books: Denis Avey “The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz”

January 30, 2013

I heard a radio interview with Denis Avey some time ago and stuck the book on my Amazon wishlist as a reminder to get it at some point.  On the spur of the moment I added it to an order and have now just finished reading it.

bookThis is an incredible, unique and yet fairly straight forward story.  The young Denis Avey who joined the army to fight in the second world war was nothing special.  He was a good marksman and engineer but not an officer or hero who won many meddles in any single great action.  He is just a simple soldier doing his best and fighting his war.

What makes this man and his story unique is a simple drive to see what is happening, to observe and record every detail.  In North Africa his vehicle was blown up and he was captured, transported to Italy – torpedoed, escaped and re-captured – he was then a PoW in various camps until eventually being placed in the allied labour camp, E715, near Auschwitz III where both allied prisoners and jewish were put to work in the nearby IG Farben factory.

Here, while Denis and the other PoWs suffered greatly they saw that their treatment was little compared to what was happening the the ‘strippies’ who were being worked to death every day.  In small ways the PoWs would try to help the jews – leaving food or cigarets for them – but there was little they could do.

In the book it appears to be common knowledge about what is happening to the jewish prisoners.  If they aren’t fit to work they are taken off and ‘go up the chimney’ by this stage in the war, at least to those who are there, it is clear how the concentration camps operate.

Denis is particularly struck by the different treatment of the Jews and manages to persuade one person to swap places with him so that he can see what conditions are really like across the wire in Auschwitz III.  This experience, the final forced march out of E715 as the Russian army closes in, Avey’s escape and wild journey across Europe to liberty, is a fascinating read.

Now that I have finished the story, as I tend to do, a quick search shows that there is some controversy over the accuracy of the story.   To my mind it matters very little.  That such things happened is important to remember exactly who and how they happened isn’t as important.  I am from a generation never affected by the war – how will we keep alive and relevant the facts of such conflicts for generations to come.  This is a good read.

Books: David Baldacci “Hour Game”

January 16, 2013

First book of the year was a bit disappointing.

bookI’ve read a few books by Baldacci books before and enjoyed them, and while I find it difficult to put my finger on anything wrong with this book I simply didn’t find it very engaging.  The characters were a bit cliched and flat which meant I really never cared about what happened to any of them.  The detectives were the best ever detectives, ex-secret service, blah blah… the local rich family are very rich, a spoiled brat just out of college daughter, the servants appear loyal but everyone has secrets… cliche cliche cliche….


movie: Jack Reacher

January 3, 2013

Without doubt the best movie I’ve seen this year!  Obvious joke, but I couldn’t resist it.

Finally this character has made it onto film, and it really is an excellent movie!  The basic plot is that there is a shooting in an unidentified city, there is overwhelming evidence leading to an ex-military sniper who is arrested within hours.  The suspect simply says “Get Jack Reacher” however the DA and detective in charge have no way of getting in touch with Reacher.  We soon find out that as soon as Jack saw the suspect on news reports he made his way to the scene – not to help but to make sure he was found guilty.

movieSo why would the suspect ask for an investigator who wants to find him guilty?  Why did these random killings take place?  Who carried out the shootings?  Why are people trying to throw Jack Reacher off the trail?

I have been a fan of this character since I read Lee Child‘s first novel Killing Floor back in 2006, since then I have read all of the published Child novels and eagerly awaited each new release (and written about each one here).  Jack Reacher is a great character because he is the quintessential drifter, breezing into a situation (usually in a small town somewhere) helps out those in need then wanders off.  Reacher is an investigator, ex-military police, no ties, no baggage, with the sole aim of staying off grid.

There is some controversy about the casting of this movie because the physical description of Jack Reacher across all the novels is summed up as 6′ 5″ tall with a 50-inch chest, and weighing between 210 and 250 pounds. He is exceptionally strong, has a high stamina, and looks imposing and intimidating.  So Tom Cruise (5′ 7″, 150 pounds) isn’t the first person that comes to mind to play the part.  But this is a movie – a different thing from the book – in the movie he isn’t described as 6′ 5″ etc…  he is shown as Tom Cruise.  It’s as simple as that for me.  This is a different thing from the book and the important thing is the skills of the man – and Tom Cruise really pulls this off.

I thought the movie was excellent, that Tom Cruise plays Reacher very well.  It is very close to the book, the investigation keeps you guessing, the action scenes are fantastic, just a really good action film.

Review of 2012

January 2, 2013

Following reviews of 2011, 2010, and 2009… here is the summary of my blog posts this year… please note this is only to help me remember things I really don’t know why anyone else would be interested:


MOVIES (cinema)

Movies (home, but for some reason significant)

RESTAURANTS, blogged about (I don’t blog about every restaurant anymore)…

BOOKS read this year….


  • April: Blair Atholl
  • July: CLANkidz
  • September: Lagos, Portugal
  • October: Rochester trip for Mark’s wedding, (it was a short trip but still a bit of a holiday)

Other Highlights:

Running Totals:

  • 2009 – 23 books – 6 Movies – 4 gigs
  • 2010 – 33 books – 13 Movies – 10 gigs – 6 restaurants – 4 holidays
  • 2011 – 18 books – 2 Movies – 3 gigs – 1 restaurants – 3 holidays
  • 2012 – 16 books – 7 Movies – 3 gigs – 3 restaurants – 4 holidays