by Michael Hodges
What do Osama bin Laden, American rapper Dr Dre and Prada-Meinhof fashionistas have in common? The AK47. The al-Qaeda leader flashes his offensive weapon in videos and the former Death Row Records artist glorified the weapon in The Day the Niggaz Took Over. The gun has even been used in fashion, with fans of the revolutionary chic style that borrows its name from the German terrorist group Baader-Meinhof wearing apparel bearing the automatic rifle's silhouette. Journalist Michael Hodges' book, subtitled The Story of the People's Gun, looks at the winning design of Red Army sergeant Mikhail Kalashnikov, who, in 1946, aged 27, presented a firearm so simple and strong it would become the weapon of choice the world over, especially among anti-establishment fighters. Its popularity owed much to its reliability and robustness. The 4kg gun had only eight moving parts and was easy to repair. So superior was it as a tool of death that during the Vietnam war, writes Hodges, many American soldiers discarded their M-16s for their enemies' Kalashnikovs. This and myriad facts fill AK47, which, despite appearances, should appeal to a broader audience than simply those who fit the macho stereotype or hanker after toys for boys.