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In Spymistress: The True Story of the Greatest Female Agent of World War II, Will Stevenson tells the long secret story of Vera Atkins (her principle alias) who served as the head of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). SOE was established by Winston Churchill as a covert organization to work around the staid, old fashioned Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). Along with Vera Atkins we learn about SOE and its personnel whose stories put the best spy thrillers to shame. But Vera Atkins was more than a social butterfly; she was a cool political operator as well.
Vera Atkins—whose list of aliases goes on for a full paragraph—was the most successful agent of World War II. Russ Stover is a terrorism and crime analyst whose tools have included forensics, statistical analysis, and data recovery. Kids book reviews, including book reviews of chapter books, novels, picture books, and non-fiction from famous children’s literature authors. Randal Doane has produced a superb account from an American viewpoint of the development of one of the iconic punk bands and placed their career and legacy firmly in context, not just of their time, but in the wider picture of the history of Rock.
First up is a brilliant foreword from Clash roadie and confidante, Barry ‘The Baker’ Auguste.
Throughout this riveting narrative, we learn not just about the rise of The Clash from the cradle of UK Punk, but also the development and relevance of the phenomenon of ‘free-form radio’.
As big an impact as the band were having in the UK, their supporters across the pond were vigorously championing the band.
While a certain view in the UK was that “Punk died the day The Clash Signed for CBS”, the band saw the move as a way to reach wider audiences in America.
There is a compelling description of The Clash’s two night stint at the New York Palladium in 1979 which vividly describes the opening of the show and reminds us what this book is essentially about, the music. By 1980, The Clash were embarking on a three week residency on Times Square and, in the words of Don Letts “practically ran New York for the time they were there. However, maybe the most poignant aspect of this absorbing account is the posing of the question, have we lost the likes of The Clash for ever? I think you have a thinking like me , I readed this book 2 weeks ago and i think you a right.
I believe that claim, which has been made a number of times previously, to be something of a myth. As for The Clash themselves, their debut album contains one track which was from a tempo-perspective clearly influenced by The Ramones, White Riot. Next time somebody makes the claim that The Ramones turbocharged the London Punk scene overnight, I’d like to see some solid examples please. The new SOE was tasked with everything from intelligence gathering to aiding and training resistance fighters to planning the assassination of Hitler. Among her friends she counted an anti-Nazi German diplomat, Bill Stephenson (aka Intrepid), the American pilot Chuck Yeager, and a wide cast of businessmen, scholars, and regular people ready and willing to do the extraordinary. She could negotiate the corridors of power that had grown even more treacherous with the onset of war, but she could also find her way around the laws of the very country she was defending. The secret of her success was not some gadget or gimmick, but deep understanding of the power of influence and information.
Early in his career he was a fingerprint specialist at the FBI, and has since been an analyst at the National Cyber-Forensic Training Alliance and Open Source Intelligence Exchange, as well as a computer crime specialist at the National White Collar Crime Center.
The Baker weaves an intriguing narrative of life with the band, from their early London roots to US sports stadiums. This is essentially the rise of FM radio in 1960’s America which developed as a reaction to the DJ’s on AM radio who were simply pulling playlists from a small pool of well-known hit songs. Doane identifies The Ramones as the single most important band that changed Punk Rock as after their debut album came out, all English bands tripled their speed overnight. Robert Christagu, Music Editor for New York magazine The Village Voice, called the debut Clash album “notoriously under-produced” and it was only released in the UK as CBS deemed the sound quality too low for US radio.
Maybe the widening gap between how the band were viewed in America, compared to their home country is best illustrated by reaction to Give ‘em Enough Rope. An intro tape of Frank Sinatra’s High Hopes gave way to Simonon’s driving bass and Jones’s feedback drenched guitar as an opening salvo of Safe European Homes, I’m So Bored With the USA and Complete Control rang round the venue. They graduated to playing stadiums and claimed America as their own, also paving the way for the likes of The Police, U2 and other ‘New Wave’ acts who would go on to play to large US audiences. The rest of the album maintains a speed much the same as that heard on the band’s pre-Ramones live bootlegs.
