Book Review Forgotten Tanks & Guns. David Lister.

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by von Poop, Feb 6, 2019.

  1. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Forgotten Tanks & Guns of the 1920s, 1930s, & 1940s.
    Author: David Lister
    ISBN: 1526714531


    I only noticed a week-ish ago that this had been released, so thinking 'somebody seems to have written a book personally for me', I asked the always pleasant Rosie at P&S for a copy to review.
    Arrived this afternoon, and it being so up my street, I've read it in a couple of hours, (it's far from a brick of a thing).

    At about 120 A5 pages, it is in fact a slender volume, but nicely produced, and still full of good stuff, if you like that sort of thing.
    My direct interest in the topic may have caused me some objectivity issues as I'm so pleased somebody wrote this at all, but I hope I've read enough on roughly the areas covered that I can have a reasonable opinion as well as declaring an innate 'well done, that man' bias.

    I suppose the first test of such a book is whether it has enough oddballs & abandoned projects to justify diving in; my answer is a pretty emphatic yes.
    Ferret Land Torpedo, anyone? More detail on the Goliath/MLM project? Obscure Japanese heavies? Galliot brakes & 'recoilless' tank guns? British remote control gear? One-shot quadruple six pounder barrels on Universal carriers? Carden-Baynes wing-carried light tanks?! - If you're as dull as me & find such things fascinating, then you might as well just go out and buy it. Whether you think it's good or bad, I suspect there'll be more than one new thing in there for you, & lets face it; it isn't every day such stuff goes into an actual book.

    There might be complaints of a lack of real detail or cohesion to some of the subjects covered, but it's all still a bit wild west in the world of obscure land vehicles compared to flying things, so in many cases the book provides more of a basis for enquiry & keeping an eye out for further news.
    If I'm completely honest, it reads a bit more like a very good website article for the first two thirds (think he writes for War Thunder, WoT sort of pages too. Not sure), full of nice anecdote-age with almost everything reasonably well-illustrated given how hard it must be to find pictures of these fleeting designs. (The Japanese bits have very pleasing line illustrations with human figures for scale. I'd hoped there would be more of these throughout, but sadly not. Presumably included to make up for the almost non-existent photos of Japanese gear),
    The tone changes for the final chapters that run from Martel to other abandoned British tanks, A7, A8 etc.. Almost a different publication & far more detailed & genuinely informative than the rest of the book, perhaps revealing the true authorial obsession, though also maybe lacking a little the full obscurity of the first part for those of us more familiar with the tortuous world of British interwar developments, Still full of nuggets that would interest any regular reader of Vintage Wargaming's fine Interwar Tank Development pages, but drier, more 'serious' than the first part.
    There is possibly a problem there in that those of us who spend too much time looking at obscure vehicles may not be quite so surprised at some content as the general reader, but I'm reasonably sure there's enough to keep even the dedicated interested

    It's possibly hard to judge Mr Lister's style in such a short book, but I'm going to say very lucid, avoiding floridity, & with (whisper it) perhaps a hint of David Fletcher to the factual-but-light tone. (Hardly surprising as I'd lay money he has a similar cultish view to myself of that man's output. Maybe if given a chance he could be the person to pick up the torch in future more in-depth surveys of Fletcher's pet areas.) Excessive dryness avoided - style is important, even in this sort of book.

    One quite serious criticism: No bloody index. Again.
    I know it's a large bee in my own bonnet, and it's not a massive book, but it's also reference. Just the sort of thing I know I'll be haring through the whole of to find something when someone raises a point about massive muzzle brakes etc.
    A bibliography would have been nice, and the source list is a bit sketchy, but I can live with that. Indexes however; the absence gets a firm harumph.

    So in summary after that ramble:
    Yeah, very welcome.
    Maybe an opening salvo rather than a be-all & end-all barrage, and the 'guns' in the title isn't really much of the whole, but it's on something that deserves more exposure & will hopefully help with opening further cracks into armoured obscurity knowledge.
    Here's (also) hoping Mr Lister gets the chance to expand on it in future publications, & it's going on the shelf next to Fleischer's 'The Wehrmacht Weapons Testing Ground at Kummersdorf', Shorts 'Tank Turret Fortifications' & Fletcher's books. Filed under 'Nerdy, but make me happy'.


    With the traditional thanks to Pen & Sword for the review copy.

    Drew5233, Tolbooth, SDP and 6 others like this.
  2. Vintage Wargaming

    Vintage Wargaming Well-Known Member

    VP thanks for the kind words about the Interwar Tank Development Blog. I am very aware I have never got round after posting all the photos to writing up text for each post and I will try to make a start on this soon - it will be a big job.

    I got this book a while ago and like you I think I was interested by it but left feeling a little bit disappointed.

