The Worst Book I've Ever Read? "Medieval Military Combat", a Book Review

When this came out, I was a tad excited. The blurb suggested that the author was going to do a drains up review of how medieval combat actually worked, and that he had an appropriately sceptical approach to the vastly inflated numbers quoted for the battles in the Wars of the Roses. According to his Wikipedia entry, Tom Lewis is an Australian modern day polymath, with careers in the armed forces, as a military intelligence analyst, as a teacher and as a military historian (although the book notes he does not have a history degree, his Masters being in American Science Fiction and Cold War Politics). He has written quite a few books covering the period of WW2 and after. This is his first medieval history book, and for all of the title it really focusses on combat in the Wars of the Roses in England

A friend dropped me off a copy a week or so ago. He'd been unimpressed with what he'd read. I went and checked the Amazon reviews page. There was one review at the time. It concluded:

"In short, this is a very silly book, based on some fundamentally ahistorical readings of the fifteenth century, and it doesn’t really add much of value to our understanding of the Wars of the Roses."*

Well. That's fairly damning. The review was written by David Grummitt, who is a professional historian with publications on a range of subjects, both military and medieval. Since then there's another review, which suggests that even before you get to David's criticisms there are fundamental issues with the book.

Still, I thought I'd better give it a go, seeing as I now had a copy. I have to say that my reaction is very mixed. This book is a massive own goal; an opportunity thrown away. It is marred by several things. It has large numbers of errors. It is plagued by false assumptions. The writer's lack of familiarity with pre-industrial period combat makes his use of analogy across different periods patchy and inappropriate. And much as I respect anyone who puts on a uniform and fights for his country, I don't need to be reminded every other page or so, in a style which borders on arrogance and hubris, that you've done your bit. 

As for the book itself, lets start with the bad, and work our way up to the bits that are worth looking at. 

Firstly, I have to say this is a book from Casemate, who are stable mates to Helion. It exhibits similar signs of a complete lack of independent proof reading, or the services of a commissioning editor or a sub editor**. This does not do it any favours. There are more typos than you'd expect in a book of 240 pages, priced at over £20.

Let's start with the commissioning of the book. It is patently obvious that the author knows a lot about modern warfare, and not a lot about medieval warfare. All of his examples come from later periods. In a section on loyalty and of leadership he talks about how men in combat bond, and how they are led. The section, which runs to ten pages, contains examples exclusively from WW2 and after. They may be appropriate. I'd have liked some from earlier sources. How about how Caesar grabbed a shield and fought in the front line at the Sambre? How about Alexander? How about Richard CdL in the Crusades? As L.P. Hartley wrote "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there". The way medieval armies were formed and trained was different to now. The length of campaigns in the Wars of the Roses are short, and the armies often ad hoc. Does that make a difference?

So, the first thing the commissioning editor, or even a friend should have told him was "Tim, great idea for a book. Can we cut out the modern stuff and get in more from the period the book's about? One or two anachronistic items is fine. Half a book of it looks like you don't know anything about the period".

Secondly, let's talk about the style. This is an "Aunt Sally" book. The structure is set up to show that all you know is wrong, and then dazzle the reader with the writer's insights. Not a problem - it's a commonly used style, although it can be insulting to the intelligence of an informed reader (and note, this is a really specialist book, from a specialist publisher, aimed at a specialist reader). Even so, it can work, unless it shows that the writer was the one who was deluded. The main Aunt Sally chapter, entitled "Misunderstanding Medieval Tactics, Armour and Weapons Through Modern Books and Movies", which is a mercifully short 8 pages, tells the reader that everything they know is wrong, because film makers make mistakes. Really? And I thought "Excalibur" was a documentary (seriously, no one watches Excalibur then thinks you can have sex whilst wearing a full suit of plate armour). The list of films not only includes Excalibur, but Henry V, and the well known historical epics "Lord of the Rings" and "Prince Caspian". Sorry, in a specialist work trying to re-write what we know you need to be having a go at what other historians have written, not what John Boorman or Kenneth Branagh stuck up on celluloid.

