Monty: His Part in My Victory

This is the third book in Spike Milligan’s war memoirs (volume 1; volume 2). Combat has now died down in Africa, and no one is ready to be shipped to a new field of combat yet. The troops are therefore getting bored. Suddenly the establishment recalls that Milligan can play the trumpet and the band reforms. Most of this book is spent being shuffled between army staging areas, and performing music. Regardless of little “happening”, still an engaging read.

Monty: His Part in My Victory
The War -- And Peace -- Memoirs
Spike Milligan

Rommel? Gunner Who?

At the end of the previous Spike Milligan war memoir, Spike and his comrades had just been packed up into a ship to start travelling to Africa to engage the Nazis. This book picks up straight from there are follows them from first arrival in Africa to their first experiences of combat. Spike fought in the Battle of Longstop Hill, where his artillery unit played a part in victory. Along the way Spike loses his first close friend to enemy fire.

Spike has an amazing talent for taking a tough subject and making it interesting and light hearted. Its not disrespectful, but shows that there were moments of levity in difficult times. Much like the previous book this one was very readable and I enjoyed it.

"Rommel?" "Gunner Who?" Book Cover "Rommel?" "Gunner Who?"
The War -- And Peace -- Memoirs
Spike Milligan
Authors, English
Penguin UK

'Keep talking, Milligan. I think I can get you out on Mental Grounds.''That's how I got in, sir.''Didn't we all.' The second volume of Spike Milligan's legendary recollections of life as a gunner in World War Two sees our hero into battle in North Africa - eventually. First, there is important preparation to be done: extensive periods of loitering ('We had been standing by vehicles for an hour and nothing had happened, but it happened frequently'), psychological toughening ('If a man dies when you hang him, keep hanging him until he gets used to it') and living dangerously ('no underwear!'). At last the battle for Tunis is upon them . . .

Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall

This is another book I read as a teenager and decided to re-read. Frankly, its great. Confused teenager signs up for the British Army (or is conscripted, its not totally clear) and ends up as an artillery gunner. Has hilarious adventures while managing to still be a scrawny nerd. I loved it. A light hearted look at a difficult topic.

Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall
The War -- And Peace -- Memoirs
Spike Milligan


I’ve had a bit of a thing about biographies recently, having just read the very good The Crossroad by Mark Donaldson. This book is a very different story, but I think still quite interesting. Kellie was a country girl with no real plans and an impulse control problem. While the book follows her formative years as she parties across Australia in a generally northern direction, I think the underlying story about growing up and finding your way in the world is quite interesting.

Is this great literature while will enlighten the masses? Probably not. Was it a fun read on a flight and mostly about a teenager with no direction finding her place in the world? Yes.

Skimpy Book Cover Skimpy
Kellie Arrowsmith
Country life
July 28, 2015

Kellie Arrowsmith was a country girl whose idea of a hairdo was tying a ponytail whenever she wanted to go horse riding. But in her early twenties she left her sleepy hometown of Albury on the NSW/Victoria border for the bright lights of the Gold Coast, and soon found herself working in a succession of unexciting jobs just to keep up with her now-glamorous lifestyle. After spending two years as a frazzled receptionist for an adult entertainment agency, Kellie decided to stop booking the jobs and start taking them. So it was that she found herself travelling to Gove, a mining town in East Arnhem Land, where she had her first stint as a skimpy: a barmaid who wears not much clothing for big money. Skimpies can work in the NT, in WA, in the Hunter Valley of NSW - wherever there's a bunch of blokes with a fly-in fly-out lifestyle who enjoy a cold beer at the end of their shift. Kellie thought her new job would take her all round the country, but she hadn't planned on falling in love - not with Dave, a rough-and-tumble outback character with a big heart and the world's worst four-wheel-drive, and not with the Northern Territory way of life. But she did, and instead of diamonds and dust, Kellie got crocodiles and denim cut-offs - and a whole lot of stories to tell about a side of outback life that's a long way off the beaten track.

The Crossroad

Written by a Victoria Cross recipient, this is the true story of a messed up kid who made something of himself. Mark’s dad died of cancer when he was young, and his mum was murdered. Mark then went through a period of being a burden on society, breaking windows for fun and generally being a pain in the butt. But then one day he decided to join the army…

This book is very well written, and super readable. I enjoyed it a lot, and I think its an important lesson about how troubled teenagers are sometimes that way because of pain in their past, and can often still end up being a valued contributor to society. I have been recommending this book to pretty much everyone I meet since I started reading it.

