This week our Friday list is inspired by the 25% off monthly discount on Duel and New Vanguard titles that is currently running on the site - as some of the key Osprey staff pick out their favourite Duel titles. And there is the rather tense tale of how one of these books threatened to destroy the entire series, before it had even hit bookshelves for the first time!
1.) Emily Holmes, Lt. Comissioning editor
The Lieutenant couldn't get off the fence and had to choose her two favourites Duels!
a.) Duel 5, Spitfire vs Bf 109: Battle of Britain because it’s super patriotic and all about the Battle of Britain and the air battles that took place above England in a few critical months of World War II while the fate of Britain hung in the balance, plus it’s written by Tony Holmes, our aviation expert who is just lots of fun...
b.)Or Duel 25, Fw 200 Condor vs Atlantic Convoy just because it’s a fascinating and little-covered aspect of the war, which displays remarkable cooperation on behalf of the Allies who were fighting a really desperate battle.
2.) Joseph McCullough, Dark Lord of Osprey Adventures imprint.
My favourite Duel has to be Duel 40: CSS Alabama vs. USS Kearsarge. It’s a true duel; two ships, pretty evenly matched, with time to prepare, come out and meet one another in neutral territory in a fight to the death. The outcome really could have gone either way, and Mark Lardas gives the whole story in great detail. I also find the book interesting because of the discussion about how both ships represent a turning point in naval warfare, both ships were steam vessels that also carried sails.
3.)Tom Milner, Commissioning Editor and the most stylish kilt-wearer south of Hadrian's Wall
Duel 19, Constitutuon vs Guerriere. Being a big fan of the Patrick O’Brian novels, and of messing about in boats, I loved editing Constitution vs Guerriere - the nuts, bolts, halyards and belaying-pins behind the frigate battles of the War of 1812. Fellow man-o-war men should also check out the excellent DUE 52: British Frigate vs French Frigate, looking at four kinds of frigate duel from the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
4.) Mike Ramalho, big Chief of Sales and Marketing
Duel 3, U-boats vs Destroyer Escorts: battle of the Atlantic. Back when I was a mere whippersnapper and still learning the ropes at Osprey, one of the first big promotional drives I worked on was the launch of Duel – which at the time was one of the first new series we had launched in nearly a decade. The first four titles in the series hold a particularly close place in my heart – I spent weeks knee deep in review copies, poring over the text layouts and early drafts, and meticulously used snippets from each of the book to produce a lovely mini-catalogue promoting the series. I still have a copy of that leaflet, squirrelled away safely in my desk – I stumble across it from time to time, and it always brings a smile to my face.
Picking any one of these four is agonising, so rather than choosing one based on subject matter or content I am going to choose one based on the interesting anecdote that accompanied it’s production, and the fantastic reaction of the entire Osprey team, which saved the day. As you will have noticed – we branded mini-series within the Duel series. Books based on land conflicts have a green band running across the cover, naval titles have a deep blue, whilst aviation titles have a silvery light blue. As we developed the new series we decided to try out a new (at the time) metallic style ink which gave each of these bands a bit of extra bling. But when the first batch of books came in, disaster had struck. Duel 3 U-boats vs Destroyer Escorts: The Battle of the Atlantic arrived with the aviation style band across the cover, rather than the lovely deep blue. After years of planning – we had dropped the ball so early in the game. Disappointment swept the office. Heads dropped. The publication date was a matter of weeks away.
But the Osprey team rallied together. Favours were called in. Souls were sold. Review copies went out, with a copy of the real cover stapled to the book… and come publication date Duel 3 flooded into stores…with the correct cover. I’m still not quite sure how we pulled it off. But we did. And Duel became a roaring success. Of course that was probably because the concept behind the books and the content in the books worked so well… but I know I still harbour a sliver of belief that the miracle of Duel 3 gave the series that little extra boost it needed!
5.) Michael Kazich, Community and Niche Marketing grunt.
Duel 54, F4F Wildcat vs A6M Zero-sen. Probably utterly predictable from me, but I had to pick it - it contains some fantastic artwork, and features my favourite ever plane against one of its' toughest adversaries. Moreover, it takes the business of recorded claims vs losses very seriously, and uses actual loss figures wherever possible, which helps to build a much more accurate picture of the fighting.
Also, it features two really cool fighters operated by some of the most skilful pilots ever in swirling dogfights in tropical skies, in one of the Pacific war's decisive campaigns - Guadalcanal. What's not to like?!
6.) Phil Smith Osprey Games Master and Dungeon Keeper
My pick is a real heavyweight in the Duel series – Duel 37 King Tiger vs IS-2: Operation Solstice 1945, because it is one of the best exponents of what is so brilliant about the Duel series. It delves into all the technical detail about these two machines, with the obvious conclusion that the King Tiger was the far superior machine. But the book doesn’t leave it there, going on to explain how the different strategies employed by the Germans and Soviets during the war were reflected in the conflict between these two weapons, as the sheer weight of numbers of tanks the Soviets fielded were to slowly overwhelm the Germans. With wave after wave of attacks to fend off, even the most well-trained, battle-hardened German tank divisions were worn down.
There is a great piece of Peter Dennis battle scene artwork in the book too, almost worth getting a copy just for that.