Thirdly, lets looks at factual errors in the text. Firstly, Anne Curry is a historian, not an archaeologist. The film Excalibur was made in 1981, not 1991***. Edward IV is described (twice) as leading an invasion of France in 1453, when he would have been 11. Which is 7-8 years before he becomes king after the battle of Towton in 1461, where he is 18, not 19 as the text states. The Battle of Bosworth opens with a cavalry charge (really???). His out of period stuff isn't always spot on either, as he claims that Marlborough's Dragoons his "Heaviest cavalry of all" had become...well, here's a photo of the paragraph, as it is so mind boggling muddle headed you need to see the original; 


No you *7!*%^$ idiot. Dragoons were mounted infantry that became heavy cavalry, not the other way round.

There's more, have a look at this: 


I accept he probably hasn't read my book on Edgcote, as he may have been writing this when I was writing mine, so may not have had access, but in these 9 lines there are 6 facts. All of them are wrong (we'll forgive him the spelling of "Edgecote").

1) The "Yorkists" were not on top in the early stages of the battle. The Yorkists at the battle are actually Royalists (see note below). There were no "early stages", the day before, just a brush between pickets.

2) Sir Henry Neville was not beheaded. We do not know how he died, but it was in the heat of combat, after he'd asked for quarter. 

3) Even if he was, it wasn't on the orders of the Earl of Pembroke. Pembroke was in Banbury when these skirmishes occurred (which the author knows, having referred to it as a "village" previously - it isn't; it's a major market town at the time).

4) There were no Lancastrians at the battle as such. As it came about through a split between Edward IV and Warwick, they are at best both Yorkists, but now you'd refer to them as Royalists and Rebels. Until Warwick flees, the Wars of the Roses is over.

5) Pembroke and Herbert were not executed on the day of the battle. They weren't even executed on the same day.

6) They were executed by the Earl of Warwick, and not by anyone associated with the House of Lancaster.

Oh, and generally he seems to think the WotR consisted of continuous fighting from 1st St Albans to Bosworth. And 2nd St Albans was fought inside a walled town.

I'll stop there, but the list is not definitive. I gave up taking notes.

Next up is the re-enactment rabbit hole, and Tom Lewis has gone down it hook, line and sinker, based on talking to 10 re-enactors at Tewkesbury in 2016. Right. I've done ECW re-enactment. It can teach you a lot about things like how equipment works, how you drill and form up, and what it feels like to port a pike or fire a matchlock musket or fire a cannon. What it doesn't teach you is how to kill people with your weapons. Honestly, it doesn't. When I left we were still debating how a pike push worked, and the only way to resolve the debate properly is to give people pikes with points on and let them try to kill each other. Anything else is just theory. I am willing to bet this for WotR or "HEMA"**** re-enactors too. You can run about and hit each other with blunt weapons as much as you like, but if you aren't trying to kill each other your findings are purely theory. To be fair he does make this point. But then he gets quite orgiastic about the poleaxe and how you fight with it. It might be right that you stand wide apart, in your armour, and swing the thing sideways. It may work for the modern day in broadly 1-on-1 fighting when no one is getting killed. However the Holbein drawings of landsknecht fighting with pole weapons don't show that. They're mostly used over head in close formation, or level, like a spear, poking with the point. I was also astonished by the claim that re-enactors like fighting in the cold, as if temperatures drop to freezing a man in armour can easily suffer from hypothermia, due to metal conducting heat from the nice warm body inside it. That's not military history. That's physics.

And asking a re-enactor how many people he could kill in an hour is just plain silly. Even Conan-Doyle had Sherlock Holmes go and ram harpoons into a dead pig before he made a statement about how easy it is to stick a sharp object into flesh.

