Amazing Tales for Making Men Out of Boys, By Neil Oliver

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The Independent Culture

Oliver is the ardent Scottish archaeologist who punctuated the BBC series Coast with braw yarns of daring-do. Here he adopts the same approach on a worldwide canvas, ranging from Scott of the Antarctic to the Charge of the Light Brigate.

Following the current vogue for hero worship and gender differentiation, his gung-ho haul is wholly lacking in irony, unless you count the Spartan threatened by an arrow shower at Thermopylae: "At least we'll be fighting in the shade!"

Reading Oliver's dubious spouting - "Show me a man who says he never once dreamed of being an SAS man and I'll show you a man who's not being entirely honest, not least with himself" – one yearns for Lytton Strachey.