I bring you a book that appealed to me for a variety of reasons. I hope you find it interesting as well.
Battle of Britain Broadcaster: Charles Gardner, Radio Pioneer and WWII Pilot by Robert Gardner
In 1936 Charles Gardner joined the BBC as a sub-editor in its news department. Shortly afterwards, he was joined by Richard Dimbleby and together they became the very first BBC news correspondents. They covered everything from shipwrecks to fires, floods to air raid precautions and, in Garner’s’ case, new aircraft. Their exploits became legendary and they laid down the first principles of news broadcasting – of integrity and impartiality – still followed today. With the outbreak of war Charles Gardner became one of the first BBC war correspondents and was posted to France to cover the RAF’s AASF (Advanced Air Strike Force). He made numerous broadcasts interviewing many fighter pilots after engagements with the Germans and recalling stories of raids, bomb attacks and eventually the Blitzkrieg when they all were evacuated from France. When he got home he wrote a book AASF which was one of the first books on the Second World War to be published. In late 1940 he was commissioned in the RAF as a pilot and flew Catalina flying boats of Coastal Command. After support missions over the Atlantic protecting supply convoys from America, his squadron was deployed to Ceylon which was under threat from the Japanese navy. Gardner was at the controls when he was the first to sight the Japanese fleet and report back its position. Gardner was later recruited by Lord Mountbatten, to help report the exploits of the British 14th Army in Burma. He both broadcast and filed countless reports of their astonishing bravery in beating the Japanese in jungle conditions and monsoon weather. After the war, Gardner became the BBC air correspondent from 1946-1953. As such, he became known as The Voice of the Air,’ witnessing and recording the greatest days in British aviation history. But Perhaps he will best be remembered for his 1940 eye-witness account of an air battle over the English Channel when German dive bombers unsuccessfully attacked a British convoy but were driven off by RAF fighters. At the time it caused a national controversy. Some complained about his commentary being like a football match,’ and not an air battle where men’s lives were at stake. That broadcast is still played frequently today.
Robert Gardner, Charles Gardner’s son, worked as a journalist for four years before moving into public relations with the British Aircraft Corporation becoming Head of Publicity and later Vice President of British Aerospace and BAE Systems. He is the author of From Bouncing Bombs to Concorde – The Authorised Biography of Sir George Edwards. Robert Gardner, who is now retired, was appointed MBE in 2001.
I thank Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for providing me a hardback review copy of this book that I freely chose to review.
What initially intrigued me about this book was the mention of Charles Gardner’s career as a broadcaster for the BBC. I am a fan of radio and as a volunteer at local radio stations for the last few years (first on Penistone FM, in the UK, and now on Sants 3 Ràdio, here in Barcelona), I wanted to read about an important pioneer’s experiences. When I read more about Gardner and his career, both with the BBC and also as a pilot and collaborator with the British Aircraft Corporation, I wanted to know more.
This is a book, written by the son of the protagonist, and as such, it has the virtue of including plenty of personal details and memories that are not easily available anywhere else. Charles Gardner wrote and published books about WWII and about aviation and aircraft, and we have access to many of his broadcasts and articles —and there are excerpts of those in the book as well— but the author has had privileged access to materials such as notebooks, letters, and also, of course, to stories he heard first-hand and lived, and that makes this a much rarer opportunity for those interested in the story of this pioneer, a man who loved the news, journalism, and also planes and flying, to the point that he decided to learn to fly and that would influence his later career in the BBC and also his time in WWII.