Having said all that, we now get to the worth while bits. The last chapter or two of the book are worth reading, as they do offer some provocative thoughts. A man in armour (any man) is unable to fight continuously for long periods of time. Tim reckons 14 minutes before you need a break, which he thinks means that there's a need for a passage of ranks technique if fighting is to be prolonged. Or maybe the combat it a lot more tentative, and it's mostly pushing with the pointy end, with the occasional very strong man wielding his poleaxe downwards to kill and break up formations, so his followers can break in. Like maybe the very tall Edward IV could do.***** Or maybe, battles are actually, when they come to crisis point, quite short, and we have hours of hanging about with some jousting with spears before 20 minutes of mayhem followed by rout. I'm not sure, but it is an interesting discussion, and you'll have to decide if Tom's right. For me, the jury is out, and if in Scotland considering "not proven" as a verdict.

Where I am more convinced is his discussion of the effectiveness of archery before the battle line clash, which is hardly surprising as he lifts a lot of it from Robert Hardy's "Longbow" book. His discussion of bowmen as light infantry is taken straight from Toby Capwell's ideas. Still, thisi s a good summary of the ideas if you aren't aware of them.

He is on even firmer ground when he discusses the sizes of battles. That's partly because he is using a lot of the points I made in the Edgcote book (perhaps he has read it, and his Edgcote errors are intended to throw you off the scent), about ease of raising armies, areas of population and so on. On the downside, he does call Edgcote "Edgecote Moor" in his summary. He takes as his example battle Towton, and does a pretty good job of compiling the reasons why nearly 5% of the population weren't there.

The same goes for his section on casualties, which is likewise sceptical of the massive numbers, and he marshals the evidence, or lack of it, competently. He makes the point, quite reasonably, that killing a high proportion of one side of a battle in the absence of automatic weapons when there's an escape route is a really hard thing to do.

Conclusion? It's an interesting article for a journal expanded into a book. When it is bad, it is laugh out loud bad. When it is good, it is mildly interesting. For in truth, despite his claims, there isn't a lot original in the bit of the book that is good, except for his "re-enactors two-step" that swaps battle lines round. The rest of the ideas have been common for quite a few years, and are beginning to gain traction with anyone who has read anything with their brain switched on.

My advice? Buy a copy when it is remaindered in the Works, or Dave Lanchester has got it as an offer at a show, or in the end, if you can get it for £5 all in second had from Abe.

Otherwise, pass by on the other side of the road. You're missing nothing.



* At the time of writing there were 4 x 1* ratings, all with detailed comments, and one 5* rating with no explanation.

** I say this as a self published author, who had to ask friends and colleagues to provide some of these services to ensure I wasn't completely bonkers in what I was thinking and writing.

*** To be fair, that could be the date on the back of his DVD, but IMDB would have put him straight.

****  Historic European Martial Arts.

***** Tom ignores one of the most distinct descriptions of a man in plate fighting with a polearm, which comes from Sir Richard Herbert at Edgcote. Perhaps he was just unaware of it.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the review, was thinking of looking at this book but will give it a miss. I find it interesting that we don't really know how people fought in battles at this time and even the actual locations of the battles sometimes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's a lot of guess work involved for sure. Keeps historians in business! Glad you found it useful.

      Delete
  2. I have read one other book, called something like "the last days of Richard III" which claims Bosworth opened with Richard's cavalry charge, he was unluckily killed and that was why his side lost the battle.

    I guess some Ricardians might like this version as the more conventional one, in which he had pretty much lost the battle before his charge, is not very flattering for him.

    Is there any chance the comment about re-enactors liking cold weather was an attempt at a joke?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Re Bosworth: I can see that, but you have to work hard to find that as a mainstream view, especially if you've supposedly read Curry & Foard (which he claims to have)

      As for the re-enactors, perhaps they were taking the p*ss out of an Aussie - after all, who wouldn't, given half a chance - but my feel from the tone is that they were flattered to be involved. I'd also guess you'd rather fight in armour in 10 degrees than 25 degrees. It's when it gets close to zero - like properly cold - that it is an issue.

      Delete
  3. An Aussie writing about the medieval period? It was never going to end well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be fair, I've written rules for the SCW and never been to Spain.

