‘The Sensational Alex Harvey’ by John Neil Munro.

Alex Harvey / The Sensational Alex Harvey Band ranked (and still do) as one of my favourite bands back in the early – mid 70s. I was lucky enough to see them play ‘live’ on few occasions, including the infamous 1975 Christmas shows at Glasgow’s Apollo theatre.

I regularly play the various SAHB albums I own, but like so many things in our busy lives these days, it was very much a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ when it came to reading about the band. So, when I saw this on sale in a discount book shop, it was too good a bargain to miss.

And I’m glad I picked it up.

Initially I was disappointed to read within the first ten pages, the revelations by the author that he’d never seen the band play, and that guitarist Zal Cleminson (amongst others) would not talk to him about Alex. There were no reasons given, but it was obviously their prerogative.

I did think this would detract significantly from the impact a book like this could make.
But despite these early confessions, and even though there is very little real contribution from either drummer Ted McKenna or indeed, any as I recall, from bass player Chris Glen, the book still serves a purpose.

Using music paper / newspaper quotes as well as significant contributions from Alex’s second wife, Trudy and his friends / management, author John Neil Munro has managed to paint a sympathetic, yet ‘warts and all’ account of Alex Harvey’s quest to change the face of what he saw as a sterile and boring scene that had dropped down between Glam and Punk.

Indeed, Alex’s well worn path through the music industry started well before that period, and in many ways, the reader (even if unfamiliar with Alex and his work) is rooting for the wee Glasgow lad trying to make good against a backdrop of early social deprivation and a musical landscape so set in its ways.

But that some bloke about fifteen years older than the rest of his band can achieve such success, at least in a ‘live’ environment, lends hope to all us who have dreams to follow. They take some cultivating and an incredible amount of belief, but this book shows that dreams do come true.

I guess, though, the real trick is learning when to wake up.

I’ll not say any more for fear of spoiling the read. For it IS a good read. And one that will now lead me to read more about the band and the other members as well.)

‘Break Point,’ by Ollie Ollerton.

This is the third book in the batch recently produced by the DS group of TV’s ‘Who Dares Wins.’

Interestingly, each of the three is quite different in content, though I won’t say too much for fear of dropping some ‘spoilers.

Ollie’s book though, I’d say is a bit more ‘graphic” in detail, describing certain instances in depth. Like Foxy, Ollie is very open about his life and how he ended up where he has. And it’s been a real whirlwind of a journey (God – I hate using that expression!) But it is.

As I’ve said of both Ant and Foxy”s books, this is a riveting read and possibly more than the others, this gives a no holds barred view of life in the Special Forces – and what goes on when the action stops / they are waiting for the action to start.

I’m really glad these guys who served so well and have been through so much, have found another niche in life and, it would seem, contentment.

‘If You’d Just Let Me Finish …’ by Jeremy Clarkson.

This is the eighth book (I think) of Jeremy Clarkson’s that I have read. So, you could say I’m a bit of a fan.

Not so much of his other books that focus on the performance of various cars whose names consist of seemingly random letters and numbers, but these reproductions of his weekly articles for the Sunday Times.

The first thing to like, is the short, punchy, delivery, each chapter coming in around the one thousand word mark. For readers like me with only short windows of time to read, or indeed those with a short attention span, this is ideal. No need to continuously backtrack to pick up on any plot / character details. Just read; put down; pick up and repeat..

Then of course there’s the humour.

I know Jeremy Clarkson has his namby pamby detractors – but I find it difficult to believe that those who condemn him for being bullish and arrogant or whatever, do not privately think the same way in many situations. Oh, please God, I hope so – what a terribly boring world we would live in if everyone was so easily offended / outraged.

Personally, I find Jeremy Clarkson’s humour spot-on. He is one of a very few writers who can actually make me laugh out loud.

As this book did – frequently.

‘Tall Tales and Wee Stories’ by Billy Connolly.

It’s not possible to say anything bad about Billy Connolly. He’s a national treasure.