This book highlights some events, like Gardner’s life broadcasting of an air-battle between British and German planes in 1940 (a first, and somewhat controversial broadcasting), his friendships (Richard Dimbleby, New Zealand pilot ‘Cobber’ Kain, with Sir George Edwards, his connection to Lord Mountbatten…), his time broadcasting in France and following the RAF before enlisting as a pilot and being involved in actions in Europe and later in East Asia (Ceylon and Burma)… There is also content about his return to the BBC after the war and a chapter about a royal secret and Gardner’s involvement in it (and yes, it concerns Elizabeth, a princess then, and Philip, her future husband. Yes, romance is involved as well). I loved the details about the beginning of Gardner’s journalistic career at the Nuneaton Tribune and the Leicester Mercury and also the account of the first years with the BBC, that reminded me very much of what is like to report on local news: you might be covering an anniversary even today, the opening of a new facility tomorrow, and interviewing some local celebrity the next day. The difficulties he and Richard Dimbleby had trying to broadcast from France and getting access to a broadcasting vehicle highlights how different things were (we were not all connected then), and I loved the inclusion of snippets of how the family was experiencing the same events (his wife and his growing number of children moved a number of times to follow him during the war, and those stories make for great reading material in their own right).
The book also includes many black and white photos of Gardner, his family, the locations… There is an index and detailed notes and resources for each chapter.
This is a great read and a book I recommend to people interested in Charles Gardner, in the history of the radio, news reporting, BBC and media in the UK, in WWII history, particularly the RAF, and in British aviation in general.
You might want to check this article by the author where he talks about his father and about this book.
Thanks to Pen & Sword and to the author for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and especially, keep safe and keep smiling (even under the mask). ♥
I’m still trying to catch up with some of the reviews I haven’t posted yet, and as I was checking, it struck me that two books by two very well-known authors (one who has unfortunately left us since I read the book) had Zero in their titles, and I couldn’t resist to bring them together. I’m not sure there’s much to link them otherwise (one of the writers is Italian, the other from the US, the themes are in no way related, nor are their styles) although it’s true that both of these books are perhaps fairly different to their usual novels. Whatever the reason, here they are.
Numero Zero by Umberto Eco
From the best-selling author of The Name of the Rose and The Prague Cemetery, a novel about the murky world of media politics, conspiracy, and murder
A newspaper committed to blackmail and mud slinging, rather than reporting the news.
A paranoid editor, walking through the streets of Milan, reconstructing fifty years of history against the backdrop of a plot involving the cadaver of Mussolini’s double.
The murder of Pope John Paul I, the CIA, red terrorists handled by secret services, twenty years of bloodshed, and events that seem outlandish until the BBC proves them true.
A fragile love story between two born losers, a failed ghost writer, and a vulnerable girl, who specializes in celebrity gossip yet cries over the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh. And then a dead body that suddenly appears in a back alley in Milan.
Set in 1992 and foreshadowing the mysteries and follies of the following twenty years, Numero Zero is a scintillating take on our times from the best-selling author of The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum.
Here my review:
Numero Zero by Umberto Eco. Satire, conspiracy, politics, media… although not sure it’s a novel.
Thanks to Net Galley and to Vintage Digital for offering me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve read some of the reviews by many readers who have followed Eco’s literary career. All seem to agree that this book cannot compare to some of the other novels he’s written, although some like it nonetheless, whilst others are disparaging of it.
For me, Umberto Eco is a writer who’s always been on my bucket list but never quite made it (or perhaps I read The Name of the Rose translated to Spanish many years back, but as I don’t remember it, I’ll assume I didn’t). When I saw this opportunity I decided not to miss it.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but Numero Zero is quite different from anything I had imagined.
The beginning of the book is very intriguing, and it presents a writer/translator (Colonna) who swiftly explains his current situation. He is convinced that somebody has entered his house and he is in fear for his life.
Following this introduction to the main character, Colonna goes back to describe how he got there. The background to his current situation is what forms most of the novel, and we only return to the original point very late in the book (when there are only a few pages left).
Colonna describes himself as a loser and he has accepted a very strange job: to record the memoirs of a man who is setting up a newspaper, Domani. Only the newspaper will never get published, and the whole project is a way of manipulating contacts, allies and enemies by a third interested party.
There are descriptions of the reporters, a motley crew, fairly quirky, but none particularly talented or known. The ones we get to know more about are Braggadocio, who’s always investigating some conspiracy or other (eventually coming to the conclusion that it is all part of a single huge conspiracy, involving Mussolini, the Vatican, the CIA, European governments…), and the only woman, Maia, who has a very special personality, but seems the only one with some sense of ethics and morals. By a strange process of osmosis, Colonna and Maia end up in a relationship, the one bright and hopeful point of the whole novel, however, weird the coupling seems.