      Delete
    2. As an Aussie I take exception to that Jeremy. There are plenty of good Aussie historians and writers and a decent proportion of those from the UK and elsewhere who do a poor job too. Sound research from primary sources, visits to sites, etc. are not solely the province of those living in the place they write about (in normal times anyway). Surely we have evolved past this sort of thing...

      Delete
    3. Millsy: You are, of course, correct, and I assume that Jeremy meant it in a light-hearted bantering way. We wouldn't want either nation caricaturing the other.

      Delete
  4. It'll be very hard to beat Aryeh Nusbacher's 'Bannockburn' as the worst book I've ever read, but I'll maybe give it a shot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have me at a disadvantage there. Not a period I've bothered reading about on the military side.

      Delete
    2. This review raises another thing. If (as I suspect) most wargamers only visit history as an aside, they rarely, if ever, visit primary sources. They rely on those with a more in depth understanding to have done that and use the historians' output as their source. That suits both parties - those who write the books must be happy to see them read and wargamers are happy to have access to a clearly written synopsis of the information. BUT, here lies the catch - how can a lay person tell a new interpretation from drivel? Published books do not seem to be peer reviewed before publication. Trebian says that there are "bits that are worth looking at". How do people tell which bits? For example, my other reading could have picked up on the Dragoons/Heavy Cavalry point but other bits? My response arose because I bought Aryeh Nusbacher's 'Bannockburn' and now don't know how to look at it. Help!

      Delete
    3. You have made a blindingly obvious but very astute comment. It goes wider than that - how do you know you are reading the most up to date scholarship? If you want to look at an extreme case of this, see arguments over Bosworth, especially as there's so much uncorrected web stuff, and Osprey never withdrew their early campaign book (I got into a very heated row with -strangely enough another Australian - over this as he'd proudly produced a scenario in the wrong place, with the wrong sized armies).

      So how do you discriminate? It's hard - especially so in military history, which mainstream academic historians mostly bypass. For "proper" history you look for the peer reviews in appropriate places, and you can check an academic's publishing CV. I probably take twice as long to read a military history book as you, as I do check the footnotes, and I will cross check if something looks odd. What does wind me up is quotations from primary sources that are taken from secondary sources. But why would you do that as a hobbyist, and all you want to do is paint the armies and play the games? Otherwise a top tip is to be wary of any book that quotes extensively from Oman, unless to point out he's wrong.

      In one of the Facebook discussions on this book there was an exchange about how everyone these days calls themselves a historian. This bloke does, but his academic qualifications aren't in history. That's not to say everyone who writes history has to have a history degree (although, as you know, I have, so I have a dog in this fight), but you wouldn't really want to use medical books written by people without qualifications in medicine in the main. One of the reasons it took me so long to write and publish was that I didn't think I could do it to the standard required - at the back of my mind through writing Edgcote was an image of Professor Luscombe tearing lumps out of an undergraduate essay I was proud of. He was very polite, but he did nearly reduce me to tears.

      Many, many, years ago we had an argument about Phil Barker and his WRG books. You ended the argument with the statement "What makes historians so special - is there secret stuff you know that others don't?". I never did give a proper answer. Perhaps this is it.

      Delete
    4. I think it’s a timely reminder that a history book is not a science book, it is a series of marshalled opinions with evidence provided to support those opinions. We should interrogate the author’s evidence and the credentials of the author in our assessment of the work. The book is on trial and the reader is the judge. Is the evidence credible? Are the sources credible? Is the way the evidence is pulled together convincing? How does it match up against previous versions? History books are often sold as if they are definitive factual accounts, when really the opening line of every one should say ‘this is my opinion of what I think happened, based on my research’.

      Delete
    5. We all want facts, especially wargamers (what colour was xyz regiment, describe exactly the banner carried by Lord Wobbly, were they using Pz1as or Pz1bs). There are things that we can know for sure (I have a list of men from Coventry, named and by the ward of the city who went to join the King before Edgcote) but a lot, as you say, is about whether the interpretation is credible. It does imply some sort of expertise in the reader, or if not that, a kind of critical facility. But then I would hope you'd find that when reading anything.

