SAS - Rogue Heroes, by Ben Macintyre

This was 99p and I've read several other books by Ben Macintyre which have been pretty grippingly good, so I thought this was a dead-cert.

Unfortunately, it was a huge let-down. It's billed as "The Authorized Wartime History from the Secret SAS Archives" and that is, I think, the main problem: he's been given access to various archive material in order to write an officially sanctioned book, and I'm guessing that what they let him have was extremely selective.

I listened to the spoken version with the kindle, which meant it wasn't so easy to make notes. The narrator was Ben himself, who I think would be better off sticking to writing: it sounded like he was preaching a sermon, or delivering a funeral address - each sentence was declaimed rather than spoken. And he made no effort to "do the voices".

There was quite a lot of biographical information about the characters, but comparatively little detail about actual operations. In several cases a new character is introduced with lots of detail about their family background/job history, and you think "ah, this is someone significant, so I better pay attention" - only to have them leave the company, or get killed on a mission, about a page later.

You do get to hear about various missions, but in very vague terms, and you can't help feeling they've deliberately tried not to give too much detail. I'm not sure if that's because it's sensitive or what.

There are also quite a lot of direct quotes from the characters which don't give you much either, e.g., from a mission when they were in the desert "I was dreaming of a running tap every time I closed my eyes," Bennett, the cockney mouth-organist, later recalled". Of a parachute jump It was, he later recalled, the hardest jump he ever made; and for another operation "We were involved in a series of postponements and cancellations, and that was extremely frustrating," he later recalled. So although you're getting stuff direct from the horse's mouth, what you're getting isn't really that interesting.

I think the book only covers SAS history until the end of WW2, if I remember right. There's a fairly long section at the end telling you what the eventual fate was of various characters who appear in the book, but none of that was very interesting to me. Maybe if you'd had family in the SAS or were related to some of the people involved it would be nice to have this book, but this one was a bit of a dud for me.

Completed : 04-Sep-2017 (audiobook)

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