Rather than well-developed characters and situations, Numero Zero seems an exercise in exposing current society (although the story is set in 1992), the press, media, politics… and their lack of substance. Also the lack of interest in serious stories by the population at large, and our collective poor memory. As a satire I enjoyed it enormously, and although most of the characters experience no change (we don’t get too attached to them either, as they seem to be mostly just two-dimensional beings representing a single point of view), I thought Maia become more realistic, cynical and enlightened by the end of the book. And I found Colonna’s final reflection about Italy hilarious. (No offence to Italy. I think all the countries are going the same way if not there already. I’m Spanish and I definitely had to nod).
I agree with many of the comments that the disquisitions and tirades of Braggadocio are relentless, but reflect a paranoid character (and perhaps, although he accuses Maia of being autistic, there is more than a bit of obsessiveness in his personality), the comments about the newspaper, how to write articles, and the press I found illuminating (yes, and funny), and overall I enjoyed the book, although as I said, it’s not my idea of a novel.
So I find myself in a similar situation to when I reviewed Satin Island. I enjoyed it (not as much as Satin Island, but it made me laugh more than once), but it is a novel that’s perhaps not a novel, with not very well developed characters, and an anecdote at its heart rather than a plot. There you are. You decide if you want to read it or not. Ah, and it’s short. Paperback: $ 14.95 http://www.amazon.com/Numero-Zero-Umberto-Eco/dp/0544811836/
Zero K by Don DeLillo. The search for meaning and control
The wisest, richest, funniest, and most moving novel in years from Don DeLillo, one of the great American novelists of our time—an ode to language, at the heart of our humanity, a meditation on death, and an embrace of life.
Jeffrey Lockhart’s father, Ross, is a billionaire in his sixties, with a younger wife, Artis Martineau, whose health is failing. Ross is the primary investor in a remote and secret compound where death is exquisitely controlled and bodies are preserved until a future time when biomedical advances and new technologies can return them to a life of transcendent promise. Jeff joins Ross and Artis at the compound to say “an uncertain farewell” to her as she surrenders her body.
“We are born without choosing to be. Should we have to die in the same manner? Isn’t it a human glory to refuse to accept a certain fate?”
These are the questions that haunt the novel and its memorable characters, and it is Ross Lockhart, most particularly, who feels a deep need to enter another dimension and awake to a new world. For his son, this is indefensible. Jeff, the book’s narrator, is committed to living, to experiencing “the mingled astonishments of our time, here, on earth.”
Don DeLillo’s seductive, spectacularly observed and brilliant new novel weighs the darkness of the world—terrorism, floods, fires, famine, plague—against the beauty and humanity of everyday life; love, awe, “the intimate touch of earth and sun.”
Zero K is glorious.
Thanks to Scribner and to Net Galley for providing me a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve read novels by Don DeLillo before and enjoyed them although I haven’t read all of them. I was curious to read this novel, and I’ve also noticed that Zero keeps appearing in the title of novels I’m reading these days (not sure what it says about me but…).
I’m not sure exactly what to say about this novel. On the surface, it’s a story written in the first person by a character, Jeff, who goes through a very strange experience. His wealthy father, Ross, and his stepmother, Artis, have asked him to go with them to a strange facility, the Convergence, where his stepmother, who is terminally ill, thanks to new scientific processes including cryogenics, is going to be frozen in the hope that in the future they’ll find the cure for her condition and she will live again, seemingly forever. The trip and the experience are confusing and disorienting, as not only is Jeff not sure where he is, but the compound seems designed to make people lose their bearings. Doors that aren’t really doors, rooms stripped bare, strange speeches mixing up seemingly spiritual, philosophical, religious, ecological and economic subjects with a somewhat apocalyptic and sect-like underlying message. Jeff’s father is very wealthy and has invested heavily in the programme, but Jeff isn’t quite convinced. His attempts at finding meaning in the process and get some control over it range from mentally giving names to people, inventing the background for the individuals he meets, trying to imagine their stories… In many ways, that’s the same we, as readers are asked to do. We are not expected to be simply passive receivers of a story or of a meaning but must collaborate with the author and create a joint one.