      Delete
  5. I’m not sure I’ve had one quite as bad, but I do have a couple of recent purchases that I put down after the first few pages.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is one other book that runs this a close second. I didn't finish it. It was the only book I have physically thrown across the room in disgust. No names, but it was a Richard III type book.

      Delete
  6. Good review and a good reminder that it’s worth digging below the cover to see if a book delivers on its title. One reason I like a bookshop, you can pick up the book go straight to the bibliography, then check the footnotes and sources and then read some sample text. I can’t recall how many times I’ve dodged a bullet doing that and not made a purchase that I’d live to regret.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. Amazon try to bridge the gap with "look inside", but I agree, I always flip to the bibliography to see if there are significant omissions.

      Delete
  7. Hmmm. Be better if he engaged with the three main arguments of the book.

    Be also nice if he didn't constantly misspell the author's name. And a lot of his comments are rather odd...why tell me I'm misspelling something like the Battle of Edgecote - he says it should be Edgcote - when spelling was very variable in those days - check Shakespeare's name, for example. The usual spelling now is as I put it, for example: http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_edgecote.html.

    Also be nice if he didn’t accuse me of various crimes which I didn’t do…for example getting an idea from Tobias Capwell’s books. For information, I’ve only ever glanced through them, and very impressive they are. But my arguments were not concerned with armour overall so why read them. Also, accusing me of “lifting” an idea from Robert Hardy’s books is a bit odd. I interviewed Robert, and the idea of bowmen as light infantry came from that discussion.

    And I’d be obliged if the commentator could point me to the quoted review by “David Grummitt” supposedly on the Amazon page. It isn’t there.

    I’m not sure why the commentator says things like: “I was also astonished by the claim that re-enactors like fighting in the cold…” Every one of the re-enactors I interviewed told me that. I was quite taken aback by it, but that’s what they said.

    But please – debate the three main arguments. 1) the front line of medieval battles had to be more ordered than is usually seen, and had to be swapped out, 2) medieval numbers of combatants and fatalities were vastly overstated, and 3) the rout was likely not as is often thought.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1) Spelt your name as Tim twice, Tom four times, so not really constant, more annoying. Apologies. I should be sensitive to that as my first name is often spelt wrong, although it does have more letters in it.

      2) Edgcote was spelt many different ways at the time. In my monograph on the battle I identified at least 5 different spellings. The modern cartographical and postal spelling is Edgcote. There are numerous errors on the website you quoted (not least the date is wrong, and Edgecote Moor isn't a place at all), but the site owners don't respond to requests to make corrections. The internet as source material can be a bit dodgy at times, and hard to correct. The Wikipedia page is quite good now, because it was re-written after the 550th anniversary commemoration.

      3) All I can say about Toby Capwell and Robert Hardy's ideas on archery is that they have been doing the rounds for a while. I attended a lecture by Toby last year by Zoom in which he made the same argument. Perhaps we have a case of parallel development.

      4) The 1* review is on Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Medieval-Military-Combat-Fighting-Techniques/dp/1612008879/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3SSPRJP8SMRYJ&dchild=1&keywords=tom+lewis+medieval&qid=1618129223&sprefix=Tom+Lewis%2Caps%2C178&sr=8-1

      5) I would suggest that if a re-enactor told you something that sounded unlikely, you might have been more wary (the point you make, separately in respect of battle numbers - if something looks unlikely, then it may well be, is equally applicable here). Being in the UK, and being involved in heritage groups and attending military heritage events I come across re-enactors regularly and have some as friends. They are really good at how kit fits together. After that it can tend to unravel.

