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As a spin off from the Sven Hassel thread in the Armour forum, what are the worst technical, doctrinal or historical inaccuracies you have read in any military-based novel or reference work?

 

I am sure there are many glaring examples of shoddy research or ill-conceived bollocks out there that need to be ridiculed in the appropriate forum.

 

Over to you...

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As a spin off from the Sven Hassel thread in the Armour forum, what are the worst technical, doctrinal or historical inaccuracies you have read in any military-based novel or reference work?

 

I am sure there are many glaring examples of shoddy research or ill-conceived bollocks out there that need to be ridiculed in the appropriate forum.

 

Over to you...

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Ill-conceived: Anything by John Ringo (exactly how thin and stereotypical can you make a character?). Ultimate Farce (fat ex-soap actor pretends to be from Hereford).

 

Shoddy research: Robert Ludlum and his "Royal Commandos" sticks in my mind for some reason.

 

Downright deliberately inaccurate: Almost anything by Mel Gibson (Braveheart, The Patriot). Most other things out of Hollywood (U-571 is obvious - basically, anything where the US wins WWII on its own).

 

Reassuring: From the Earth to the Moon. Titanic ( :blink: getting the wheel to turn in the right direction) Hollywood getting decent fight scene choreographers (Heat, Collateral).

 

Godlike: Das Boot.

Edited by FirstOfFoot
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Don't get too wrapped up about a bad book. I'll toss it before I finish it. I do hate poor journalism, especially poorly researched or 'sensational' stories.

 

For movies, I hate Hollywood "Blockbusters". Special effects having priority over story or acting.

 

Also hate overly dramatic acting, like Nicholas Cage trying to get in touch with his inner self and wrestle with shallow moral dilemas while fighting the japs.

 

Pure absurdity passed off as realistic action, like shooting planes down with shotguns (Pearl Harbor), US crew on a Nazi sub, all that BS.

 

I also dislike Affirmative Action roles in movies, where people are portrayed in roles that would have been historically impossible for the times (like the Geena Davis pirate movie fiasco). I'm not interested in a historical drama corrected for the way society should have been, rather than how it really was.

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....Downright deliberately inaccurate: Almost anything by Mel Gibson (Braveheart, The Patriot). Most other things out of Hollywood (U-571 is obvious - basically, anything where the US wins WWII on its own)....

 

 

Godlike: Das Boot.

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Gibson's We were Soldiers was one of the best movies ever made about Viet Nam. The Great Raid another recent Hollywood flick was also good.

 

Yep U-571 was a mess. ;)

 

How about a movie about the capture of U-505? That was an all USN show. :D

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I have read a couple of Leo Kessler's books and that was two too many: SS Death Bastard Regiment war porn, so totally agree. The man makes Hassel read like Hemmingway... and that takes some doing.

 

Charles Whiting comes in for some stick too. Would this be the same CW who has written books on Kasserine (First Blood?) and the Siegfried Line? If so, where did he fall down?

 

I think we can more or less dismiss almost anything from Hollywood; they have to pander to the emotive masses... but, gentlemen, let's concentrate on the books.

 

For those of you (like me) who like to rip films to pieces, I can recommend The Nitpickers Site. (A Google search will find it - hours of fun)

 

There is an ulterior motive to me starting this thread though. I am preparing to start work writing a novel set in the Western Desert in 1941 and wanted to hear from the cogniscenti about the common pitfalls a wannabe should avoid. It is possible to over research and bog everything down with detail to the detriment of the story, but the flavour must still be there.

 

All advice gratefully received.

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I have read a couple of Leo Kessler's books and that was two too many: SS Death Bastard Regiment war porn, so totally agree. The man makes Hassel read like Hemmingway... and that takes some doing.

 

Charles Whiting comes in for some stick too. Would this be the same CW who has written books on Kasserine (First Blood?) and the Siegfried Line? If so, where did he fall down?

 

I think we can more or less dismiss almost anything from Hollywood; they have to pander to the emotive masses... but, gentlemen, let's concentrate on the books.

 

For those of you (like me) who like to rip films to pieces, I can recommend The Nitpickers Site. (A Google search will find it - hours of fun)

 

There is an ulterior motive to me starting this thread though. I am preparing to start work writing  a novel set in the Western Desert in 1941 and wanted to hear from the cogniscenti about the common pitfalls a wannabe should avoid. It is possible to over research and bog everything down with detail to the detriment of the story, but the flavour must still be there.

 

All advice gratefully received.

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Well, you can have it circulate around this hallowed halls, but don't be surprised if it ends up like the great Tanknet technothriller, with Mike Steele as hero :P

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Really? I found him quite good.

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Yes, but you're an American, and presumably one not linked to the C47 crews employed in Normandy... ;) :)

 

all the best

 

BillB

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Gibson's We were Soldiers was one of the best movies ever made about Viet Nam.

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Sorry, can't have that, Bob. One of the worst war films I have seen, about Vietnam or otherwise. Not a patch on Go Tell The Spartans, Hamburger Hill or Platoon, even allowing for Oliver Stone's moralising. We Were Soldiers had the potential to have been as good, but I suspect responsibility for it not so being lies with Mr Lethal Weapon.... :(

 

all the best

 

BillB

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Well the standards for novels and reference books have to be a lot different, and realistically you have to be even looser for a movie or TV show ("based on a true story" or fiction).

