* Commando, by Monty Halls
* Diving Through The Decades, by Erich Hanauer
* Deep Control, by Mike Seares
* Stolen Sommer, by Nicholas Harvey
* Crabs, by Peter JF Davie
* Diving & Snorkelling Guide to South Africa & Mozambique,
by Tim Rock & Jean-Pierre Botha
Commando: The Inside Story of Britain’s Royal Marines, by Monty Halls
No apologies for kicking off with this book, even though only one of its chapters is actually devoted to diving (and, set in a fast-flowing Afghan river, very much at the extreme end of the pursuit).
Monty Halls is a celebrity diver who has done more than most to boost awareness of the sport among non-divers, and a great many UK divers will have crossed paths with him at one time or another.
But before embarking on his multi-faceted media career he was a Royal Marines officer, so in writing this book he was well-placed to talk to and relate the high-octane stories of a range of outstanding military characters. Theirs are tales he loves to tell, and that shines through these pages – he has crafted a masterful book that’s difficult to stop reading.
Out on 28 April, it accompanies a BBC series marking the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War (2 April – 14 June). If the Royal Marines Commandos in the many forms represented here are “globally renowned and yet widely misunderstood”, this book serves to illuminate their roles and achievements and explains what it is that makes them special.
It also has an ending that crept up to catch me totally off-guard – which, I suppose, is the speciality of the Commandos.
Ebury Publishing / BBC Books, ISBN 9781785947735, hardback, 352pp, 16x24cm, £20. Also eBook on Kindle & audiobook
Diving Through The Decades, by Eric Hanauer
The fifth in a series of eBooks entitled Wise Divers, this one sets out to chronicle, decade by decade, scuba diving’s progression from humble beginnings 90 years ago to “an international sport enjoyed by millions”.
Along the way the idea was to highlight inventions, events and diving pioneers, some through interviews. It’s written by US diving instructor and photo-journalist Hanauer, who has been writing about scuba since 1977 and really knows his stuff.
This eBook’s layout is uninspired and so is the editing, which makes it jumpy and in places repetitive. The choice of content seems to have been moulded by Hanauer’s writings during his long years working for Skin Diver, which is perhaps why the book hits the buffers around the end of the 20th century, when that magazine closed.
Following scuba’s European origins, the history we’re given becomes very US-centric, which is to be expected and is OK. However, once we reach the year 2000 we’re restricted to speculative 10-year predictions made at that time by the author and his interviewees. Did the Millennium really mark the end of diving history?
There are other oddities, such as the Lusitania wreck apparently having been relocated to Scotland. But oddly, although this book feels a bit cobbled-together and incomplete, I did still find it an entertaining and informative read!
The other titles in the Wise Divers series deal with underwater photography and marine life, and Hanauer is a co-writer with Marty Snyderman on three of them.
Wise Divers ISBN: 9781792383496, eBook, 327pp, US $14.99, Apple Book Store or Amazon.com
Deep Control, by Mike Seares
Who is the best British diver turned thriller-writer? It has to be between Mike Seares and Nicholas Harvey, both of whom have new books out.
Deep Control is the fourth of Seares’ John McCready thrillers, which always have a diving element to match the author’s background as an underwater film-maker. They get more outrageous volume by volume, not least this one, which ranges all over the world as a well-meaning but megalomaniac tycoon seeks to solve looming environmental meltdown by exercising his own nuclear option.
Fortunately nothing much fazes McCready, who is always ready to dive a 200m-deep aircraft wreck at short notice, perform mountain-high stunts involving a helicopter and an iconic car, or storm an Indian Ocean private island on scuba if the situation calls for it – all facilitated by his deep-pocketed and long-suffering mates. There isn’t too much in the way of character development but it hardly matters – McCready is just a good old-fashioned action hero.
Deep Control runs to nearly 500 dense pages and could see you pleasurably through an overseas dive-trip. Leave your scepticism at the entrance and enjoy the ride!
Mike Seares Books, ISBN: 9781739893507, paperback, 494pp, 13x20cm, £11.99, eBook on Kindle Unlimited
Stolen Sommer, by Nicholas Harvey
Surely the hardest-working novelist in the dive business (apart from Mike Seares, above), US-based British diver Harvey won a loyal fanbase with his dozen or so AJ Bailey scuba-instructor thrillers set in the Cayman Islands, then branched out with AJ’s buddy and rookie cop Nora Sommer, a slightly more complicated character. It’s no longer necessarily always diving-related, but still Caymans-based.
Stolen Sommer is the second in that Caribbean Suspense series – when the police investigate a burglary, Nora recognises the victim from the past she had hoped to forget. The thefts mount up, a girl goes missing and she develops an improbable theory…
Harvey Books, ISBN: 9798423646615, paperback, 288pp, 15x23cm, £9.99, eBook on Kindle, audiobook on Audible
Crabs: A Global Natural History, by Peter JF Davie
Crabs scuttle about on the seabed or peer from holes in the reef or under shells – in their many varied forms they’ll often provide a welcome diversion for divers wherever they are in the world.
This is another of those beautifully designed and produced marine wildlife books from Princeton. It contains some spectacular underwater photography and is packed with attractively presented information for divers who find crabs a source of fascination, or simply fun to shoot.
The book provides not an ID guide but deep background. The five main sections cover Evolutionary Pathways; Anatomy & Physiology; Crab Ecology; Reproduction, Cognition & Behaviour; and Exploitation & Conservation.
Forty-two illustrative species from around the world are covered in some detail along the way – this book is both a smooth read and easy on the eye.
Princeton University Press, ISBN: 9780691201719, hardback, 224pp, 22x25cm, £25, eBook on Kindle
Diving & Snorkelling Guide to South Africa & Mozambique, by Tim Rock & JP Botha
This is part of a series of guide-books that focuses on Indo-Pacific diving destinations. It has 200 full-colour images, describes dive-sites in detail and includes practical information and dive tips.
Diving writer Rock joined great white shark cage-diving pioneer and expedition-leader Jean-Pierre Botha to collaborate on a Lonely Planet diving and snorkelling guide to the two countries in question that was published back in 2004, describing 55 dive-sites and with a marine life guide. This new release is built on that base, covering reefs, walls and wrecks and with more than 200 images.
MantaRay Publishing, ISBN: 979-8794005929, paperback, 172pp, 15x23cm, $34.99, eBook on Kindle