      6) I agree with two of your main points, as I said, and I'm so-so on the way battle lines exchanged. The problem with your book is this: by the time we get to the bit that's interesting and possibly of use you have so discredited yourself with the errors that it is difficult to take it seriously. This book has put the debate back years, rather than advanced it. You're now the bloke who thinks Towton was a small battle, but you know what, he also thinks Edward IV invaded France at the age of 11 and that Marlborough's close order heavy cavalry got off and fought on foot, firing volleys. Whether you are right or wrong, your credibility in respect of writing about historic conflict and medieval battles in particular is in tatters.

      Delete
  8. I have the book. I won't say I have read the book because I skipped a lot. Too much off topic sections and speculation.
    But I agree with Trebian's review. I can't believe an editor with medieval knowledge let it out of the door.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the feedback. You'll see the author's response above. And I don't believe any editor of any type went near it al all.

      Delete
  9. I have seen the author's response.
    I published with four companies over 20 years. Having seen the decline in publishing standards over recent years, I can see how such books get out there. I stopped writing because many of the checks, such as proof reading and editing have been axed to save money. It is why I stopped writing. I didn't want my reputation trashed because of a sloppy publisher.
    Fortunately, the Internet means readers can independently check out titles before they spend their money.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In know of one author very disappointed by how his book was handled by a churn 'em out published, and I have a friend who was a publisher and is now a literary agent who despairs of how things have gone. And prompt payment to authors also doesn't seem to be a priority.

      I have self published all of my stuff, and the battlefield society does too. Say what you want about Amazon, they pay on time. We may sell fewer books than we would with Helion or Pen & Sword, but we reckon we make more money (and our "author copies" come in cheaper too), and we have control over the look and production of the final product. I have people astonished that the WGFGUP rule books are self published, as you can get the final product looking almost as professional as works from proper publishing houses, with a little work.

      Delete
    2. We are just about to self publish using Amazon. My co-author is more of a technical whizz than I am and he has found the process very straightforward. We got a proof copy done and I was blown away with how good it looks (although I may be a little biased) I have bought Trebian's rules and battlefield society books and the production values are just as good as any other publisher out there.

      Delete
    3. Publishing a book is the easy part. Selling them in an information crowded world (books, iPhone's, internet, TV) the hard part. And getting a financial reward for your hours of work is even harder.
      Self publishing does mean you do not have the benefit of trained editors, copy writers, proof readers, production managers, marketing and sales teams. But the 70 percent offered by Amazon is higher than the 10 percent of sale price offered by the average publishing house. And there are the vanity publishers...
      You pay your money and you take your choice.

      Delete
    4. No, the final versions do look good, if you get the inputs right. The only shame is you can't do hardback and you can't do glossy pages. Yet. Who knows in the future.

      Delete
    5. You are right, Yorkshire. If I was writing a book that I thought would be mainstream, then mainstream publishing is the way to go. If you want to be in every book shop on the highstreet (!) and get reviewed in the Sunday Times, then you need a pukka publisher. I'm never going to make a fortune from my rules, but what I make covers my annual hobby expenditure, I reckon (but I can't get away from my hourly rate is not enough to feed a family of hamsters, let alone one or two adults. I'm just grateful it isn't my living.

      However, if you have a product people want in a specific area - check out Mike Ingram's book on Northampton on Amazon for example - then a mainstream publisher is no longer the best route at all.

      Delete
  10. I have read the book and agree entirely with the reviewers comments. The section on the re-enactors views is very poor. Interviewing only 10 re-enactors whose weight of armour varies from 20 to 100lb and whose estimate of how long they could fight without a rest varies from 4 to 30 minutes is statistical rubbish. I have an MA in the History of Britain in the First World War but I would never try to use what I have learned about fighting in WW1 to assess how things worked in the Wars of the Roses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What, not even the "infantry man pack heavier than a suit or armour" argument? ;-)

      Thanks for your support. I have no idea if this is going to get ugly.

      Delete
  11. If only you’d stop holding back and tell us what you really think! I expect you’ve saved several people £20 each.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. More comments to that effect on Facebook, where the link has been shared. I expe t to have the savings shared with me at the shows I attend over the next year.

