Book Review Land Craft - M2/M3 Half Tracks & The Jeep

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

  1. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Thought I'd review these two in one post, as they're the same series.
    Spoiler: The same series doesn't necessarily mean the same quality...

    1 - The Jeep - Second World War.


    The Jeep

    By Lance Cole
    Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
    Series: Land Craft
    Pages: 64
    ISBN: 9781526746511
    Published: 16th April 2019

    I see this was the first 'Land Craft' title, so wondered if the black & white photo reproduction might be as murky as in one of the 'Tank Craft' titles I reviewed: Nope, none of that. Crisp & high quality whether Monochrome or colour, so I can now cheerfully dismiss that doubt.

    P&S are onto something with this new modelling series, but I feel this one misses the mark.
    Yes, I've read a lot about Jeeps, so don't particularly expect to be dazzled at new info every time, but the main issue here is with the style of the writing.
    The introduction is oddly excitable & repetitive. It reads like a bit of filler editorial in a newspaper, or a magazine feature.
    When he moves onto the concise history it's better, a reasonably solid précis, but with far too many what-ifs & digressions in the section relating to the Jeep's genesis. I like a bit of digression when it's relevant, but I looked the chap up & see that he does a lot of classic motoring journalism. You almost feel like he knows a bit too much about the wider industry of the period & wants to talk about that, without actually going anywhere particularly Jeep related. The 'What If' questions are indeed distracting... (It then fails to answer them. A mixed blessing.)
    It is better when he eventually focuses more tightly on the Jeep itself, but there's nothing there that can't be found on some of the better websites. It's a bit rambling.
    (And includes the phrase "Controversy has ranged" when discussing the naming issue. It hasn't... it's raged. Harumph.)

    The 'In Detail' section is a list. Again, feels cribbed rather than coming from deeper understanding. Pat Ware, for instance, may bore me silly sometimes with his style, but lordy you get some real information from him.
    This section also reinforces a significant issue with the book: Just too many pictures of restored & reenactor Jeeps to bring any gravitas to it as a reference work. Anyone who talks to those with Jeep restoration expertise quickly learns it's a minefield, with 75 years of strange & complicated modifications, further complicated by Ford/Willys cross-breeding of roughly interchangeable parts.
    The honest Jeep owner will always point out something that's not quite right about his machine.
    I know reproduction of contemporary pictures can be an expensive business, but other Jeep books seem to manage to make their points using original pictures.

    The colour illustrations, very good in most of the series, are odd here.
    Hard to explain but a very plain computer-generated style.

    Usual high quality examples of finished models (particularly ones by Brian Richardson.)

    Model Review area: Hmm. Is this written by anyone that ever makes models? I'm not so sure...
    eg.: "Weathering: this is a model-making area of recent focus that is very appropriate to the Jeep"
    The tooling dates are useful, but in a modelling book this reads like a magazine article about modelling rather than a specific review of jeep kits.

    'In Action' section: I'm not expecting anyone to cover Jeep service fully in such a slender book, it being almost ubiquitous across the war. Some nice details (as one might expect in a motoring magazine article), but nothing to raise the eyebrows much. And, again; too many pictures of restored machines.

    In summary: If you know nothing about Jeeps & fancy doing a model; then fine.
    If you do, maybe not, unless you like a slightly flowery extended magazine article.
    It's got all the production values that I'm rating very highly for this series, but is somewhat lacking in actual content.

    2. M2/M3 American Half Tracks of the Second World War



    By Robert Jackson
    Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
    Series: Land Craft
    Pages: 64
    ISBN: 9781526746559
    Published: 16th April 2019

    Blimey. What a contrast.
    The same excellent production values as above, but a substantially better book.

    The introduction is solid on Early US Half Track work. No digression or diversion, speculation or flowery language. Just solid, factual presentation, accompanied by good contemporary images. (Some new to me, & I've stared at, errrm, 'some' early Half Track images :unsure: ) I might take issue with a caption or two. Not sure some ID'd as such actually are M2/M3 at all, but nothing too egregious.
    The 'In Detail' section is actually detailed. Delves into radios, Mortars, Production issues etc. etc., all apparently written by someone prepared to compile these machines' history into what these books should be - useful one-shot history & modelling inspiration. Photos are original & relevant.
    It then ranges onto variants. Ranges so far in fact that the design/dev history stuff runs almost to the end of the book, broken by the colour images/modelling bit. It's consistently interesting.

    The colour illustrations are much better than in the Jeep book. The point of such is to give you an idea of what colour/markings might look like outside of monochrome pictures. These meet that mark well. Wide range of variants and an interesting camo scheme or two.

    The Kit reviews are properly nerdy. Criticism of one Dragon model as having screw heads incorrectly moulded as rivets made me smile. You will come away with useful opinion on which ones are worthy of the rising price of small plastic things.

    Summary: Worthwhile.
    None of these slender A4 paperbacks is going to give you the absolute works on any particular type covered. They're to inspire & give a basic grounding (hopefully piquing further interest) & we all know that truly detailed type-specific books are a damned sight more expensive than these, but for the price of admission this one might get you counting rivets properly one day. Whether that's a good thing; the dead eyed stares of my children while I enthuse about an excavator's suspension system may possibly deny...

    Funny how good reviews are often shorter than critical ones!


    Cheers to P&S for the review copies.
    (Though I doubt they'd thank me for the Jeep review. :unsure: )
    TTH, Chris C and Dave55 like this.
  2. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    LOVE half tracks. They're like Bren Carriers only bigger & better.

    Does this volume have much on which models did and did not go to British & Commonwealth forces? The authorities I've seen don't always make that clear.
  3. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    I share this inherent bias.

    Afraid there's nothing really on British use.
    Looks pretty much entirely at US ownership, and not really the place for such depth anyway.

    I can't immediately think of a truly substantial US half-track reference other than Hunnicutt, and he's rarely interested in allied use.
    Hmmm. Maybe time to get his, unless anyone can think of better.
    Got plenty on German HTs, but only Osprey/In detail sort of stuff on Septic gear.
    Maybe a bumper book of half tracks is overdue, given the amount of curiosity they generate. Something that runs from Kegresse to Centaur.

    Will have a look in Wheels & Tracks for anything on British use. Sounds like a very Vanderveen sort of subject.

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