  3. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Little acorns, mate.
    I kept thinking of how hard it used to be to find anything at all on some of this gear & the price paid over the years for obscure books, either out of print or with very limited print runs. Anything is welcome, and with those rumours of a solid book on the horizon on 'Project Cancelled' (possibly postwar) British AFVs, hopefully something's going on.
    WoT etc. may bug me sometimes with saturation teen chatter on obscurities, but it feels like they might be gradually feeding a slightly deeper, more public, interest.
  4. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I rather think WoT etc. is this generation's Airfix kits and air rifles...

    There's certainly scope left for techy nerdism. Look at the scratching around we've felt obliged to do on 17pr HE rounds, CS 'guns' and sighting beyond useful books like Taylor's Firing Now!

    Thanks for the review. It's been on the radar for a while.
  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Actually, he gets quite involved about CS smoke rounds at one point, & I'm sure we had a thread on that that seemed to have some similar points.
    Are you out there, Mr Lister? Lurking?

    Decent point about WoT/Airfix, I feel.
    I know where I'd be if I were 13 now, and it isn't going a bit funny from the plastic-melting gluey goodness of a badly botched Hurricane.
    Hmmm, A Commando/Battle Action/Warlord PC game... I'd play that now. :unsure:
  6. Listy

    Listy Well-Known Member

    Thank you for the very kind review, I'm glad you liked it. I've seen a couple of similar reviews, and I'd like to stick my neck out and answer some of the points raised.

    That's sort of how the book came about. I realised I had lots of single file bits and pieces that other historians had passed over as they weren't on the subject of research they wanted. Someone suggested I place them all in a book, and some five years later the book came out.

    In my utter defence, some of the subjects were literally the fist things I researched, and started some five years ago, and I was learning as I went. Equally there dosen't appear to be any more that I can find documents on, unless they are scattered to the small city archives.

    Again a development of my researching skills and suddenly finding myself some 10,000 words short are to blame for this. When I was short of my word count target I looked in the folders I had, found all the stuff on the interwar tanks and got writing.

    Ahh yes, the art work. I've had terrible luck with artists. I had several for that job. Some did half their promised work, others disappeared and didn't turn any work in. Hence the multiple art styles throughout the book. Add in the tight budgets and it all got very exciting. The Japanese tank plans, that was me a month before my deadline in GIMP sketching like mad! Luckily I got in touch with the excellent Andrei Kirushkin, who did the art of the tanks with the personnel next to them. Even with just those images I overran my deadline by one month.

    If, and I doubt I will ever get this, I ever got a second edition I would like to harmonise all the artwork under a single artist. But again the financial cost would likely be too much.

    On a plus note, The stuff in the book was Andrei's first attempt at doing tanks, and he's proven rather good at it. He's started helpingo tu over at tanks encyclopedia, and is turning out some cracking pieces.

    Awww *shucks*

    The big one for you, the lack of index.
    Indexing costs money, and I was already running at a loss on this one. Indeed most of these books I'm doing I would love to break even in my lifetime. We the author have to buy the image copyrights, and for a book heavy on images such as this it gets steep fast. For example one archive quoted me a price of nearly £800 for seven images, I so dearly wanted to include them, but it was too dear.
    I'll see about indexing from my publisher and see how much they charge.

    Source list is a very valid complaint, well I hope you like sources, because the next book has 3 pages of them!

    The title wasn't my idea, I had a different (and to be honest maybe worse) Title. The professionals over at P&S said "no, that's bad, here's your title.".

    Rumours be damned! It is coming out! I, literally, yesterday finished the layout of the images on the manuscript! Everything is in place it's about twice the length of the current work, and it's more of the second half style. I even pitched it as "Carrying on from Fletcher's The Universal Tank."

    The only things I have to do are:
    Titles of the chapters.
    See if I can shoehorn in more images I want to use to illustrate some tactics and problems the designers had.

    If you liked mad stuff in the first book. Well the UK was working towards hover AFV's at one point, and were even on the verge of building one.
  7. idler

    idler GeneralList

    The snag is that it would be a PC game these days...
    von Poop likes this.
  8. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Great stuff.
    (With that brief flush of British horror when an author pops up post-review! )
    Nothing you say really surprises, but it's honestly lovely to get a horse's mouth clarification on things. All the points about learning as you go make perfect sense too.

    Now get on with that project cancelled book, and keep inserting the crow bar into this world. We all know it's niche, but it's a growing niche, and some of us have sat in it for years. :D

    Hover AFVs, you say...
  9. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    And interesting you mention the tortuous world of image rights.
    Aware of at least one other going through current agonies re. this.
  10. Listy

    Listy Well-Known Member

    Don't worry, I'm quite fluffy and nice when not being obsessed over British tanks.

    What cancelled book? I'd not cancel a book, I'm already producing them too slowly!

    Yup, the mad crazy buggers actually planned it all out, did component testing everything.
    von Poop likes this.

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