/ NEW REVIEW: Unjustifiable Risk? by Simon Thompson

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joe tasker  don whillans b m c buxton 1982, 3 kbBritain has a rich climbing literary tradition.

Climbers and mountaineers love writing about what they have done, and we love reading about their adventures. If you were to try and recommend, perhaps to a new climber, just one book that would give them an overview of our history and a starting point to explore the hundreds of 'autobiographies, biographies, histories, memoirs and journals published since mountaineering's earliest days', you would be hard pressed to do so.

This is what Simon Thompson with his book, Unjustifiable Risk? The Story of British Climbing has attempted to do.

Ed Douglas takes a critical look.

Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=2949

JJL - on 24 Sep 2010
In reply to UKC Gear:

Thanks for the review.

A quibble though - there's a clear conflict of interest in one short-listed entrant being allowed to review another's entry to the Boardman-Tasker prize. Either this should be acknowledged a bit more visibly or a different reviewer should have been picked. In fact, I'm amazed that Ed agreed to do the review given the situation; poor form.

Sadly, in that context the review comes across as damning with faint praise, combined with a bit of point-scoring, and I was left fearing an ulterior motive.
Monk - on 24 Sep 2010
In reply to JJL:

I'm reasonably certain that the B-T judges will not be basing their opinions on a review on UKC, so I don't see there being any conflict of interest.
sutty on 24 Sep 2010
In reply to JJL:

>Sadly, in that context the review comes across as damning with faint praise,

Exactly what I thought about it.

Didn't notice ED was in for the BT prize as well so took it a read.
JJL - on 24 Sep 2010
In reply to Monk:

It's generally considered pretty shabby to do this sort of thing until after the selection is made. So the protection would be as much for Ed as for Simon. However, who knows what judges read or what avenues of thought get put into their heads? I'd say the review was ill-advised but, if you're going to do it at least be very explicit about the perceived conflict rather than hiding it away in the biog at the bottom. One of Ed's big gripes is the lack of original research - of course, in *his* book he has new interviews with Ron..... etc. etc..
Monk - on 24 Sep 2010
In reply to JJL:

To be fair to Ed, he is quite well known for doing original research on his subjects, so I would hazard a guess that this would be his standpoint for reviews of climbing history books. What would be interesting is to get a newer climber to do a review and see how the reviews varied. Clearly, this book is not aimed at the likes of Ed Douglas.
alan edmonds - on 24 Sep 2010
In reply to UKC Gear:

Has he mistaken Joe Brown the entertainer with Joe Brown the climber as having received the MBE?

I think one photo has a caption mix-up i.e Brian Hall.

I'm doing this from memory as I've taken the book back to the library.

Perhaps I should have posted this on the Old Farts forum.



stroppygob - on 25 Sep 2010
In reply to UKC Gear:

[quote]Climbing in the 1970s, when Whillans' influence was at its greatest, was often a misogynist, intolerant place – it seems to me.[/quote]

Yes. And?

What the bloody hell does that have to do with anything? Would you like an apology for them daring to climb when this was the zeitgeist of the day?

I'm absolutely baffled by this, can someone enlighten me what is the relevance of the comment to the book, the climbers or anything at all?
In reply to stroppygob:

> I'm absolutely baffled by this, can someone enlighten me what is the relevance of the comment to the book, the climbers or anything at all?

Haven't read the book, but it suggests to me that the reviewer thinks that the author doesn't look at either Whillans or the scene at that time in a critical way.
eroica64 - on 25 Sep 2010
In reply to UKC Gear: Brilliant review Ed. Thanks.
stroppygob - on 26 Sep 2010
In reply to TobyA:

Criticism of times past using present day mores is not an honest, or worthwhile thing to do, smacks of revisionism. I note also that the reviewer brings up issues such as “women’s climbing” and “racism” being addressed in a way he does not approve of, I think we can see where the reviewer has allowed his personal preferences to be the point of the review. This is a book on climbing history, I do not think it claims to be a postmodern revision of climbing history.

To be honest, the review has made me more inclined to buy the book.
In reply to stroppygob: I read this book and its okay however its not really a social, cultural and economic history of the game we all play now.
What I would love to read is the truth.................. surprisingly many of the eminent Victorian mountaineers were enlightened 'liberals' (I can see Postman Pat et al spitting feathers :-))however, as Katherine Chorley mentions in her great book 'Manchester Made Them' they believed that it was down to themselves to alleviate the social ills caused by their business practice etc and not that of a Government. It was only WHEN the government got involved that social conditions in the UK got better and that working class people could get out into the hills and mountains of these isles and elsewhere. THATS when standards really improved and we found that we could 'compete' with the French, Italian and Swiss climbers who were climbing far harder routes than our lads could of dreamed of before the war. I'd love to see an authorative work setting out the differences in the social conditions or Europe compared to the UK in the 20's and 30's. While life for the working class European may have been as hard, if not harder, than what the working classes here had to endure how come they had the time and means to cycle (quoting Buhl here) from Innsbruck to the Dolomites. They were 'helped' on their way by friendly farmers who fed and sheltered them while in the UK you could have been shot at or beaten up for walking along the Kinder Plateau ????

Now thats the history I want to read about !!!!!

Doug on 27 Sep 2010
In reply to Allan McDonald (Gwydyr MC): If you can read French you might find a couple of books by Olivier Hoibian (eg Les alpinistes en France, 1870-1950: une histoire culturelle) worth a read.

Not read the book being reviewed but did glance at a copy & didn't think it looked very interesting as it appeared to be a compilation of stuff I'd already read. I did buy the SMC history of climbing in the Cairngorms & although its interesting (at least if you climb/climbed in the area) it does tend to be X climbed something, then Y climbed something else without much on the cultural, economic & sociological background
Alun - on 27 Sep 2010
In reply to Monk:
> I'm reasonably certain that the B-T judges will not be basing their opinions on a review on UKC, so I don't see there being any conflict of interest.

No conflict of interest for the B-T judges perhaps, but a certain conflict of interest for this review which, given the circumstances, isn't really worth much.

Ed Douglas makes a couple of snide remarks about the author, which make him sound a little bitter and rather undermine the points of his review.
Michael Ryan - on 27 Sep 2010
In reply to Alun:

Ed wrote the review before the B-T shortlist was announced.
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JJL - on 27 Sep 2010
In reply to Mick Ryan - Senior Editor - UKC:

OK - though what with the shortlist announced by the 9 September and the review appearing on the 24th, and the review already saying it was of short-listed book, and the review already saying it was written by a short-listed author....well you can see how we might be a trifle confused, skeptical even...

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