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The Small Back Room

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  77 ratings  ·  10 reviews
A classic 20th-century novel. Sammy Rice, a weapons scientist and one of the "backroom boys" of World War Two, suffers from a crippling disability that has left him cynical, disillusioned, and riddled with self-doubt. But, when the enemy begins dropping a new form of booby bomb, causing terrible casualties, Sammy alone has the know-how to defuse it. Face to face with real ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 12th 2001 by Cassell (first published 1943)
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I am frightened, but not as much as I was. I did have a drink last night but only one. Good-bye pet. Sammy.

Like a British WWII Hurt Locker, Nigel Balchin tells the tale of a psychologically and emotionally damaged man who puts it all on the line to diffuse a booby trapped bomb left on British shores by Jerry planes and still can't justify his continued existence with himself.

"If I'd been a bit sillier, or a bit more intelligent, or had more guts, or less guts, or had two feet, or no feet, or bee
Rob Kitchin
Nigel Balchin started the war as a psychologist in the personnel section of the War Office before transferring to the Army Council, eventually becoming Deputy Scientific Officer. By the end of the war he’d risen to the rank of Brigadier General. His insider knowledge of how science was being employed to help the war effort gives The Small Back Room an authentic feel. Indeed, I was somewhat surprised that the book had been published during the war given that he paints a fairly negative picture of ...more
I chanced to see a pile of these paperbacks among others, and remembered the name of Nigel Balchin.

Rob Kitchin's review mirrors my own feelings about it. I thought that the character Sammy Rice was a bit improbable, but the setting is spot on. The story of the academic and political rivalries, the unsuitability of some of the people for the work they have to do, the incompetence of politicians in technological decisions and the general way that Britain "muddled through" the 1939-45 war is brilli
Nigel Balchin's other great book written of and during WW11 (the other being "Darkness falls from the air").
I love the way he lets dialogue drive his stories.
An enjoyable, witty, ultimately tense and thoughtful book.
I picked this book up off my bookeshelf to find it inscribed with my mum's name and the dated September 1949, just prior to her migrating to Australia. This inspired me to read the book. This story is set during WWII in London. Sammy Rice was a civilian scientist working on projects to bring forth the end of the war. He was an amputee suffering great pain at times which encouraged a jaded view of his world. I found the story very interesting when it described that it mattered who you were workin ...more
Great book exploring one man's insecurity within himself and within a selfish, individually self-serving bureaucratic cubbyhole, and how he eventually works his way through it.

Movie based on this book was OK, but didn't explore the psychological and bureaucratic conflict as much as the book.
Kelly Mahaney
Pretty sure this was based on a true story. I remember reading a similar story line years ago in an old copy of Reader's Digest. Good story of small bombs dropped randomly in England to disrupt civilian life.
This book is about cynical, depressed Sammy Rice who has an aluminum leg, and a drinking problem. He works as a weapon's scientist during WWII and is sick of the petty office politics at work. The book is basically a (humorous) account of his day-to-day life. It isn't exactly thrilling plot-wise, but it is a very interesting and insightful glimpse into the mind of man trying to prove his worth.

Well-written, funny, and an interesting look at the 'back room boys' of the second world war. Really go
Frank Pellecchia
Fiction. A British weapons scientist in WWII has to deal with booby-trapped unexploded bombs dropped by the Germans.
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What's The Name o...: SOLVED. WW2, England, Bomb Disposal, Terror Weapons [s] 45 65 Jun 08, 2014 02:27PM  

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