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Book Review: Last Light

The latest thriller from Andy McNab is Last Light (ISBN 0-552-14798-2), another delve into the murky goings on of government secret services. McNab has the letters DCM and MM after his name - Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal, which goes a long way towards giving his writings credibility. He is not surmising or dramatizing - he is recounting fact! He was Britain’s most highly decorated soldier when he left the SAS in 1993, having joined the infantry as a ‘boy soldier’ and being later inducted into the SAS in 1984. The chilling words on page 182 come from that experience, “It’s easy enough to kill someone, the hard bit is getting away with it.”

The book revolves around Nick Stone, a secret service operative, who deliberately bungles an assassination in London when he sees the age of the target. Scruples have no place in the grab bag of an assassin. Unfortunately, his superiors still want the killing to take place and Stone is told to complete his mission by the end of the week, or otherwise his 11-year-old ward will be exterminated. He is left with no option, it seems, other than to acquiesce.

The mission takes him to the Central American jungle where you walk and crawl through the jungle with Nick Stone, enduring the mosquitoes and the mud. McNab does not allow you to skip over the pages, you have to digest them - fully! You lie on the jungle floor with Nick Stone as he tries to convert an out of date family heirloom rifle into a sniper’s killing weapon. Stone works in a business where nothing can be left to chance. A business you and I could never do, but fascinates you with its horror.

This is a most unsociable book. After the third page you resent anyone or anything that takes you away from it, be that children, spouses or the neighbourhood dog. If you’ve heard the phrase “You can’t put this book down” you will find it was written about this particular publication. Totally riveting narrative, so it is no wonder that the author receives the attention of the literary publishing hounds.

Much of his skill is in his detailed descriptions, but at the same time doing this with a new twist. Describing the condensation dripping from the air conditioning system of a car as a poodle sized piss puddle for me says it all. You know how big instantly. In another passage he describes a tropical rainstorm with the rain bouncing up off the road and wetting his shoulder as he sits in a vehicle with the window down. Anyone who has watched our rains in the wet season will know exactly what he is recounting.

The review copy was made available by Bookazine with an RRP of 350 baht, and should be available at all major book outlets. If you are fan of Andy McNab then do not miss this one. If you have never read his work, here’s your opportunity, but be warned, as well as being unsociable, the book is addictive! A great read, but not for the squeamish!


Music CD Reviews: Stackridge - The Man In The Bowler Hat

by Mott the Dog

***** 5 Stars Rating

Stackridge was a collection of like-minded English West Country eccentrics comprising a former timber yard labourer, a bookshop assistant, a cleaner in a birdseed factory, a bricklayer, a bus conductor and a professional inventor, whose musical influences encompass everything from “Mozart to Road Drills”. They had built up a very solid dedicated live following and released two albums, the second of which, “Friendliness”, had delighted the critics and hardcore fans, but had continued to bemuse the listening public at large, leaving the band’s quest for world musical dominance rather hanging out in the wind.

But in mid 1973 the band’s record label, MCA Record ensconced them in London’s Air Studios with ex-Beatles producer George Martin (Stackridge was the first band that Martin worked with after “The Beatles”, whose influence can be heard here on all the songs on this fine album “Man In The Bowler Hat”).

On the stage Stackridge split into two definite factions, the serious minded of the band, shall we say the working musicians Warren, Walter and Sparkle, whilst the other three - let’s just call them the Nutters - down the front. Stage shows included lots of ludicrously easy repetitive dance steps (“Do The Stanley”), the bashing together of giant dustbin lids (“Let There Be Lids”), general chaos and mayhem, mass audience participation singing, clapping, stomping, with some loony like Sandilands down the front leaping about with a giant leek. Great fun. No wonder they were probably the most popular band on the college circuit in the early seventies.

But “The Man In The Bowler Hat” was definitely “make or break” time. In the studio the two factions of the live show would join forces and each member made an equal contribution, and with Martin as producer the band was definitely concentrating on making their “Magnum Opus”. Working on the melodic and rhythmic patterns and in particular the harmonies, the resultant album, which was released in February 1974, whilst full of recognizable Stackridge trademarks (strong beat, massive use of instrument not normally associated with Rock ‘n’ Roll, and plenty of extravagant titles) had strong echoes of the Fab Four and marked the artistic and creative peak of the band on record, including “The Galloping Gaucho” and the ambitious “God Speed The Plough”.

Unfortunately, after this it all went dramatically pear-shaped with Mutter Slater being the first to leave, hating the idea of trying to create this album on stage amid the chaos of their live show. Within six months only Andy Davis was left from this line up. Today their music still exudes and evokes warmth, joy, happiness, and a welter of memories, real and imagined, and therein lays their lasting success, the ability to stand out from the crowd and create clever songs with witty lyrics and highly original arrangements.

Goodbye Stackridge, it was a blast. And all together now

“C’mon and Stanley

Lets all do the Stanley now”.

Musicians

Andy Davis - guitars, keyboards, percussion, singing

Mutter Slater - flute, keyboards, percussion, singing

Mike Evans - violin, singing

Billy Sparkle - drums

James Warren - guitars, singing

Crun Walter - bass guitar

Track Listing

1. Fundamentally Yours

2. Pinafore Days

3. The Last Plimsoll

4. To The Sun And The Moon

5. The Road To Venezuela

6. The Galloping Gaucho

7. Humiliation

8. Dangerous Bacon

9. The Indifferent Hedgehog

10. God Speed The Plough

11. Do The Stanley

12. C’est La Vie

13. Let There Be Lids

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]