*WARNING - IN THE INTERESTS OF FULL DISCLOSURE BOB CORDERY, THE AUTHOR, IS A PERSONAL FRIEND WHO I HAVE KNOWN AND WARGAMED WITH FOR MANY YEARS*
At last Bob has completely revised his source book on the Spanish Civil War. This is the third edition and the book, although primarily aimed at wargamers, has now become simply a "Spanish Civil War Military Source Book". And the author is self publishing.
Bob has been researching, wargaming and writing about the SCW for a long time. Probably as long as I've known him, which is over 30 years. So there's a lot of work gone into this book.
Physically the book is hardback with a dust jacket, and has 276 pages. At £25 it isn't cheap or expensive, and for what it contains it's worth the money. As Bob is self publishing don't hang around waiting for Dave Lanchester or Dave Ryan to pick up a load of copies and discount to £10. They're being printed on demand
The book is a source book, exactly as it says. It is a series of sections packed with facts and figures. The sections of text in amongst the tables of armaments and units are clearly written and unambiguous. There are 6 sections and a Bibliography:
1) Political parties and main events chronology
2) The Armies of the SCW (divided by type & faction)
3) The Navies of the SCW
4) The Air Forces of the SCW
5) Police and security forces
6) Uniform guide.
Each of the sections is thoroughly researched and supported by appropriate pictures and illustrations. The only false step, in my opinion, is the use of photos of 54mm wargames figures in the uniforms section. Although I understand why Bob has done this, I never like the look of these types of pictures, particularly as they are embedded in the text and not on glossy paper, in this case, so some definition is lost. Still they serve a purpose and so on balance the book is better with them than without.
I think it is hard to stress how good some of this book is. All of it is good, but the section that gives a chronology of the main events is exceptionally clear and coherent. That isn't an easy feat to perform for the SCW, and it stands comparison with any other summary I have read, including those by the very well known historians in the bibliography. The mass of data assembled on weapons and units is breath taking in the details and thoroughness. I can't think of another book like it for any period I'm interested in.
I only have a couple of other reservations, - or rather, areas where I think Bob might have missed a trick. His descriptions of low level unit organisations are okay for the regular armies but unnecessarily weak for the security forces. I'm a fan of wiring diagrams showing battalions broken down into companies and so on. This isn't always possible for SCW units due to the ad-hoc nature of the war, but Bob has the information and it would have enhanced the look of the book. The other point is a pet peeve of mine. The bibliography includes Hemingway's "For Whom..." but ignores Andre Malraux's "Days of Hope" ("L'espoir"). I think the latter is a much better book in terms of writing and also description of the war itself (admittedly from the air) and tends to get overlooked by Anglophile authors. Seek it out on Abebooks and read it. There's a Penguin edition. There's also a lot more self-published International Brigade memoirs from the 1990s (Bob has some of the Gosling Press stuff listed) about and finding it isn't easy. Knowing it exists is a start.
All of these reservations are nitpicking, and I only mention them because of the disclaimer at the top. Bob is a friend and I don't want people to dismiss this review on the grounds that I would say that, wouldn't I. Well, I've paid for my own copy and I've tried to be thorough. In summary:
*****5 Stars - Buy this book NOW