This book recounts many of the tales he has used in his stage shows over the years. So as a fan from his first double album ‘Solo Concert’ recorded in 1974, many of the stories were familiar to me. And for that reason only, did I not give this book the full 5 star rating.

But there are still some priceless tales in here that will make you laugh out loud – especially if as Billy suggests at the start, you read the book in his accent. (Actually – try NOT to … it’s impossible!) 😀

The short tale of the Wildebeast is a case in point. Hilarious!

Even though much of this is not new material, it is still an great read, and in fact, I love the idea of having the source of so much mirth being committed to written form.

The words and humour will never leave.

‘We Are Sunday League,’ by Ewan Flynn.

This is a book that pretty much everyone who has ever played amateur football will appreciate.The commitment of the players to the Wizards is to be commended – at times it is more than that evidenced by some superstars of the Premier league. The sort of ‘gang mentality’ sense of belonging shines through every page.
I could identify with pretty much all that was written. It’s now almost 40 years since I was forced to give up amateur football through injury, but like the author, I can still recall individual moments of triumph and glory in specific matches. It’s kind of sad, I know – but hey, that’s us blokes for you.

I did wonder how so many pages could be written about an amateur team, but a few chapters go off on a tangent to deal with specific players and their subsequent careers, which I did find interesting.

A really good read if you’re into grassroots football of any description.

First Man In.

I read this is about a week,having been given it as a Christmas present.

I have the utmost respect for our Armed forces, and what with the ‘SAS – Who Dares Wins’ TV programme now into its fifth series, I knew more or less what to expect here. But that did not detract from an engrossing and ‘easy’ read.

Autobiographies / biographies are generally interesting I think because there is always something in every book that the reader can relate to. For me, I love the thought of the physical challenges involved in getting to the selection process for the Special Forces. The courage, bravery and mental determination, though absolutely amazes me.

And I didn’t appreciate the difference between the attitudes of those in Para, to those in SBS / SAS. Interesting.

But though Ant’s experiences are all military based, there is so much to take inspiration from and take into one’s own daily life – especially if a ‘leader’ role is called for – be that in a family life situation; sports team or work environment.

Excellent read.

(I’ve already read Jason Fox’s ‘Battle Scars’ book, and that dealt more with the mental side of warfare, though no less riveting. I’ll not be getting hold of Billy and Ollie’s books too.)

Partition: The story of Indian independence and the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

I love India!

I have visited a small corner of the country on nine occasions (Goa and Karnataka) and have made many friends, Hindu and Muslim as well as Christian. Not that religion is of any consequence to me, but it DID play a massive part in the Partition process of 1947.

And so, when this book was published year or so back, I felt compelled to buy it and read up on WHY India is as it it today.

Now, I KNOW the subject of Partition is a complex one, involving a great many people, but I just found the book TOO mired in the names of the key personalities. And I’m an impatient / lazy reader, I guess, so continuously reading long Indian names kind of put me off. Twice i tried. I rested a while and tried to pick up again from page #120, but just struggled to get into it.

I’ll shortly try to read up on this mega event that has shaped the world, as I genuinely want to understand. But maybe I need to do so via the means of a more narrative book, such as ‘The Lives of Others,’ by Neel Mukhergee.

I never was any good at History at school – perhaps this is why.

Battle Scars. A Story of War and All That Follows.

I’ve been an avid watcher of ‘SAS – Who Dares Wins’ since the very first episode, so I was very interested to read this book.
It was a rather slow start, I’d say, with quite a bit of repetition it seemed. But when I accepted the book focused more on the ‘All That Follows’ part of the title rather than the ”Story of War’ aspect, I became totally engrossed.
What these guys (and now women) do in the Elite Forces is just incredible. What they do for our country is incredible. And how they are / were treated by the military when they suffered mental health issues as a direct result of their service, is / was also incredible. In a ‘not good’ kind of way.

The book is quite an eye-opener, and well done Foxy on putting all this out there. There are lessons to be taken for everyone in this book.