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Review: Mister Good Times by Norman Jay MBE

mister good times

I was lucky enough to be a warm up DJ for Norman Jay back in the 1990s in The Cross Nightclub, London and I think I was billed on a couple of other events with him. He was a great DJ, I remember him once, in Ministry of Sound, having a full glass of drink topple on the bar decks where he was spinning from the above balcony and Norman, lightning quick just kept the music rolling and not even a skip of the needle. The book is divided up into several unique sections. The first part covers Norman’s Good Times sound system at Notting Hill Carnival which is for what he has been most famous. The whole logistics of such an event is well detailed enough for the professional DJ to thoroughly enjoy and learn from and to any reader the whole politics and excitement and logistics of such a fun event must be enlightening. The book covers Norman’s childhood, whereby he was brought up in Ladbroke Grove, West London to Windrush Caribbean immigrant parents, both of whom seemed very hardworking and supportive and keen to give their family the best start to life. The book discusses a lot about how being a black DJ was defined during the early years of the deck revolution. For me, a highlight was Norman’s journey to New York, where he learnt the best of what would be culturally exported from the USA to British streets. Norman Jay’s love for Tottenham Hotspur football club is covered in detail and during the excitement of terraces and the emergence of the hooligan years it is great reading of times past and the fun and frolics of being a serious football fan. For me, as a Liverpool fan it was truly disturbing to read about racism at Anfield back in the 1970s. Growing up in the John Barnes era of Liverpool, for me I always felt that we were a progressive club when it came to racism which is still a fight in the beautiful game to this very day. I really wanted for the book to keep running once it hit the years of house music. The warehouse parties with Judge Jules thrown across London were particularly interesting, the funniest moment in the tale, when the Met Police tried robbing all the takings from the promoters and Judge Jules and Norman hid under raincoats, pretending…

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Review: Soldier Spy by Tom Marcus

Soldier Spy

I initially bought the second book in this series, I Spy, but on learning that this volume preceded it I thought it apt to try this one out first. It’s not a huge book and is very accessible. The autobiographical account of a soldier from the streets, recognised for his unique skills and recruited to the frontline of British domestic terrorist services as an MI5 agent. Tom specialises in urban warfare of the 21st century. Surveillance and counter-surveillance operations are detailed. Sometimes an overuse, I felt, of the Alpha-Bravo codes that gets a bit confusing to a non-specialist, these operations span a variety of different cases across the UK, in MI5’s daily battles to preserve national security. We go from standard fighting Islamic terror cells, to murky traditional cold war -esque battles with traditionalist Russian agents, trying to steal military technologies on a vast scale from UK businesses. Tom isn’t frightened to mix it up, smashing hell out of a copper as part of his cover in an IRA pub in Scotland makes interesting reading. In the background of his flat out work where often he doesn’t even get to piss or eat, this brave young soldier tries to switch off at the end of the day and is a family man, on the pittance wages MI5 pays their employees he is left with the typical British task of every day workers of paying off mounting debts and grappling with mortgage etc. Eventually, the book sadly crumbles away with Marcus’ post traumatic stress difficulties getting the better of him ultimately ending in a medical discharge from the service. I feel it is MI5’s loss and not his really and hope he makes some nice dollar off producing decent readable material for years to come.

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Review: Viva La Revolución by Eric Hobsbawm

viva la revolucion

This is my first venture into respected leftist author, Eric Hobsbawm’s work. The book was compiled after the author’s death in 2012 and is a collection of his writings on Latin America after he spent over forty years passionately exploring the continent. The essays have a deep focus on the poor masses of the populations, the peasants, the guerrillas, the indigenous natives. Latin America is at a crossroads between Third World poverty and Western modernity. A mainly homogenous tongue (ie. Spanish) unites the continent and the erosion of old colonial privileged elites has led to the people gaining much power at the bottom rungs of society. there are detailed chapters on Castro’s Cuban revolution, the fallout of ‘La Violencia’ and ensuing FARC civil war conflict in Colombia, and the progress of pure democratic socialism in Allende’s Chile. Hobsbawm can microanalyse peasant conditions in remote Peruvian altiplano villages yet never loses track of the underlying general political picture. The burdens of colonialism and unfair international political relationships are often seen as a root cause for lack of development. The author always maintains an optimism for the disaffected masses who he protects with intellectual rigour, even if in many cases the reality of the actual situations and future prospects are often futile. This book will form a great reference tool for my university essays on Hispanic Studies and I hope that I can continue to explore Eric Hobsbawm’s other wide range of literary material.

