It was about three decades ago that Keith Whittles, now the proprietor of Whittles Publishing, was a commissioning editor for Blackie books. He had asked me to review a number of proposals for the Surrey University Press series of books. I suggested to him that there was a good possible title, but I was not qualified to write it, and that was a book on basic geomorphology for engineers. My mental picture of this incorporated one of Peter Fookes' block diagrams on the left page with a corresponding text on the right. A format similar to this was independently created by Glossop Lecturer (Waltham 2016) Tony Waltham for his Foundations of Engineering Geology (Waltham 2009), now successfully in its third enlarged edition. In due course, Peter Fookes, along with Peter Vaughan of Imperial College, edited such a handbook (Fookes & Vaughan 1986), and although it was a magnificent effort, I felt then that it had gone further than a basic text needed to.
What I had always alluded to as Fookes' block diagrams appeared in his Glossop Lecture (Fookes 1997), and then suitably modified in a rather good set in his Keynote Paper to GeoEng2000 (Fookes et al. 2000), a conference held in Australia. They can also be found suitably modified and complemented by much other material in Fookes' book with Lee and Milligan (Fookes et al. 2005) or his book with Lee and Griffiths (Fookes et al. 2007), the latter author also a Glossop Lecturer (Griffiths 2014).
The book Geomodels in Engineering Geology – an Introduction, has reverted to the landscape paperback format of the Fookes and Vaughan volume, although it is now in full colour, and the collaboration with Tony Waltham has given access to a huge library of wonderful photographs with which to supplement the block diagrams (or ‘Geomodels’) drawn and coloured by Geoff Pettifer. Libraries, of course, will hate it, both for being landscape format and for being paperback, but then libraries are more interested in fitting a book onto standard shelves than appreciating their content. The book encapsulates much that the authors have learnt from previous publishing exercises, and is far more than a student text. So much so, that it is bound to contain materials of use to practitioners at all stages in their careers, and therefore, shelf-fitting or not, this is a comprehensive, beautiful and instructive volume.
Geoff Pettifer's beautifully drawn block diagrams have been hand coloured over the pen and ink originals with all the marginal annotation replaced with properly ‘typeset’ text. However, some of the original labelling on the ‘land surfaces’ remains in manuscript form, and together with the colour pencil shading, gives the block diagrams a slightly unfinished appearance that either adds to their charm or irritates depending on one's view. I personally do not find it a distraction from the content, and was always content with the hand lettering. An engineer such as myself would probably have drawn the block diagrams in a strict isometric view (if I was capable of drawing them at all) but Pettifer has employed perspective to great effect and in such a way that one is left in no doubt about the skill and knowledge employed in their construction. A block diagram allows one to draw two sections and a plan in the same diagram, and to show better than in an engineer's traditional separated views how they relate. Such three-dimensional views are a key feature of this book, and they benefit greatly from the layout of the page, which has adequate width to show them off to best effect.
Equally, the landscape format of the book allows large numbers of photographs, often six or seven on the page, to be reproduced. For me, it is a minor deficiency of the book that although sometimes the locality is given adjacent to the photograph, in many cases photographs are just presented as an example of the phenomenon described in the accompanying text, and one has to know that there are several pages at the back of the book where the locations are given.
The book is so profusely illustrated that extensive descriptions are squeezed out, and therefore, if asked which of the above-mentioned books one should buy in preference to the others, I would have to reply that it isn't a simple choice. This book is the picture book, and it may well be a first purchase, but there is much to be said for collecting several of these books and immersing oneself in the subject, examined from their different angles.
As it happens, I have most of the books mentioned above already on my bookshelves, and had already formed the opinion of this book that it could probably not be bettered by another set of authors. It is definitely one to buy, and if it does not fit on your bookshelf, then it would be equally at home on your desk, or even on a coffee table to stimulate the interests of a lay person, or perhaps even a child might be introduced to the wonders of geology and landscape.