Vera’s story was kept a secret until her recent death, and now it and the story of others who spent lifetimes operating in secret can finally be told.

Born in Bucharest, Romania, as Vera Maria Rosenberg to Jewish parents, Vera’s early life put her under constant threat of imprisonment or deportment under Britain’s Alien Act of 1793 and the Official Secrets Act. She knew that it is brains and not bombs; guile and not guns that win the covert side of war.
The reality of touring at the time is brought starkly into focus, none more so than when he describes the daily chore of scraping the previous night’s gob off amps and drums.
DJ’s like Meg Griffin and Jane Hamburger emerge as unsung heroes for their determination to push an alternative to the celebrity-obsessed mainstream agenda. The Clash were at  the forefront of the UK punk explosion, influenced by Bernie Rhodes mantra that they should not write love songs, but what was affecting them. Christagu, however, advised his readers to snap up import copies of this classic while they could which exemplifies the growing interest in the band in America. Described in the US as having “more guitars per square inch than anything in the history of Western civilisation”, the record was slammed in the UK with NME describing them as “a dying myth” and Melody Maker stating ”so do they squander their greatness”.  Lester Bangs writing in New York’s Village Voice however, described them as “the greatest Rock and Roll band left standing”. Critics enthused about the tightness and overall quality of the live performance alongside the band’s attempts to involve the audience. The world and how we access music has undoubtedly changed beyond recognition from the time of The Clash, but we can still hope to see a band hurtling through full-on performances, singing songs that matter so much to them and their audience, can’t we? But like few others of her time Vera, along with key figures like Churchill, saw the coming storm over Nazi dominated Europe and understood that it would take more than conventional means to win, but also unconventional tactics waged by covert fighters.
New York regional radio started increasingly playing the likes of Television, Talking Heads, Ramones and The Clash which was integral to paving the way for the success of The Clash in America.
Joe Strummer, who said that he realised his former band, The 101’ers, were dead the first time he saw The Sex Pistols, was the lyrical powerhouse assisted by what he called “the genius arrangements” of Mick Jones.
However, it may have been the reluctance of the audience to engage that led to the iconic shot of Simonon’s bass smashing that adorns the cover of London Calling and this book. Maybe then the reality of who The Clash were, and the scope of what they achieved, which is captured brilliantly by Randal Doane in these pages, will be brought home vividly to a new generation. However, maybe his most perceptive comments emphasise the importance of this book in not just  chronicling the meteoric rise of The Clash in America, but also the importance of those who paved the way for this to happen. In fact, when free-form radio began to struggle New York’s WNEW effectively contrasted their playlist of over ten thousand records with that of WPLJ, their main rival, which consisted of a playlist of around thirty LP’s. The author states that the songs on the first Clash album are exactly what Punk should be, full on tracks that end at full volume and don’t fade out.
Up until Secret Wars, no big event since Civil War could match or exceed the sales success of Civil War.While I enjoyed the main Civil War title I hated most of all of the Civil War tie-in issues. So, I was hesitant to pick up a copy of Secret Wars Civil War #1.However, the fact that Charles Soule was the writer helped to allay some of my fears.
Soule is both an attorney and a talented writer so I figured he would be much more intelligent and better equipped to handle the subtext of Civil War in a far superior fashion than the vast majority of comic book writers. Black Panther tells Dagger that Tony has rigged the entire prison with a self destruct device and the whole place is going to blow up with Steve and their teammates in the prison. Black Panther tells Dagger to get Cloak and have him teleport as many people as possible out of the prison.We then cut back to the prison. Mariah Hill radios Tony and tells him that Black Panther hacked into his system and activated the self-destruct system. Cloak transported as many people as he could but around 15 million people died in the massive explosion. Then Norman Osborn attempted to take over the United States, but he failed.Click for full page viewThe United States then split in half.