 

Thus nothing much about war movies really bugs me (seeing Commonwealth types get steamed at Hollywood movies/TV enhancing the US role in WWII is amusing, not annoying ;) ) That said I'm not much of a fan of war movies either.

 

I (partly) read a novel recently by Jame Brady "The Marine" about a fictional Marine who's in every battle from the raid on Makin to Inchon and beyond. I eventually found that just too ridiculous when it got to Korea, exaggerating the relatively superior Marine performance in the early Korea fighting to US Army and ROKA, historically, into absurdity. Just not a well written novel either.

 

In reference books poor or one sided sourcing, then especially if compounded by outright rah rah for one side. But it somewhat depends on why I'm reading the book. If it's for my research, ie. I'm looking into the other side myself, then OK. If for my general edification, then I want to make sure the author has done his best to examine both sides before writing the book. If no one has looked at both sides in print, that's a reason to do it yourself and it's interesting. But if some authors have and others haven't, then I'll read the ones who have, not reinvent the wheel, but won't have much interest in the one sided stuff. And I won't care much who has the more rivetting first hand accounts, better pictures etc.

 

I'm thinking of air war history books here, but it applies generally to military history. So for example I can't understand why people still quote somebody like Martin Caidin even on this site. He had all completely one sided accounts, and often repeating sea stories as facts. In a few cases two sided accounts covering the same stuff are still lacking, but in general the topics have been covered much better since.

 

Joe

Edited by JOE BRENNAN
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Charles Whiting comes in for some stick too. Would this be the same CW who has written books on Kasserine (First Blood?) and the Siegfried Line? If so, where did he fall down?

 

Well, apart from the fact he *is* Leo Kessler you mean? :D I think he's churned out pap on just about everything in his time. Haven't read those two, but the usual pitfalls he enthusiastically leaps into are sloppy to non-existent research (I think the fact he is alleged to have served in the Recce Corps in WW2 is supposed to absolve him from the need for such tedious nonsense), repetitive prose (I suspect he just lifts whole chunks between books), heavy reliance on innuendo & hearsay. Hinting that "Ike" was porking his WAC driver is a recurring favourite, and I forgot to mention his overly familiar manner - if I had a tenner for every time he refers to "Old Blood and Guts" and "Monty" I'd be rich... There are more but those are the ones that stick in mind from the last time I had the misfortune to read one about 20 years ago. :)

 

There is an ulterior motive to me starting this thread though. I am preparing to start work writing  a novel set in the Western Desert in 1941 and wanted to hear from the cogniscenti about the common pitfalls a wannabe should avoid. It is possible to over research and bog everything down with detail to the detriment of the story, but the flavour must still be there.

 

All advice gratefully received.

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As well as getting the techie and military trivia stuff right, I'd suggest paying attention to the social stuff too, like how folk talked then, slang, social mores, that kind of thing.

 

all the best

 

BillB

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Not a comment on writing so much as laziness in the book industry: on my last trip to Borders, I saw that there's a new reprint of Robert Crisp's excellent (IMHO) book, "Brazen Chariots". For those not familiar, this covers Crisp's experiences as a Honey commander in North Africa.

 

The cover photo was of German PZKW IVs in what looked like Russia.

 

If you've never read it, buy it, tear off that idiotic cover, and read it anyway. It's a classic tank book.

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The worst refernce book that I've ever paid for was "Tiger Ace" from Schiffer Books about Wittmann. It pretty much captured almost all of the nasties that I've encountered in reference books. These include wretched research, boring prose that tries for that breathless "you-are-there" familiar writing yet fails miserably, a structure that leaps about so as to make the narrative extremely difficult to follow, and the absolute worst editing I've encountered in a book from a decent publisher. Full of misspellings, horrible grammar, and sentences that often feel that 10 adjectives are an average and a sentence requires only a verb OR a noun.

 

The only failure that it avoids is on printing quality issues, which are pretty good overall.

 

As for novels, any spec-ops book that either devotes 5 pages describing the make/model of every piece of kit worn, including underwear, everytime any character picks something up. Also, any submarine novel that devotes 5 pages to poorly written porn. Do I need to know the details of the Spetsnaz super-spy's penis and love-making technique? Yep, he's huge, horses run in fear and envy. Oh wait, every charcter apparently sports a 12" phallus or GG size boobs and a 4" waist. . .

 

Matt

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"Not a comment on writing so much as laziness in the book industry: on my last trip to Borders, I saw that there's a new reprint of Robert Crisp's excellent (IMHO) book, "Brazen Chariots". For those not familiar, this covers Crisp's experiences as a Honey commander in North Africa."

 

There is an awful lot of sloppy proofreading. The US Naval Institute book on the sinking of the Awa Maru credited the US submarine with 20 x 1-in instead of 20 x 21-in torpedo tubes and a 5.25-in instead of 5-in/25 deck gun. Somehow one should expect more from Naval Institute Press

 

Another WW II novel writen by an retired USN officer had the US using C4 explosive and the Japanese G4M Betty bombers carrying a torpedo under each wing, something which would have greatly exceeded the carrying capacity.

