Most wargamers have a lead or plastic mountain. You know, that collection of figures and equipment bought with the best intentions of really getting stuck in and finishing off but then Real Life happens so you never have enough time but you have a chance to go to a show which you do because you feel like you deserve it because you’ve been so busy what with one thing and another and you see another lovely collection in a period you’ve always wanted to do so you have to buy them and you end up with a really big pile of figures to paint when you haven’t finished the last lot so you just add them to the pile and end up with the longest run on sentence you’ve ever written. Or not.
I suspect board wargamers have the same problem. I had it in the 1970’s when I was an SPI / Strategy & Tactics subscriber. Games came every two months which I never had time to learn, plus I was going out and buying other games as well. And within my group of gaming friends we only ever had one copy of any given game so learning the rules fell on to one person and then we’d all drink too much to understand what was going on so it was just easier to go off and play Kingmaker on the grounds it was brilliant and we all understood it.*
I fear I may be getting this problem with books. I keep an eye on subjects I’m interested in through www.Abebooks.co.uk and also the Amazon market place and when books drop to a price I’m prepared to pay I buy them. Last year I made it worse by spending several days in Hay on Wye as I wrote about at the time (http://wargaming4grownups.blogspot.com/2010/09/trebians-birthday-blog.html). It’s nearly 12 months on from then and a few of the books I bought still haven’t been read (mostly the stuff on the War of Spanish Succession). And in the interim I’ve acquired quite a few more volumes, mostly on the SCW, but also some old friends from university days I lost track of and books I’ve always wanted to read (Lucy Hutchinson’s English Civil War memoir, for example).
The book I’m reading at the moment is making this situation worse. I am working my way through Hugh Thomas’ epic study of the Spanish Civil War, which runs to over 1,000 pages. Of course as it is a serious historical tome it has its fair share of footnotes, which in this instance are actually printed at the foot of each page, rather than being consigned to the back of the book as is the current fashion. This makes it easier to follow the references, - sometimes when I get engrossed in a book I stop flicking to the back to check the footnotes, - but when they’re at the bottom of the page, well……
Thomas’ footnotes are quite good as well, telling you not just the source but also indicating its importance and so on. So I’ve been reading the book then thinking “Oh…that book looks interesting…perhaps I should read it as well…”. Then I go off to Abebooks and find it’s at a reasonable price and then…
If you’ve been following this blog for a while you may know that I’ve been concerned about the fact that my contemporary sources for the SCW are mostly Republican and mostly British. Well, I’ve managed to address the latter but not the former through the purchase of an English translation of Andre Malraux’s “L’espoir”, a novel that tracks the fortunes of an IB unit or two in the early years of the war. Apparently it is reckoned to be the best novel of the SCW, beating “For Whom…” by Hemingway. I read Malraux’s novel about the Chinese Revolution (“La Condition Humaine”) for A Level and really enjoyed it, so I hope I’m in for a treat with this one.
Then I found a reference to a book on the SCW written by the Daily Mail’s foreign correspondent, Harold Cardoza . He followed the Nationalists around (I’ve referred to him before – he’s the one that told Peter Kemp that Guernica was a hoax perpetrated by the Republicans, - see blog http://wargaming4grownups.blogspot.com/2011/07/englishman-for-franco.html) and wrote a book about his experiences. I’ve managed to track down a 1938 edition published by the “Right Book Club” so I’m awaiting that eagerly.
Having done this I then came across a reference to a book written at the same time, published by the “Left Book Club”. This one was written by the delightfully named Frank Jellinek, who was the special correspondent of the Manchester Guardian (as it was then known). He, as you might guess, was working in the Republican zone. And there’s a copy on Abebooks that’s just about within my target price range.
Well, you’ve got to, really, haven’t you? So that’s three more books on the book mountain.
Will I ever learn? Will I ever buy a Kindle? Will I fill my children’s rooms with books when they leave home? Will I ever buy as many books as Mrs T?
Stayed tuned for answers to these, and other questions. Perhaps.
* I don’t buy board wargames now. In fact I don’t buy a lot of proprietary games at all. However I have got my name down for Warfrog/Treefrog’s forthcoming Discworld board game called “Ankh-Morpork”. I saw the designer, Martin Wallace, demonstrating it a CoW in 2010 and, in some small way, helped push it along. It looked to play really well, and the quality of the artwork is stunning. An absolute must have for anyone who has a birthday in September or is intending to celebrate Christmas this year or any other gift giving festival.