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The Pinball Compendium, 1970-1981 (Schiffer Book for Collectors) Hardcover – August 30, 2004
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About the Author
A resident of Sydney, Australia, Michael Shalhoub has been fascinated with pinball machines since childhood and has over four hundred in his collection. He previously wrote The Pinball Compendium: 1930s-1960s for Schiffer Publishing.
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A 'compendium' is, literally, a short complete summary, or list of various items. And in that regard, this book seeks to highlight every release, from each Manufacturer, for a given year. So the intention is absolutely fine. But there are two ways to tackle such a task. One would be to approach it entirely technically, and discuss the mechanics of each machine to pretty much the exclusion of anything else. The other would be to place each machine into its appropriate historical or cultural significance within the pinball genre, and discuss perhaps everything *but* the mechanics. Or, you could perhaps try both. In this instance, unfortunately for me, Shalhoub has tried only the former approach. Each machine has a paragraph right underneath the relevant photo and it is usually a summary of just the scoring features on the table, with only a few machines getting any in-depth history about them or the cultural significance those machines may have had. To me, this equals 240 pages of mind-numbing technical boredom.
Yes, there is some history here. The author has gone to great lengths to interview some of the absolute legends behind the scenes and these have been spliced in as a sort of page filler between each machines' stats. But really, this kind of historical effort deserved another whole book of its own. There is precious little history directly related to the pinball machines themselves and to my mind, if its titled a 'Compendium', it should have stuck to being exactly that.
The lack of titleing on each page (for example, you forget what year you are reading about, because its only mentioned once at the start of each Chapter) is also annoying. How hard would it have been to footnote each page with the Chapter name and number?
Photos of machines make or break a book like this IMHO. We all want to see the absolute best photos of the machines nearest to our hearts. And I would say generally in this hobby, aside from the photography probvided by the manufacturers themselves, the photography standard is fairly poor - there are many other poorly put together pinball books that lay testament to this fact. That's probably no surprise though - very few of us are trained to photograph the things we love best, whether its a family member or a pinball machine. But a book of this nature should have the very best photography available IMO.
Unfortunately, the photography, while extensive, is certainly not of a quality that is comparable with other hobbyist books in and out of this genre. Many of the shots of major players from Gottlieb/Williams etc appear to be snap-shots taken from the same Conferences the author (or others) have visited while in the United States. Quite a few machines appear fuzzy, out of focus, the color separations all over the place and the general standard of machine photography quite amateurish. Of course, access to these key people and older rarer machines is limited, and so the author has had to use whatever photo resources he can muster. I understand that fully. But that doesn't change the fact that the use of such non-professional photos, which an author based in the Unites States perhaps *may* have been able to work around, lowers the overall quality feel of this work. And in my estimation, marks it way down. Other authors have been able to do this better, for whatever reason.
In summary: if you're after a blow by blow scoring instruction on each of these machines from this period, some OK personal photos from real collections, and a good overall history of the behind-the-scenes players of the Big 3, then you'll enjoy this somewhat rambling journey. For me, chasing a good read and some reminders about the machines themselves and their place in the history of the game (instead of how to play them), I was left wanting a lot more.