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Review: Atatürk – The Rebirth of a Nation – by Patrick Kinross

Atatürk

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was from humble beginnings. He lived through a critical period of Turkish history, witnessing the decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire and making it possible for the modern secular, Western-focused nation state of Turkey to phoenix itself from the Ashes. Atatürk was a military man and although very lucky, his innovative and dedicated intellect assisted in him being Turkeys only undefeated senior commander during World War 1 and their last bastion of defence as plunderers tried to savage the imperial remnants of the Ottomans. A weak caliph and a corrupted government, led for quite some time by leaders of the Young Turks, were features that led to Atatürk’s politicisation. Eventually, after a civil war, he would set up a new Anatolian capital in Ankara and slowly tried to seep away power and influence from the decadence of Constantinople or Istanbul. Atatürk, was a workaholic. It left him little time for family. He was dependent on alcohol and this would eventually cause his premature death. As power grew within him he could often display treachery towards his old friends and allies, and it was in Atatürk a certain sense of ego that caused some of the more irrational yet adventurous moves in both his career as a soldier and later as a global politician. The man was undoubtedly remarkable and is one of the most colourful and indeed successful people from the early twentieth century. To this day in modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s legacy lives on.

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Review: Doing The Business – The Final Confession of the Senior Kray brother by Colin Fry and Charlie Kray

doing the business

The notoriety of the Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie, is present in their legacy. These were the most infamous London gangsters to emerge during the 1960s. Their older brother, Charlie, used to try and keep his distance from Firm activities, yet he had a lot of insider knowledge of operations. In this confession, he reveals many of the truths behind the Kray twins and in this book, in a relaxed and casual manner, Charlie Kray exposes the realities of the true story. The biography takes us back to the childhood of the Krays and the start of the tale tells of the three brothers and their youthful vitality as boxers in East London’s heart, Bethnal Green. Some of the more interesting tales cover breaking Ronnie out of mental hospitals, the setting up of various base of operations in nightclubs. Also, there is a lot of dealing with celebrities, and of course, how to invest profits, with trips abroad into the heart of Africa, looking for investment opportunities. Liaisons with the American Mafia, once their security strategy and business dominance as entertainment Kingpins in London’s West End had been established. There isn’t a massive amount of revelation with regard to the two major incidents that eventually took down Ronnie and Reggie: the murder of George Cornell in the Blind Beggar pub and the murder of Jack ‘The Hat’ McVie by Reggie in a frenzied knife attack. There’s not su much revealing of criminal activity, but more a general overview of the main movements of the Kray operations. It’s a great tale, full of mystery and it is clear that the Kray legend was born out of some pretty successful true events. I think the book is perhaps a little too brief and a bit scanty in parts and I will have to follow up with further research by covering other works. It was a sad state of affairs that the police continued to pursue Charlie after they had put the twins away until they finally managed to fit him up as a large cocaine trafficker and send him to the jail where he spent out most of his latter years. True adventure, true crime, true life.

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Review: The Billion Dollar Spy – by David E. Hoffman

the billion dollar spy

This espionage thriller tells the true life story of one of the Cold War’s most valuable assets, a Russian spy working for the CIA in the heart of the Soviet military aerospace sector. Adolf Tolkachev made the first tentative moves to reach out to the Americans in January 1977, in the heart of Moscow. At first, due to a faltering lack of human resources in the spy game for the Americans, it was seen with suspicion and Tolkachev was viewed as a KGB dupe. After he started to produce information from his workplace, the Scientific Research Institute for Radio Engineering, it was seen as a genuine defection and his material would prove absolutely vital in the arms race for the USA over a critical decade during the last years of the Cold War. Tolkachev became a billion dollar spy and his work would reach the Oval Office directly. In Moscow, the spying game is so difficult as it was seen as the hardest place on earth to work as an agent. Yet through cat and mouse cutting edge deception, the CIA were able to clandestinely successfully run their asset for a long time. It was only a crude defection from within that disrupted the operation and led to the arrest and execution of a Russian man who is a true hero for the West during this dark period. The story dovetails through risk and amazement and surprise yet is balanced out by the simple needs of a hardworking quiet family man that Tolkachev was. It is a well researched, gripping tale of a bygone era when Cold War espionage was at its critical heights.

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