As a reader, I find it easier to connect to books and novels where I empathise or I’m very interested in its characters. In the case of the main character and guiding conscience of this novel, it’s not a straightforward process. Do we really get to know Jeff? We know how he thinks and what it feels like to be inside of his head, what his relationship with his father and his stepmother is like (at least what he thinks it’s like) and in part two we get to glimpse into a relationship he gets into, although mostly through his references to the adopted son of his girlfriend, a very special boy. Jeff is articulate, erudite, curious, a keen observer and seems to live inside of his head, but he seems to mostly react to others and to the situation analysing everything to death, rather than doing anything or deciding anything. In a way, he’s perhaps as frozen and paralysed as Artis and Ross, but they’ve made a decision, however, egotistical and self-aggrandizing it might be, while he remains the passive observer. For me, Jeff is intriguing, but not someone I feel an easy connection with or I care for. Like him, the novel is engaging at an intellectual level but not so much at an emotional one, at least for me.
This is a novel where action is not the prime component. It is beautifully written and you’ll read some passages many times, as they seem to demand analysis and ongoing exploration. I’m not sure I can say what it is about? Life and death? The future? The meaninglessness of existence? Family relationships? I don’t feel it’s DeLillo’s most accessible story, and definitely, I would not recommend it to somebody who is looking for an easy read and a good story. But if you’re interested in a challenging read and in exploring big themes and personal meanings, this might be the book for you.
Yes, you’re in the right place and I’m still sharing the prequel to my story, but as I had another post booked for Friday (a great new book) I felt I should share this book I read as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. It’s a completely different read to my own book, but I like to mix it up and I know you do too. And now…
Going Against Type by Sharon Black. A quirky romance that turns expectations on their heads
I am reviewing this novel as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I thank her and the author for providing me with a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Going Against Type is a romantic comedy that turns many conventions and expectations on their heads. The female protagonist, Charlotte, who goes by Charlie, is a sports journalist who’s always been mad about sport and wanted to be a footballer when she was younger. She still exercises regularly and loves watching and talking about sports more than anything. She’s just out of a traumatic relationship where she sacrificed her sense of self and personality for a man who never appreciated it, and she’s not keen on repeating the same mistake again. Derry, the male protagonist, is also a journalist, but he’s an expert on clothes, fashion, the arts and celebrities in general. They work for rival newspapers and somehow end up writing anonymous features where they take opposing points of views about everything. Their columns and their bickering on the page become popular, but what neither expects is the fact that opposites attract and despite their personal baggage and their different approaches to life they fall for each other, without knowing they are journalistic rivals.
The story is told in the third person, mostly from Charlie’s point of view. She is younger and less confident, still trying to establish herself as a serious sports journalist. Not only her interest in sports, but also her lack of self-awareness, dislike of fashion and shopping, and concentration in her career marks her as different to most female protagonist of what has been called chick-lit. She’s insecure, and her relationship with her friends is strong, but she’s also family-oriented, focused on her work and refuses to drop everything when a handsome man just happens to turn up. Derry is also not your usual eye-candy. Although in appearance he is a Don Juan who goes out with as many models and flashy women as he can, we later discover he’s also had bad experiences, and he’s mostly straight in his dealings with Charlie (apart from keeping from her his writing identity). Despite his reputation, if anything Derry seems a bit too good to be true (and reminded me of some comments about men in romantic novels written by women being a female fantasy rather than real men. Although that’s part of the appeal).
Not being a big sports fan in general, I was more interested in Derry’s line of work than in Charlie’s (apart from fashion, that is not my thing either), and I empathised with her doubts as to what they had in common. On the surface at least, it seems a case of opposites attract, although we do realise later in the novel that they share similar emotional experiences. Perhaps a more detailed account of their dates and time spent with each other would give the readers a better sense of their relationship and where the attraction between the two comes from. They are both likeable characters, the content of their columns —that is shared in the novel— is funny and witty, and some of their exchanges (on paper more than live) remind one of the good old classic comedies, like Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s films (although to my mind not quite as sharp). They do go to watch one of their movies at some point in the novel, that I thought it was a nice touch.
