Yearly archives: 2014

Running Blind

runblind Running Blind
author: Desmond Bagley

Old-school espionage.

Alan Stewart used to work for MI6, until he got sick of being considered disposable. Now, he’s been talked into helping out the service on one of his regular trips to Iceland. Just deliver a package and then carry on with his life, it should be simple.

But, of course, it isn’t simple. The Russians want the package, and they seem to know his every move. They’ve sent an agent he nearly killed after him, and it seems someone in his old firm is feeding them information. As if that wasn’t bad enough, his fiancee is with him and in just as much danger, and the Americans have stuck their oar in.

Stewart’s a no-nonsense Scotsman, and Elin, his Icelandic fiancee, knows the country well. They lead all the spooks on a chase across the country’s glaciers and hot springs, leading to a violent showdown and final reveal of the Maguffin the whole plot revolved around.

The extended chase in the middle felt a little stretched, until it became obvious how carefully the author was putting everything in place for the finale. Overall, a competent and interesting bit of espionage from the Cold War, with the ‘good guys’ of MI6 and the CIA just as nasty and untrustworthy as the KGB.

From:: Ian Pattinson Goodreads reviews

I got Running Blind in a 2-4-1 Kindle package with The Freedom Trap, which, it turns out, I’ve already read,albeit decades ago.

Picture This

For the last few years, I’d say that the majority of post on Spinneyhead have been photos. I’ve not been very talkative, and taking pictures on my phone, then sending them to Flickr to be cross-posted to the blog has been easy.

However, the last three pictures I sent to Flickr (four if you count the one I sent twice as a test) didn’t make it to the blog. It looks like cross-posting is broken. Until I can find out where the process is falling down, Spinneyhead may be photoless.

I might actually have to start talking to you again.

Make an assault rifle on your desk

Or workbench. Maybe that would be more sensible, because there’s going to be swarf everywhere.

The guy who made a big noise with his 3D printed gun parts is back, with a, relatively, cheap home milling machine designed specifically to make lower receivers for home assembled AR-15 assault rifles. The process is made easier by American companies which will sell you an 80% complete lower receiver, so that the machine only has to do the last drilling and cutting. The serial number free result is known as a “Ghost gun”. It’s all some sort of libertarian exercise, the designer claims.

From a technological and DIY point of view, this is fascinating, but what is it with American libertarians and guns? Why not create something that isn’t destructive?

Don’t talk about Tory policies, you never know what it’ll make them do

John Redwood doesn’t want businesses to speak about the positives of staying in the EU. Apparently, they’ll suffer some sort of payback after a referendum, though it’s not clear what form it will take.

I’m worried about what parts of his anatomy Redwood’s going to be sending pictures of to people he meets online. Brooks Newmark said charities should “stick to their knitting” last month, and now he’s had to go because he sent a reporter pictures of his penis when they asked. Is John Redwood’s bum-crack going to be landing in someone’s inbox? Given his cluelessness, someone will have to ask to see his elbow if that’s what they want.

Live and Let Die (James Bond, #2)

livenletdieLive and Let Die

author: Ian Fleming

Bond is back!

There is no way to read this book sixty years on and not conclude that it’s a bit racist. Bond is working amongst, and mostly against, “the negroes” of the USA and Jamaica, trying to bring down Mister Big, a Russian spy-cum-crime lord. Big has taken to using voodoo trappings to bolster his control over the whole of the USA’s black population, who are almost all depicted as weak willed and superstitious enough to fall for the old time religion. With the exception of Big, a giant, grey-skinned sadistic genius, the black characters all come across as cartoony caricatures or faceless parts of the herd.

The plot kicks off because Big is sneaking pirate treasure into the States to fund his crime and spying activities. It’s thought it all originates from the lost horde of pirate Captain Morgan, and it would be good if Bond could cut off the supply and dispose of Big whilst he’s about it. In the States, Bond teams up with Felix Leiter again, who proves to be much more progressive than British intelligence or New York’s Police department when he takes Bond for a tour through Harlem and into the heart of Big’s operation. Leiter’s love and knowledge of the jazz greats even gets him out of a beating as he so impresses one of his captors with it. He doesn’t get away so lightly later in the book, though….

The requisite beautiful woman is introduced in the shape of Domino, who immediately falls for Bond and escapes Big’s clutches to run away with him to Florida as he moves on to the next stage of his investigation. She gets recaptured just as quickly, and Bond has to hustle on to Jamaica to catch up with her again.

