Book Review – ‘Command Decisions: Langsdorff and the battle of the River Plate’ by David Miller
David Miller has published 70 books, including four in 2001 alone. Chances are that some of his works are better written and more solidly researched than others. His retelling of the German pocket-battleship Admiral Graf Spee’s operations in the southern oceans at the outset of the Second World War, spotlighting the plight of its commanding officer Hans Langsdorff and the ship’s self-destruction off Montevideo, is not one of them. While the dust jacket promises a ‘gripping narrative,’ much of the book consists of minute, dry and largely irrelevant technical data and statistics, more useful for gaming enthusiasts than for students of naval history. A major part of the material seems copied directly into the text from the author’s index cards and technical tables. Some chapters are as short as two pages, including – amazingly – the account of the battle of the River Plate itself. Especially irritating and formalistic is the division of the chapters into descriptive and ‘analytical’ sections. Nothing can transform a would-be page-turner into yawning tedium more successfully than having battlefield thrill alternate with lengthy speculative ruminations by the author about what it all meant….