If you want a very light romantic read, set in gorgeous Dublin, with a background in the world of journalism, quick-witted and fun, with no erotica or daring sex scenes, I recommend you this novel. It’s perfect to pick up anybody’s spirit.
Here I leave you a preview if you want to have a look:
Just in case you haven’t heard I published the prequel and it’s FREE, hopefully in most places by now . (If not, please report to Amazon adding the link to one of the other sites, as they need to be informed of links in each place it seems)
Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret
How far would a writer go for a killer story? This is the question psychiatrist Mary Miller must answer to solve the first mystery/thriller of her career. You can get to know the main characters of this psychological thriller series for FREE and test your own acumen and intuition in this novella about the price of ambition.
Dr Mary Miller is a young psychiatrist suffering a crisis of vocation. Her friend Phil, a criminalist lawyer working in New York, invites her to visit him and consult on the case of a writer accused of a serious assault. His victim had been harassing him and accusing him of stealing his story, which he’d transformed into a best-selling book. The author denies the allegation and claims it was self-defence. When the victim dies, things get complicated. The threshold between truth and fiction becomes blurred and secrets and lies unfold.
Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings is the prequel to EscapingPsychiatry a volume collecting three stories where Mary and her psychiatric expertise are called to help in a variety of cases, from religious and race affairs, to the murder of a policeman, and in the last case she gets closer than ever to a serial killer.
If you enjoy this novella, don’t forget to check Mary’s further adventures. And there are more to come.
Here you can check a preview live:
But as I promised you to publish the whole of the story in my blog, here is Chapter 7. But don’t forget to download the story, to tell people about it, and if you like it, to review it too if you can. Ah, and next week, THE LAST CHAPTER!
7. Inside Knowledge
Mary put the phone down, smiling. She was convinced that Phil would be wondering how she knew Lance had left, but she doubted he’d reach the right conclusion. It was true that he didn’t know the content of the conversation she’d had with him at the Hamptons, but that wasn’t all. Sometimes his set ideas and preconceptions blinded him to what should have been evident. But that was for the best. Mary had decided, in advance, to pretend to be surprised when he gave her the news, but in the end she hadn’t managed. It was lucky he hadn’t reached the right conclusion, as Mary didn’t want to risk Phil getting into any trouble over her own decisions and behaviour.
She knew Lance had left because… Yes, because Lance had phoned her. If Phil had phoned her on Tuesday, or early on Wednesday, it would have been a genuine surprise, but Lance had phoned her on Wednesday evening. She’d just come back from a long day at work and her phone had been ringing as she walked into her apartment. She’d grabbed the phone and said, “Hello!” convinced that she was too late.
“Hello, Mary? Do you remember me?”
The voice was familiar and it took her only a few seconds to remember where from. “La… Lance? But how did you get my number?”
“Where there’s a will there’s a way. It wasn’t very difficult but I don’t want to get anybody into trouble. After our conversation on Saturday, I wanted to catch up with you.”
“You might want to take a seat.”
Mary had obeyed, wondering what he was going to tell her.
“Thinking about it, it might not come as such a big surprise to you after our chat. I left Wright’s firm on Monday morning.”
“Well, when I left on Sunday—and, by the way, sorry for not saying goodbye, but I needed time to think—I kept churning and churning everything that had happened and everything we had talked about in my head. And by the time I got home I had decided I had to do something. I needed to make amends. I had to atone for my actions and for the consequences of such actions.”
“But it wasn’t your—”
“I know, I know. I remember what you told me. Still, I felt guilty. I knew I couldn’t work with Oliver Fenton. I couldn’t defend him. And as I kept thinking about it, I realised I couldn’t carry on working in Wright’s firm, either. Similar ethics and ambition had already resulted in the death of an innocent and tortured man. It scared me to think how much more damage I could do if I carried on with that kind of work. So I went there on Monday and I just told him I was leaving, and that I cared too much about ethics and morality to carry on working there, or something of the sort. And I walked out. I had expected to feel anxious or scared or worried, but no. I just felt free.”
