It was equally evident that Gutman had a very poor grasp of the cave environment. The factual errors, the product of hasty compilation, just kept appearing. Knowledge of diving was laughable: he refers, for example, to having “steel O-rings at either end” of containers to ensure that they are waterproof!
Again, recounting the rescue that Rick Stanton and Jason Mallinson had conducted in Mexico, in 2004, we are told that: “Six soldiers clung to a ledge above a subterranean river in relative comfort…” Clearly you can’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.
And on the very next page, an incident involving the loss of a leading French cave diver is similarly dramatised – incorrectly.
Some touches of humour, such as the description of Rick Stanton entering the cave and diving with an old car inner-tube strapped to his back, were engaging, however, as was John Volanthen’s comment about the same equipment: “You’ll look like a cockwomble.”
Having been critical of the shoddy “race to the bookshelves” demonstrated by Gutman, I was suitably primed on what to look out for in Liam Cochrane’s book The Cave.
The cover, an image of the Wild Boars football team gathered at the surface, was altogether more attractive from my perspective than that used for the Gutman book, but unfortunately the image on the back cover was confusing and would better have been left out altogether.
As with the other book, more than 40 images were used inside.
After that, and despite the fact that the two authors were both news correspondents, and the format of each book was essentially the same, it was quickly apparent that their respective offerings were like chalk and cheese.
Cochrane’s writing was easy to read and flowed naturally. Gutman’s book had clearly been intended for an American audience, using some terms that we in the UK might struggle to understand.
Likewise, all his distances had been quoted in feet, yards and miles, whereas Cochrane uses metric, which seems so much better in a cave-diving context.
I was hunting for errors in The Cave, but found few. There were 337 pages in the book and it seemed evident to me that those few extra weeks taken in producing it had been crucial.
Final comment: The Cave is by far the better book, in all respects.