      Delete
  12. This sounds like a sadly all too typical instance of a book that went from author's key board directly to the printed page without passing through the brain of an editor. But as you note, editing costs money: about £19/hour at the moment, so a 100,000 word book carries a £1000 editorial overhead -- and that's without a peer review which is a must when an author has no prior track record or qualification in the subject. Sad to report, you are equally likely to sold a similar turkey from one of the major publishers. They will deal with typos but no longer employ specialist readers to save authors from describing 11-year-olds invading France. It's all the more annoying when this author is one of the few to grasp that 15th century battles didn't involve tens of thousands of casualties.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is the fact that his conclusions are on the right track that makes me so annoyed at the rest of it, as he has torpedoed his own credibility with the ineptness of the rest of it.

      Given Mike's experience with his Bosworth book, I can't see why I'd go to a mainstream publisher now for what I do, and the niche market we're in both as NBS and as a rules writer. I'm better off selling 100 copies direct, than a publisher printing a 1000.

      Having said that, I'd still like to do an Osprey. Just so that I could say I've done one.

      Delete
    2. What an outstanding knowledge of the topic. Bravo, Trebian!

      Delete
    3. I know what I know, and hopefully I can spot stuff when it's dodgy.

      Delete
  13. A good and thoughtful review. I enjoyed the comments too.

    I recently bought two of Helion's offerings one proved to be very good. The second was a mixture, some bits were fine, not brilliant but acceptable. Tranches of it were quite mad and could have been quotations from elsewhere. No sign at all of an editor's hand at work.

    I had thought to review the good one and ignore the bad one, not any longer. As you say we know what we know and perhaps we should say when something is dodgy.

    I'm liking the snazzy new look to your blog too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. The discussion has been interesting, as you say. I have two brilliant Helions, one I mention a lot (Mike Ingram's Bosworth book) and another I may post a review of shortly. You really are at the complete mercy of the author. I have some others which are so-so and what should be a great book completely marred by a lack of proof reading.

      I was really looking forwards to that book, and was so annoyed by it when I read it I couldn't say nothing.

      Good to hear you like the new look. alas it means on the older posts the pictures are too small, really, so I edit them should I need to go back and re-read any, but I doubt I'll reformat all of them!

      (BTW Good to hear from you - you've been really quiet recently. I was almost concerned, in a blokey sort of way, if you know what I mean).

      Delete
    2. I wrote a book with Helion. After 40 plus history books, I was shocked when they said they didn't employ proof readers. They said they wanted to involve the author more in the editing process. I think they wanted to save the £500 proof readers fee. I gave writing after that. What is the point of ruining my reputation to save a rich publisher a few quid?

      Delete
    3. I agree. I can't of any other reason not to employ a proof reader.

      Delete
    4. Now I know why the Helion books are somewhat hit or miss. Really there is no excuse not to employ a good editor for a start, as they can make or break a book. Proof reading really should not be skipped either.

      Delete
    5. The excuse is that it doesn't fit with the business model. See Ian Drury's comment above - he works in publishing, so he knows of what he speaks.

      Part of the problem is also that wargamers and the like are so desperate to get a book on a subject that they seem to give the publishers a free pass on things like this.

      Delete
    6. The book is published by Casemate, who are based in Oxford and Philadelphia. I believe Casemate publish their own books and do US imprints for other UK publishers (including Helion), to cut down on shipping to the US. But do check if you need to know.

      Delete
  14. I'm fine thanks, but the sentiment is appreciated! My blog is no longer sending out updates for some unfathomable reason.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's irritating. I shall go and have a look. Have I missed anything in particular?

      Delete
  15. Loads of League of Augsburg stuff mainly. Coming shortly some Sikh War stuff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I'm going to be doing my early 18th century rules as my next project. They are mainly for WSS and the 15/45 Jacobite risings, but I may widen the scope, possibly back to King Billy.

      Delete
    2. And the Sikh Wars are always a possibility.

      Delete
    3. Would this be an extension of Taiping Era?

      Delete
    4. There would be across over with the British troops, certainly.

      Delete

Post a Comment