“What are you going to do now?”
“That’s the best of all! As soon as I walked out of the building it hit me. I am a lawyer. I’d caused terrible harm because I only cared about fame and my own reputation, but the law would help me achieve what it should really be about, Justice. So I went to the District Attorney’s Office and offered my services. My only condition was that I wanted to take up the case against Fenton. If not as principal, at least to be a part of the team. They agreed that I could be in charge, even if unofficially, under supervision.”
“And that’s the other reason why I wanted to talk to you. I wanted to give you the news, but I also wanted to talk to you about the case. If you feel you’re in a position to talk about it. I’ll understand if you think you shouldn’t, as I know your standing in the case was quite unclear.”
“I’m not sure I will be of much help, but Fenton refused to be assessed, and other than my opinion about his mental health, there’s no documentation or a contract or a report that I have put my name to. I guess it would all be considered hearsay and would not stand up in court. Personally, I don’t think of him as a client, and although Percy Wright said he wanted to work with me in the future, nothing was formalised. And there was no exchange of money. Talking about such matters, how can you go from one side to the other? Isn’t there the issue of privileged information, et cetera?”
“Well, officially the DA will be the one running the show. And as Wright had insisted that he had overall responsibility, I am not listed in the documentation. It’s Percy Wright and team. Well, as you might have noticed, that’s the way he works. There might be issues later on, but we are hopeful that Fenton might plead guilty and that would save everybody a lot of time and effort.”
“In exchange for a reduced charge?”
“No… Perhaps a slightly reduced sentence.”
They were both quiet for a few seconds. Eventually Mary had to ask, “You said you wanted to talk to me about the case. As I told you, I’m not sure I’ll be of any help but ask and we’ll see.”
“I noticed from your reply to Mrs Roberts on Saturday, and from our later conversation, that you didn’t seem particularly sympathetic to Fenton’s version of events. From the little I know of you, I had the sense that although you might not like the guy personally, there was something else behind it.”
Mary had been wondering why she felt as she did about Fenton, too. “It’s nothing major, but we did have a brief conversation that at the time gave me pause, and later I’ve been replaying in my head.”
“When he heard about the assessment, he decided that I wanted to know about his childhood, and he gave me a quick version of his biography. OK, it was brief, so it’s possible he decided to leave it out, but considering he’d talked about it in such detail and it was so central to his book, he never mentioned having worked on a phone helpline.”
“Then I asked him if he had any hypothesis as to why Miles Green might have thought he’d based the book on him. I suggested that perhaps the details fitted him and he said that wasn’t his fault. And he added, ‘And I didn’t write about him. Or about…’ I had the feeling he stopped himself from saying something else, something incriminating. But I’m not sure what. Although I wonder—”
“I told Phil, when I finished reading the novel, that it didn’t ring true to me. Not sure why, but it doesn’t.”
Lance was quiet for what seemed like a long time.
“I told you I didn’t have anything specific or that could be used in a court of law,” Mary said.
“Oh, I think you’re wrong on that. Anything else?”
“I wasn’t very convinced about the timing. He was talking as if Green had been harassing him non-stop for a long time, but it hadn’t been that long. Ah, and he mentioned an injunction, but I’m sure nobody had talked about it. At least whilst I was present. The first time Percy and the team interrogated him, he mentioned the police and said they had told him to reveal his source, but nothing else. It’s probably nothing. I’m basing all that on impressions, a brief conversation with him that he was reluctant to engage in, and a couple of other interactions with you all.”
“You’re a gold mine. I’m in your debt.”
“I just hope justice is served.”
“I’ll be in touch. If you don’t mind.”
“Of course not. Good luck!”
Just in case you’ve missed any of the previous chapters, here are the links:
If you’re intrigued and you haven’t caught up with the three others stories I’ve published featuring Mary and Phil, I just wanted to remind you that Escaping Psychiatry is available for only $0.99 only until the end of February. Rather than give you the description, you can have a look a read and preview it directly from here:
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