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The thing I really didn't like about WWS was that it was SO melodramatic... like everyone was oozing this shiny kind of patriotism. I dunno... maybe that's what it was like back then, but that melodramaticism coupled with that god-awful make-you-wanna-cringe montage of the photographer at the end really annoyed me.

 

I did like the CSM, though.

 

One author who I think writes bad books is Tom Clancy. Absolutely terrible, IMHO. I'm actually suprised nobody's mentioned him yet. Only Red Storm Rising is readable to me, and that's probably because he wrote with Larry Bond, who kept Tom from poisoning it completely.

 

Am I in a tiny minority on that?

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Sorry, can't have that, Bob. One of the worst war films I have seen, about Vietnam or otherwise. Not a patch on Go Tell The Spartans, Hamburger Hill or Platoon, even allowing for Oliver Stone's moralising. We Were Soldiers had the potential to have been as good, but I suspect responsibility for it not so being lies with Mr Lethal Weapon.... :( 

 

all the best

 

BillB

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I blame the director. What turned me off were the combat scenes which looked for the most part like typical cheesy B-grade Hollywood special effects thrown in to a Hong Kong martial arts film with guns instead of Kung Fu. The standards for shooting combat scenes have gone up in the last few years. That film didn't keep pace.

 

I'm dating myself a bit here but there is a good Gibson war film.

 

Galipoli.

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Pretty much anything written by Stephen Ambrose.

Shot

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Stephen Ambrose actually wrote something? Oh, I always thought he just copied someone else's worke, but just always forgot to put in the footnote at the end of them all... ;)

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The most appallingly cringeworthy military themed book I've read was 'The ten thousand' by Harold Coyle.

 

The basic premise of the book is that a US Corps with no logistic support could fight its way from the Ukraine to a North German port against everything a revitalised 1990s Nazi Germany could throw at it. They are aided by a sympathiser in the Luftwaffe who orders the circuit boards from ALL the Germans combat aircraft to be taken out and delivered to his workshop so he can smash them up with a hammer. The Germans thoughtfully neglect to use any indirect fire artillery, or blow any bridges and leave at least a division's worth of diesel at each intact autobahn gas station.

 

This is a book Tom Clancy probably wishes he'd written.

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One author who I think writes bad books is Tom Clancy. Absolutely terrible, IMHO. I'm actually suprised nobody's mentioned him yet. Only Red Storm Rising is readable to me, and that's probably because he wrote with Larry Bond, who kept Tom from poisoning it completely.

 

Am I in a tiny minority on that?

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No mate, I agree Tom Clancy is about as much use as a chocolate fire guard. And I think Larry Bond is the same. Only read one, about the next war in Korea. Cardboard cut out characters, evil but incompetent Commies, liberally garnished with the same US-is-always-best eyewash.

 

all the best

 

BillB

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Why didnt you like We were soldiers Bill? Frankly the only thing I thought Platoon did right was including Adagio for strings (and that was overused). From the way Stone told it, the reason why the US lost Vietnam was the fact they had poor platoon officers, and poor discipline. (which may have been true on occasions but not by large) At least WWS was based upon a real incident, and not the directors fevered ramblings. Hamburger hill I would agree was underrated, as was the boys in company c. Im surprised nobody nominated the Green Berets. <_<

 

Ah, The Boys In Company C! That's going back a bit, mate. Dunno if you've seen it recently, but it looks too much like a 1970s TV movie now with the stuff that's appeared since. Ref We Were Soldiers, what Hellfish and Fritz said. Too much mo-gas, the tactical realism was even worse then Full Metal Jacket, and Gibbos plank-like pereformance made John Wayne look positively animated. In fact the whole film looked like one of those old black and white rah-rah jobs like The Sands of Iwo Jima. The patriotism was cloying even for Yanks and no cliche was left out IIRC. My pet "favourite" was the earnest pep-talk in the chapel with the platoon commander who didn't know if he could hurt people... :rolleyes: Twat should have been sacked, not reassured. I also liked the tactic of hovering a Huey slick 70 metres from a functioning MG34.... :blink: A worthy story ruined and the blokes who were there deserved better IMHO.

 

Ref Platoon, I did caveat Stone's moralising, altho I thought the film was supposed to reflect his experiences as an infantryman with the 25th Div? Ref the poor leadership and discipline, I think it depends on when and which units, but I've read stuff that suggests that the depiction was pretty typical in some units and even worse in others. Have a look at the performance of the Americal Division in Keith Nolan's "Death Valley", for example. Whichever, at risk of being contradicted by Doug Kibbey or any oither Vietnam veterans on the board, the the kit, background routine and attitudes were spot on for some of the participant accounts I've read, especially the treatment of guys fresh in country. You could palm off just about all of it as footage from the period I reckon. The characters and acting were all too believable and IMO the combat scenes were as good as Saving Private Ryan. The early ambush and final overunning of the perimeter were especially scary.

 

all the best

 

BillB

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