PLEASE NOTE: In
January 2007, I originally reviewed Part/Volume 2 of “The Hard Ride:
Gun Trucks”. That book was
entirely printed in black ink and was released in November 2003.
However, in April 2011, the book was updated, improved and
re-released by Rhame House Publishing; The most dramatic difference
being that the book was printed in color when possible.
Therefore, there are now two (2) editions of Part/Volume 2: The
“1st Edition” being the book from 2003 with the yellow cover
and printed in black/white ink and the “2nd Edition”, being
the book from 2011, with the blue cover and printed in color ink.
Lastly, although very similar in content, there are definite differences
between the two editions.
Therefore, I decided to update my review in light of the release of the
2nd Edition. In
addition, you should know that the majority of the review below covers
both editions of Part 2.
However, if there are notable differences between the two editions, I
will clearly note that fact.
Patrick Keenan January 2012
Normally, when I decide to do a review
of a reference or model kit, it is a review sample or a new product I’d
like to work on or read. This review came about much differently in
that the book came to my attention by accident and is a few years old.
However, within 1 minute of glancing over both volumes of “the Hard
Ride”, I decided that they just had to be reviewed in order to
get the word out to other WFV enthusiasts and modelers that these books
are out there and available. To me, both parts/volumes of “The Hard Ride” are
books that are unique and unparalleled.
There are two parts/volumes of the “Hard
Ride”, the second part being this book. I’ve chosen to review them
separately but making the write ups available at the same time. In my
opinion, they are so closely linked that they must be reviewed
together. In fact, the author, James Lyles, told me that the book was
originally supposed to be published as one volume, but the
unilaterally published them separately. I have to agree with Mr. Lyles,
the two volumes should have been published as one.
Anyway, the most important aspect of
both parts/volumes of the “Hard Ride” that you should be aware of is that they
were authored by a veteran Gun Truck Crew member. In fact, Mr. Lyles
was the NCOIC (non-commissioned officer in charge) of a number of gun
trucks in his Vietnam era military career. Being an ex-gun truck crew
member gave him unparalleled access to information and photos not
normally available to most authors. Not only did he provide a large
number of photos to this book, but as an ex-gun trucker, he was able to
persuade other ex crew members to provide information and photos too; No
small task. Being “one of their own” he was able to access a massive
treasure trove of material and photos from the other ex-gun truck crews
because they knew he would do them proud. In fact, there are literally
many dozens of contributors to his books, not just a few.
Mr. Lyles does not fail his brethren as
it is obvious that “The Hard Ride” is a labor of love to him. By the
way the books are written, one can tell he wants you to know about the
vehicles, but most importantly he wants you to know about the gun truck
crews themselves and their dedicated service while performing very
difficult and dangerous missions.
content of part/volume 2 concentrates specifically on the Quad .50 and APC
hulled gun trucks, M37 “Beeps” and M151 Mutt Gun Jeeps. On the other
hand, part/volume 1 gives basic information about the Gun Truck operations and
then concentrates specifically on the “regular“ 2 ½ ton M35 and 5 ton
M54 gun trucks. Other information and photos provided by the author in
volume 2 includes material about Gun Trucks with multi-angled armor
boxes, misnamed and misidentified Gun Trucks, more personal gun crew
stories, enemy weapons and some of their Gun Trucks, Gun Truck weaponry
(authorized and unauthorized) and lastly it provides specific
information about almost 400 vehicles, including their names,
crews, and their donor vehicles (M35, M54, M37, etc.). Wow.
Accuracy of Information
information provided in parts/volumes 1 and 2 of “The Hard Ride” is probably
as good as you can get anywhere on any subject. It is top notch. As
stated before, being that the author was an ex-Gun Truck commander, you
are getting information and photos direct from primary sources. Also,
it is obvious by the information itself and how it is presented that Mr.
Lyles is very well informed about the full spectrum of gun truck
materials from individual gun truck operations/tactics, equipment,
convoy procedures as well as the overall mission of the hardened vehicle
concept during the Vietnam era. The information provided by the other
ex-gun truck crews is of the same top quality, multiple dozens of them!
In fact, the information is so solid that many of the misconceptions and
incorrect information previously presented as fact in other references
are corrected by photographic and/or eye-witness accounts, usually from
Editing of Information/ Text Flow
As is the case with Part/Volume 1, the flow
of the text in Volume 2 is usually fine and is logical in most
instances. The author writes effectively and succinctly and is able to
get his point across easily. The major weakness of both volumes 1 and 2
again (in my opinion) is due to the fact that the
first publisher unilaterally
split the book into two volumes. Volume 1 doesn’t suffer too much, but
Volume 2 is more adversely affected, at times seeming incomplete or
unfinished, especially if read alone. You really need both volumes to
get the full benefit of this resource set.
obvious to me that parts in both volumes are out of place and used as
filler in less logical places. In fact, there are sections repeated
verbatim in both volumes. I am convinced that if the book were published
as envisioned by the author, these negatives would not have been as
prevalent or even present at all.
