of Louis the House Rabbit is an utterly charming illustrated book by Harriet Hall.

It is a book that is aimed at parents and children (ideal for reading to children) and it contains simply written stories about Louis who is a rabbit who lives in a house.

He manages to sneak out of the house and meets a whole range of interesting creatures such a bees, frogs, a rabbit (who is puzzled as to why Louis doesn't have a warren!) Whiskers, Louis' new rabbit chum, shows Louis his warren and introduces Louis to his extended family.

After some adventures, including a bit of a scary one, Louis returns to his own home, with his human family.

But he dreams about the other rabbits when he falls asleep in his bed, after washing his ears, of course!

It costs £8.99 and is published by Matador and it is the first in a series, so do look out for subsequent books.


Who is John 'Wilf' Wilford? He worked as a roadie for many top bands and musicians. His book Soundman traces his 30 year history of working on the road as a sound engineer, a tour manager and a production manager.

In his book he takes his readers on a behind-the-scenes tour of what took place by on and off the stage, sound checks, recording studios, TV studios, the tour buses and the hotels that the bands occupied during their tours.

It's the view of a genuine insider, and you'll be shown the highs and lows of life on the road with some very famous and some not quite so famous bands and individuals from 30 years on the road.

From pub gigs right up to gigantic events at stadiums like Wembley and the Hollywood Bowl, you'll see them all.

After tinkering with his father's defunct valved radio (he got it working) Wilf was bitten by the radio and electronics bug and eventually took a City and Guilds course to learn the basics of radio and television servicing.

Eventually he shifted over inot the world of pub gigs, as a part time roadie, he took up the career as a full time professional.

He built (whilst working with Midas Amplification) sound mixing consoles for top groups such as Pink Floyd. He actually built their highly specialised Quadraphonic mixing desk.

Eventually he launched several sound companies in both the UK and in Nashville, in the USA.

Learn how some managers of bands utterly ripped off their bands, sometimes even ensuring they didn't even own their own homes, how Black Sabbath designed an absolutely huge replica of Stonehenge to appear on stage with them. But they had forgotten to measure the doorways of the halls they were to perform in, and the result was they could not get their Stonehenge into any of them!

And there was the dreadful incident involving serious injuries to a dwarf actor dressed up as a baby during a Black Sabbath tour. 

The book is well illustrated with pictures of equipment and of gigs, but mainly from the perspective of the sound engineer, which is what would be expected, as this book is from the perspective of a sound engineer.

There are scores of anecdotes and interesting little asides and stories and at £12.95 (published by The Book Guid) this book needs to be in the hands of people who where there, or who want to see what "where" was like!