The Crossroad Book Cover The Crossroad
Mark Donaldson
Afghan War, 2001-
August 1, 2014

On 2 September 2008, in eastern Afghanistan, Trooper Mark Donaldson made a split-second decision that would change his life. His display of extraordinary courage saw him awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia, making him the first Australian to receive our highest award for bravery since 1969. Yet Mark's journey to those crucial moments was almost as exceptional as the acts that led to his VC. He was rebellious even before the death of his father in his mid-teens. A few years later, his mother disappeared, presumed murdered. Mark's lifestyle could have easily led him further down the path of self-destructiveness and petty crime. But he took a different road: the army. It proved to be his salvation. He found himself a natural soldier, progressing to the SAS, the peak of the Australian military.'One of the most impressive memoirs published by a serving member of the Australian military'WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN 'This is not some public relations puff piece, this is a heartfelt work by a substantial man' HERALD SUN'A mature and generous account, revealing of himself and Australia's longest war, still poorly understood at home' Chris Masters, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD'The transformation from zero to hero that Donaldson describes... is testament to what can be achieved through sheer determination' WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN

Don’t Tell Mum I Work On The Rigs

I read this book while on a flight a few weeks ago. Its surprisingly readable and relatively short — you can knock it over in a single long haul flight. The book covers the memoirs of an oil rig worker, from childhood right through to middle age. That’s probably the biggest weakness of the book, it just kind of stops when the writer reaches the present day. I felt there wasn’t really a conclusion, which was disappointing.

An interesting fun read however.

Don't Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs, She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse Book Cover Don't Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs, She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse
Paul Carter
Biography & Autobiography
Allen & Unwin
May 1, 2006

A take no prisoners' approach to life has seen Paul Carter heading to some of the world's most remote, wild and dangerous places as a contractor in the oil business. Amazingly, he's survived (so far) to tell these stories from the edge of civilization, and reason.

Some Girls: My Life in a Harem

This is the memoir of a Jewish girl from New York who ends up working in the Harem of a Prince of Brunei. Its not so much a story about Harem life, although that’s mentioned in places. Its more about Jillian’s psychological journey, her troubled childhood, and working out who she is in the world. Worryingly, that final issue isn’t really resolved in the book, which is frustrating. The book is surprisingly readable, and you genuinely start to care about Jillian along the way, even if a few of her decisions seem pretty suboptimal to me. A good read.

[isbn: 0452296315]

The Man in the Rubber Mask

I’d been looking for this book for ages, as it is quite rare, so it was exciting to find it at Gould’s the other day. This is the memoir of the dude inside the rubber mask that Kryten wears in Red Dwarf. The book is an easy read, and entertaining, although I wouldn’t call it funny. Most of the book focuses on how terribly horrible it is to be encased in rubber day after day while shooting a comedy in terrible locations. Oh, and Robert is slightly insecure which doesn’t help.

Overall I’m glad I found this book, and glad I read it again.

[isbn: 0140235752]

The Spy Within

LibraryThing, of which I am a member runs a program where members are shipped early copies of books for free, with the preference for them writing a review when they’re done reading the book. The books are shipped by the publisher directly to the reviewers. This isn’t that uncommon in the publishing industry — both of my books have experienced a similar process, although less formal.

(In fact, any very early review of a book on a site light should be viewed with a little bit of caution I suppose. These people probably got their review copies for free from the publisher.)

LibraryThing’s implementation is a little different though, mainly because of the scale at which they hand out books, and the fact that the publishers don’t appear to get any direct say in who gets the books. That means that there is less incentive to write a positive review, and that more people get access to early copies of new books. You can see a list of the books LibraryThing is currently handing out here.

The Spy Within is the true story of a senior CIA agent who turned out to also be a Chinese spy. Its the first book I’ve received through the early review program, so I am still learning the ropes and have sat on this book for a few weeks before actually reading it.

As I said earlier, this is the “true story” a senior Chinese spy within the CIA. However, it should be noted that large portions of the book are pure speculation — inserted simply to make the story more readable. In addition, as with all such works, the book is based on a limited number of interviews, and is subject to the biases of those who provide source material.

This kind of book isn’t really my thing, and I would read less one one non-fiction contemporary history book a year. However, I found this to be an engaging read, especially because the books manuscript flows much like a novel. However, the story simply wasn’t that gripping (so, Larry Chin was a dick, I get it). Its hard for non-fiction to compete with fantasy for story lines I suppose.

[isbn: 1586421484]