Although the 2nd Edition of this volume 2 is edited
better than the first edition, this issue could not be fully solved
due to the original choice by the first
Finally, I did find one
curious fact about the 2nd
Edition of Volume/Part 2 when compared to the
1st Edition; the 2nd
Edition does not have any page numbers. Although this
is not a critical fact, it is a bit different to read a book with no
Photograph and/or Illustration Quality
Again, the biggest strength of this book is the photo selection. Like
Part/Volume 1, the 2nd Edition of Volume 2 contains a similarly
large 300 photos presented, 250 of which are in color, whereas
the 1st Edition of Volume 2 has no color photographs as it
was printed in black ink.
Even more startling is that a majority of the photos have never been
published before, as they come directly from Mr. Lyles or he has
obtained permission to use them from ex-gun truck crewmen. Reading the
book is almost like looking over someone’s personal photo album, except
with a much more diverse subject matter due the sheer massive number of
contributors. The only complaint I have about the photos is that many
are smaller than I’d like to see, and the detail can’t be discerned due
to that size. However, I’ll “forgive” Mr. Lyles in his decision to
present as many photos as possible in his books.
can imagine, the quality of the photos is not as professional as some
references, since a vast majority of them were taken by the young crewmen
themselves. However, they are surprisingly good considering the age and
conditions they were created in. Remember too, these photos were NOT
taken for us modelers or enthusiasts to identify widget A or the color
of part B. These were taken for themselves and I am ecstatic that these
men have shared them with us through Mr. Lyles’ book.
Please note that the photos printed in 2nd Edition of volume
2 are of much better quality than what was provided in the 1st
Edition. At times the photos in
the 1st edition suffered from the efforts of the
first publisher. See the
“Quality of Medium” section below for more information.
Use as Reference
together, parts/volumes 1 and 2 of “The Hard Ride” are the best references
about Vietnam era Gun Trucks that I have seen in terms of quality
and quantity. I am not saying there is not some other reference equal
or better to the “Hard Ride” out there, but I haven’t seen it yet.
Again, see my previous comments and opinions about the Photographic
selection and accuracy of the book as that should suffice in convincing
you that these book are "must haves" for gun truck enthusiasts in
particular as well as for wheeled fighting vehicle aficionados and
modelers in general.
Quality of Medium
The 2nd Edition of Volume 2 is a soft
cover book similar in size and quality to other the 8 ½ “x 11” modeling
reference books. The
soft cover media is of a decent quality which facilitates fairly
frequent use/reading of the book. The pages are of good quality
glossy paper as well. However, after some normal browsing, the
book's binder failed and a few pages came out. Although disappointing,
this fact would not have prevented me from buying the book due to the
qualtiy of the subject matter.
Also, please note that the 1st Edition
of this volume suffers from mediocre quality of materials and
is sadly substandard, although the binding was fine. The print quality
and paper quality are lower than that of most mainstream books
available. The print and photos are grainy and at times the lower
quality paper adversely affects the photographic image.
Like volume 1, I feel very strongly
that part/volume 2 of this book is unparalleled in its quality and quantity
of information provided about and photos of Vietnam era Gun Trucks,
crews, operations, etc. It is a must have for anyone remotely
interested in gun trucks, armored cars or wheeled fighting vehicles and
I would even wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone else with even a
fleeting curiosity about these men and their awesome machines.
remember that there is a definitive quality difference between the black
& white 1st Edition and the color 2nd Edition of
volume/part 2. Besides
getting color photos in the 2nd Edition, it is also printed
on higher quality paper and the text and images are more clearly and
crisply reproduced. So, if
you have a choice you
are still much better off getting the 2nd Edition of Volume 2,
despite the small issues of no page numbers being provided and the
weaker book binding.
Finally, being a person who loves gun trucks and
already owning the black & white 1st Edition, I was still considering
buying the new 2nd Edition, but I wasn't quite sure. Well, after
seeing this book in person, in my opinion it is definitely worth the
money to do so based upon the improvements made, specifically due to the
inclusion of color photographs.
2nd Edition: A Must Have.
Edition: Highly Recommended
Thanks to Rhame House Publishing for the