Steve Rogers ruled the West and it was called The Blue.We cut to a young mutant suddenly getting the power of flight. Carol tells the girl who now that she has powers that she has to become registered.The girl says she was not going to hurt anyone.
That there are many unintended consequences to untrained people just flying around.We shift to The Blue. It is a large canyon that is the dividing line between the order between The Blue and The Iron. She is the one who started the entire Super Hero Registration push once her son was killed.Miriam is being interviewed by a reporter. Miriam talks about how she has invited Tony and Steve to meet at The Divide in hopes to finally end the cold war between the two countries.
That the United States needs to be unified once again.The reporter says that Miriam is a polarizing figure and that many see her in the same light as the Bullseye Boys and other terrorist groups.
The woman then transforms into She-Hulk.Steve, Peter, Tony and She-Hulk then all meet up with Miriam.

Steve and Tony then walk into the negotiation room with Miriam.Miriam says that they need to talk about reunification. Steve say that The Blue has twice the land of The Iron and half of the population of The Iron.Steve says that Tony wants land.
That Tony has been starving The Blue by cutting off the flow of all the resources in order to force The Blue to give up some land in exchange for resources.Tony says The Iron is recognized internationally and is a legitimate trading partner so of course they get all of the resources. Miriam stands up and begs both men to sit back down.We hear a gun shot and we see that Miriam has been shot in the chest by a sniper.
I appreciate that Soule delivers a substantive issue that makes the reader feel that they got more than their money’s worth. I also appreciate the depth of this issue as well as the incredible attention to detail.Soule does an impressive job world building in this issue.
The reader gets treated to an incredibly well-developed setting and a wonderfully detailed history of this world. Soule pulls off more world building in this single issue than I think I have ever seen before.
Such a well-developed world helps to pull the reader into the issue and delivers a truly immersive reading experience.Click for full page viewSoule fleshes out every single small aspect of this setting from The Iron to The Blue. I love that Soule even touches on some of the fringe groups like The Punishers and the Bullseye Boys. The concept of the Punishers is spot on and it makes sense that such a group would exist in The Blue in order to enforce their brand of justice. Yeah, Bullseye as a leader of a terrorist group is fitting for this character.What was also impressive was how Soule was able to really nail the philosophical differences between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Soule was able to take those differences and extrapolate them into the future when asking what if Civil War had never ended. The end result was a logical evolution of both Tony and Steve.Basically, Soule writes The Iron like the present day Northeastern states of New England, New York and New Jersey. Like America’s Northeast, The Iron is liberal in that it favors heavy gun control and heavy government regulation.
On the other hand, Soule writes The Blue like present day Southwestern states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
However, the rush to do so was based upon a lack of intelligence about how our legislature and judicial systems operate.
Soule clearly tapped into that same view.Click for full page viewIn this issue, Tony comes across far more reasonable and rational about how a modern civilized society should be run. Possibly.Steve, seems more stubborn and narrow-minded as if he simply wants to keep the war for the sake of fighting. Soule even has Steve say at the end of the issue that it no longer even matters why he and Tony are fighting. It is quite a fascinating take on the conflict from Civil War.I have to admit that even though I am a massive Peter Parker fan, Pete came across incredibly annoying in this issue.
She-Hulk being an attorney understands how the legislative and judicial systems work and she would understand Tony’s motivations. Also, being an attorney, She-Hulk is going to understand that the only way to deal with problems is through the proper channels of the American judicial system.
Also, it just works that Tony would be attracted to a smoking hot giant green woman!Soule certainly ended Secret Wars Civil War #1 with a huge hook ending in the surprising assassination of Miriam Sharpe. This was compounded with the fact that bullet was aimed for Steve and may have been commissioned by Tony.
But, this issue read like it was written by an attorney, which is Soule’s occupation.
The issue comes across as dry and a bit dull.Click for full page viewSecret Wars Civil War #1 reads a bit like a history book.
However, the reader’s eyes begin to glaze over halfway through the issue much like when slogging through a history book.
If Soule can crank up the emotional side of his story then we could end up getting a real treat of a story.

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