The book’s resolution is something of an anticlimax, though it is built up to with great care. After all the films, you come to expect a grand finale, with a shootout and explosions, but it’s not delivered. As with all the Bond books, it’s hard not to compare book and film. The movie Live and Let Die was one of Roger Moore’s first, and filtered the story through blaxploitation and added topless double deckers and motor boat chases. It also left out at least two scenes which turned up, with modifications, in later films.

Yes, the book is racist in tone and depiction, but if you can accept that, it’s pretty much the template for the films and all those other larger than life thrillers which came after it.

Amazon has brought Kindle Unlimited to the UK

The most common description of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service is probably “Netflix for ebooks”. You pay a monthly subscription (£7.99), and can download to read as many eligible titles as you want. Prime offered a limited version of this as part of its benefits, but Unlimited- as the name suggests- opens it right up.

You can’t get every Kindle title through Unlimited. The major publisher’s lists may not be fully available, as they continue various disputes with Amazon. Indie publishers, such as yours truly, have to opt books into a service called Select, and make them exclusive to Amazon, for them to be eligible for KU. Which is why there are only two of my books available on it at the moment, and they’re Garth Owen ones. Some, but not all, of my future releases will be exclusive to the big river, so that list will fill up with time.

If you’re a voracious reader and, unlike me, you don’t live next door to a charity shop with a well stocked 20p books table, then Kindle Unlimited could be a neat value-for-money way to get your fix.

Summer 2014 was warmest so far

Obviously climate change isn’t happening. The year on year temperature rises are all caused by, erm…….

Could somebody with access kindly slap all the politicians who are being paid to be in denial, and kick the Koch brothers where it rhymes, until they shut up and let the rest of us do something about the disaster they’ve created and nurtured.

According to NOAA’s records, this is the 38th consecutive August and 354th consecutive month with a global average temperature above the 20th century average

via Summer 2014 was record warmest on Earth, says NOAA.

3D printed drones

Need a cheap drone for a mission tomorrow? Just print one out.

We have 3D printed keys, guns and shoes — now a research team at the University of Virginia has created a 3D printed UAV drone for the Department of Defense.

In the works for three years, the aircraft, no bigger than a remote-controlled plane, can carry a 1.5-pound payload. If it crashes or needs a design tweak for a new mission, another one can be printed out in a little more than a day, for just $2,500 (£1533). It’s made with off-the-shelf parts and has an Android phone for a brain.

via Military-grade drones can now be 3D printed (Wired UK).

The Cruel Sea (Classics of War)


The Cruel Sea

author: Nicholas Monsarrat

The classic novel of the Battle of the Atlantic, Cruel Sea follows the crew- primarily the officers- of the Compass Rose from commissioning the Corvette in 1939 to the final day of the war. The book concentrates on the everyday hardships of escorting convoys and the horror of losing so many ships to U-Boats. There’s little action, even the rare times the crew get to chase down submarines are depicted as drawn out and tense rather than gung-ho. Mostly, the crew are fighting the sea itself, and their constant fear of attack and sinking, rather than the enemy.

The strength of the book lies in the fact that it doesn’t glorify the action at sea but focuses on the prolonged campaigns slow grind- punctuated by moments of terror and horror- of the sailors involved.

From:: Garth Owen Goodreads reviews

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 04

jdcc04Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 04

author: John Wagner

It’s a good job I’m getting the Case Files books digitally. By the time I’ catch up with today’s Dredd, I’d be in need of a room just for the books if I were buying paper copies.

File 4 contains another of the great Dredd epics- the Judge Child Quest. This is one I haven’t seen the whole of before, because back when I was picking up the Quality/Eagle reprints, this was a mini-series of its own. Disaster is coming to the Big Meg, and it has been predicted that only a child called Owen Krysler can save the city. Dredd sets off to find the boy- who has a justice-eagle birthmark on his forehead and is a powerful precog- first in the Cursed Earth and then outer space. Along the way, he has to battle the King of rubbish, the Angel Gang, ship eating planetoids and a human hating robot empire. The tale is episodic, much like the original Cursed Earth story, with Dredd encountering strange creatures and situations that aren’t all directly related to his mission, before the final showdown with the Angels and his important decision about the Judge Child’s fate.

The rest of the collection sees Dredd back on Earth, stopping block wars and fending off the poisonous attentions of wayward last Angel, Fink.

All in all, another classic slice of Dredd.

From:: Garth Owen Goodreads reviews