A selection of a wide reading list to suit all tastes by Patrick Wilson
Saddam : The Secret Life, Con Couglin,
Pan Macmillan, £20
It's no secret that Saddam vies with Bin Laden to be America's public enemy number one. It is also not news that he is a serial human rights abuser, hell bent on power retention, who has used chemical weapons on the Kurds and who dreams of having a nuclear button close to hand. We know all this. And it's hardly surprising - after all we did fight him in 1991 and tension continues to run dangerously high. So what can a book about Saddam tell us that we don't already know?
The truth is that while this despot's political and military intrigues have been well publicised, his life, habits
and true character have been strangely neglected. Coughlin's attempt to uncover the
man behind the moustache
is therefore as timely as
it is readable. His marital relationships initially seem harmonious in comparison
to past dictators - Hitler and Stalin's wives both committed suicide. But read on.
Saddam is a polygamist, with a penchant for young blondes, who employs his bodyguards to
'fetch' desirable women, ranging from someone featured on television to a colleague's wife. And woe betide those who don't satisfy the dictator's lusts. His family are little better. Uday, his eldest son, made his millions through unscrupulous businesses - he reputedly re-labelled a Japanese consignment of milk sent to help Iraq's malnourished for his own profit.
He is paranoid. His swimming pools are tested for poison, while nuclear scientists examine his food for radiation. He employs eight 'doubles', moves between 15 presidential palaces and has a security apparatus employing
Coughlin skilfully highlights the fear factor and cruelty in Iraq with extraordinary stories. No one is safe. In March 1982, during a cabinet meeting,
a minister spoke up for the former president. He was asked to step outside, a shot was fired and later that day the unfortunate minister's body was delivered to his
wife in pieces.
Masonic Memorabilia for Collectors,
Bill Jackman, Gemini, £17.95
One of the best-kept 'secrets' of Freemasonry is the vast amount of collectors' items that are available - if you can find them. China, glass,
jewels, books, prints and other items are there for the discerning memorabilia hunter.
To open up this almost private world, Bill Jackman has produced a delightful book that gives useful guides to the reader. For instance,
he has been brave enough
to give likely prices of goods, and tips on buying at auction through to using the internet.
Masonic memorabilia goes back a long way, not least the work of silversmith Thomas Harper, who became a Mason in 1761, and who manufactured some of the first Masonic jewels.
Jackman's book is colourfully reproduced with excellent examples of the wide range of objects available, from regalia to barometers, grandfather clocks and even Masonic frog mugs!
For anyone interested in the history of Freemasonry, to the experienced collector or the newcomer, this is
a gem of a publication. It
is available from Gemini Publications, 30a Monmouth Street, Bath BAI 2AN or contact Bill Jackman on firstname.lastname@example.org or obtain more information at www.masoniccollectors.co
Review by John Jackson
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