Tuesday 22 November 2016


As Black Friday approaches it seems an appropriate time to mention The Division a computer/console game from Ubisoft Massive. This game was released in March 2016

This is a third person online only shooter set against the background of a sealed off Manhatten ruled by four factions. The hero/heroine that the player creates is a sleeper agent who is activated by the crisis to take and secure control of the city.

The story opens with Black Friday underway, Scientist and eco-terrorist Gordon Amherst has impregnated dollar bills with a deadly virus that becomes known as 'green poison' or 'the dollar flu'. As the virus takes control the island of Manhatten goes into lockdown.
In Brooklyn the Division agents gather and have to take down a gang of rioters who are attempting to take advantage of the situation. After this intro you join one of the senior officers, Faye Lau, to transfer to Manhatten. However, the transport helicopter is destroyed and Lau is badly injured in the explosion.
After arriving at the base at Hudson Yards the agent is tasked with joining the Joint Task Force ( a kind of home guard) to take the Post Office to establish a base of operations. The place is a mess but as the agent finds various personnel like a doctor who is held prisoner in a sports stadium or a security chief trying to protect the Lincoln Tunnel from being flooded the place becomes habitable.
Step by step the agent becomes aware of the bigger picture as to the origins of the virus. Against the agent are gangs of rioters; cleaners who are armed with flame throwers who believe that burning people will eradicate the disease; Rikers - escapees from Riker's Island prison and the LMB (Last Man Battalion) ex-soldiers who feel dis-enfranchised who have taken over the United Nations building.

As a game it is all very straight forward - it can be played solo or in a group.

Despite a number of patches that are supposed to improve gameplay they have done nothing to rectify how scenery moves like a transparent shield that protects the bad guys but leaves the player vulnerable.

Personally, I found some of the set pieces a touch questionable.
For example a city without infrastructure the lights are still on. Everywhere the Christmas lights are ablaze but there is no one manning the power station.
The first mission sees the agent rescue a doctor who is being held prisoner with her staff in a sports stadium restaurant. At street level the JTF wait to escort them over the road to the Post Office and that is the direction said doctor goes. But no sooner has the agent rescued the doc than the order comes through to clear the roof so that a helicopter can land and carry the doctor over the road. Logic fails and I can't help wonder----why? Doesn't make sense.
In another task the agent is called upon to restore power in Times Square to switch the billboards on. Times Square is all lit up - as are the billboards so that when the quest is completed there is no change.
When the storyline is completed I found myself wondering 'what happened next?'. The bad guy disappears so the storyline is not done. There is no sign of him in the new game add-on 'Underground' but there are still two game additions to come.

Despite my gripes about the storyline there is very little wrong with the gameplay.

The game is available for PC and Xbox One and PS4 consoles.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

SAMUEL ANDREWS 1836 - 1904

Samuel Andrews was a candle maker born in Oaksey, Wiltshire but he was a technical genius who was set to change the face of America's oil production.

He arrived in America prior to the Civil War and settled in Cleveland, Ohio where he married Mary Cole in Cuyahoga County in 1859.

While working with shale oil production in the newly discovered oil fields of western Pennsylvania in 1862 he came up with a way to separate the different components of crude oil. This became known as fractional distillation.

Looking for investment for his ideas Samuel Andrews approached a local businessman, John D. Rockefeller, who saw a lot of potential in them. With investment Samuel Andrews designed and built a small refinery in Cleveland.

So was born Standard Oil which was destined to make Samuel Andrews a fortune. To show off his new found wealth he built a mansion on Euclid Avenue aka Millionaires Row but it was over ambitious and unmanageable that it was left empty and derelict for 25 years before the bulldozers moved in. All that remains is a photo.

However, not all went well between Andrews and Rockefeller. Rockefeller took the credit for marketing that capitalised on Andrews' ideas but Samuel was not comfortable with the aggressive way that the company was growing. Finally, Samuel Andrews sold out his share of Standard Oil in 1874.

He was not a poor man when he died in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1904.

                 *                          *                        *                       *                        *

Normally I would have ended this biography there - but there is a tad more to add.

As stated Samuel Andrews was married to Mary Cole who's brother John married Sarah Howe. Sarah Howe had a sister Hilary who had married Henry Griffiths. Henry Griffiths owned and ran a general store in Elyria, Lorain County, Cleveland. To cut a long story short Henry and Samuel were, for a better word, brothers in law.

As it turns out both John D.Rockefeller and Samuel Andrews had a love of fishing and both would visit Henry Griffiths who had a small fishing lodge.

The reason for this post-script draws a line under an old saying of my grandfather who, on being asked for a loan, would answer 'Who do you think I am? John D. Rockefeller?'

Add to that Henry Griffiths is my three times great uncle and Samuel turned up as past of his history and I am indebted to the Stokes family for that.

Wednesday 2 November 2016


In 1967 Adam Diment was about to rewrite spy fiction.
There had been many contenders for Ian Fleming's and James Bond's throne. 'Boysie' Oakes in John Gardner's 'The Liquidator' (Gardner would take over the Bond franchise) and Doctor Jason Love in 'Passport To Oblivion' (filmed as 'Where The Spies Are'). Add to the list John Sanders with Nicholas Pym, the 'James Bond' of Oliver Cromwell's Secret Service.

So, enter Philip McAlpine. Tall, good looking and a love of fast cars, fast living, pot, sex and all manner of things mod. Truly a sixties child.
Suddenly his creator, Adam Diment, was the 'big thing'. Both he and his creation were hailed as the true successors to Fleming and Bond.

'The Dolly Dolly Spy' is told in the first person and appears to be a slow starter. McAlpine is coerced into working for British Intelligence department 6(NC/NAC) by the head Rupert Quine who is nothing like M. Quine is camp and prone to calling people 'luv' but this is just window dressing for a man who has a nasty, sadistic streak and can resort to blackmail with a smile on his face.
Recruited McAlpine is sent to work for the International Charter Inc a company that British Intelligence are interested in. On the surface the company runs package holidays for tourists to the Mediterranean island of Dathos. Underneath there is gunrunning and other clandestine activities going on. As a perk for this McAlpine is well paid and has the privelege of having his girlfriend, Veronica, live with him.
But the easy living comes to an end when he has to start earning his money and has to kidnap a former member of the Waffen SS. The only trouble is that the Americans want him too and McAlpine is not a subscriber to any 'special relationships'.

What makes 'The Dolly Dolly Spy' stand out from the crowd is Adam Diment's delivery. His hero says exactly what he thinks and that goes all the way to make McAlpine real - like you were reading an autobiography.
There were three more books 'The Great Spy Race', 'The Bang Bang Birds' and 'Think,Inc' the latter in 1971 after a gap of three years. But that was the end as Adam Diment just disappeared from the scene.

There was talk of a movie with David Hemmings but it came to nothing. Though, I do wonder if the McAlpine novels insired Austin Powers though that character does not compare.

If you liked Bond, then you will like McAlpine.

I wrote this piece a while back for a different blog.