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Jim Ring is an author and film-maker. Four of his titles are being reissued in Faber Finds: Erskine Childers; How the English Made the Alps; We Come Unseen: The Untold Story of Britain's Cold War Submariners; Riviera: The Rise and Rise of the Cote d'Azur.
From the Fall of France in June 1940 to Hitler's suicide in April 1945, the swastika flew from the peaks of the High Savoy in the western Alps to the passes above Ljubljana in the east. The Alps as much as Berlin were the heart of the Third Reich. 'Yes,' Hitler declared of his headquarters in the Bavarian Alps, 'I have a close link to this mountain. Much was done there, came about and ended there; those were the best times of my life...My great plans were forged there.' With great authority and verve, Jim Ring tells the story of how the war was conceived and directed from the Fuhrer's mountain retreat, how all the Alps bar Switzerland fell to Fascism, and how Switzerland herself became the Nazi's banker and Europe's spy centre. How the Alps in France, Italy and Yugoslavia became cradles of resistance, how the range proved both a sanctuary and a death-trap for Europe's Jews - and how the whole war culminated in the Allies' descent on what was rumoured to be Hitler's Alpine Redoubt, a Bavarian mountain fortress.
Verdun, the Somme, Tannenberg and Passchendaele. These epics of destruction and futility are such bywords for the First World War that-Jutland apart-we forget the role played by sea power in the war to end war. The great global conflict is too often narrowed to the fields of Flanders and the plains of Picardy. Now, award-winning biographer and naval historian Jim Ring has revisited the story to redress the balance. He emphasises how Great Britain, 'the great Amphibian' in Churchill's words, was able to move its army anywhere in the world. The Navy's very existence deterred any attempt at invasion, and its great ships kept the German High Sea fleet at bay; lastly, the Navy gradually starved the Kaiser's nation of war materiel and food. Choosing fourteen turning-points of the war, he explores the relative contributions made by land and sea power to the eventual outcome of the conflict in 1918. For example, the abandonment of the Imperial German Navy's ambition for a decisive naval surface battle was at least as important as Jutland itself, while Lloyd George's imposition of the convoy system on, it must be said, a reluctant Admiralty turned the battle against the U-boats; the mine and the submarine altered the course of war as much or more so than the tank. The book is also a study of character as well as of action, of decision-making as much as the sweep of battle, and his critique of the warlords of both the Entente and the Central Powers-of Ludendorff and Churchill, of Haig, Kitchener and Foch, of Fisher, Jellicoe, Beatty and Scheer-is refreshing, his conclusions surprising. 'The Great War was fought on land but won at sea.' Not so, says Ring, but much closer to the truth than we tend to believe. A century after the catastrophic events of the Great War, in the midst of a time at which the country is once again pondering its identity, it is worth reciting the words of John Keegan: 'No Britain of my generation, raised on food fought through the U-boat packs in the battle of the Atlantic can ever ignore the narrowness of the margin by which sea power separates survival from starvation in the islands he inhabits.' The Royal Navy was key to the survival of Great Britain and to eventual victory in 1918. Written with passion and verve, this book offers a very different way of looking at the conflict-if you think you understand the Great War, think again.
From the Fall of France in June 1940 to Hitler's suicide in April 1945, the swastika flew from the peaks of the High Savoy in the western Alps to the passes above Ljubljana in the east. The Alps as much as Berlin were the heart of the Third Reich. 'Yes,' Hitler declared of his headquarters in the Bavarian Alps, 'I have a close link to this mountain. Much was done there, came about and ended there; those were the best times of my life . . . My great plans were forged there.' With great authority and verve, Jim Ring tells the story of how the war was conceived and directed from the Fuhrer's mountain retreat, how all the Alps bar Switzerland fell to Fascism, and how Switzerland herself became the Nazi's banker and Europe's spy centre. How the Alps in France, Italy and Yugoslavia became cradles of resistance, how the range proved both a sanctuary and a death-trap for Europe's Jews - and how the whole war culminated in the Allies' descent on what was rumoured to be Hitler's Alpine Redoubt, a Bavarian mountain fortress.
We Come Unseen, first published in 2001, follows the careers of six Royal Navy submariners from their graduation from Dartmouth's Britannia Royal Naval College in 1963, just after the Cuban Missile Crisis, to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Between these dates, it seemed that nuclear war was never far away - and Jim Ring explains not only the nuclear threat and its beginnings in the last days of the Second World War, but why the Polaris and Trident submarines ('capable of inflicting the damage of the bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki many times over'), and their accompanying attack submarines, were critical to avoiding war. Alongside a gripping narrative of the Cold War game of hide-and-seek played out under the waves of the northern seas, Ring gives an account of the history of submarine warfare from its earliest, pre-nuclear days to the 1982 combat in the Falklands. 'A welcome acknowledgement of one of the Cold War's little-known aspects.' Alan Judd, Sunday Telegraph 'An extraordinary story . . . one of the most significant naval books of the year.' Ship's Telegraph 'A remarkable story.' Navy News
The Riviera has inspired countless novelists and artists, attracted as much by its visitors as by its location (Somerset Maugham called it 'a sunny place for shady people'). But for the majority of the English, the Riviera was made famous by rumour and report: it was the scene of the romance of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson; and, post-war, became the vacation spot of Hollywood starlets. But the Cote d'Azur has a long history of attracting foreign celebrities and royalty, since the seventeenth century, when it was a stopping point on the route south for aristocratic Grand Tourists. Later, English and Scottish invalids, among them Robert Louis Stevenson, followed doctors' orders and holidayed on the Riviera for their health. Jim Ring explores these origins and the developments that took place on the coast - the impact of rail travel, of war, of celebrity and of the English. 'An entertaining survey . . . It is the ideal book to hide your smirk behind on the Promenade des Anglais as yet another roller-blading granny glides past in a leopard-sking thong.' Sunday Telegraph Jim Ring's Riviera corrals an array of vignettes of the Cote d'Azur's most famous habitues from the Romans to the Rolling Stones . . . a stylish and pleasingly gossipy overview of the region's fluctuating fortunes.' Time Out 'A highly readable history.' Guardian
Immortalized as the author of The Riddle of the Sands, Erskine Childers led a life quite as enigmatic and adventurous as his classic novel. Childers was orphaned at an early age. Though he was brought up in County Wicklow, he received an English education that culminated in a clerkship to the House of Commons, voluntary service in the Boer War, and the writing of his great novel. Thus far he appeared patriotic, imperialist and largely conformist. But marriage to a strong-willed Bostonian and an increasing interest in the affairs of Ireland led to his questioning the imperial Zeitgeist. At first this took constitutional forms, but such was Childers' frustration with progress towards any manner of Irish independence from British rule, that on the eve of the First World War he instigated gun-running to supporters of the Home Rule movement. Nonetheless, he still regarded it as his duty to serve England, and during the war he distinguished himself as an observer in the early seaplanes and torpedo boats. Traumatized, however, by the Easter Rising of 1916, he finished the war profoundly divided in his loyalties. With the Irish question now critical, Childers settled his fate by becoming the official propagandist for the Republican movement. He opposed the treaty that established the Irish Free State, regarding the compromise as anathema, and joined the IRA. Hunted by the Free State authorities, he was eventually captured and executed in November 1922. Set against the backdrop of Britain's imperial zenith, the great naval arms race and the First World War, Jim Ring's acclaimed biography of Childers does full justice to this dramatic and intriguing story. 'Jim Ring has written a fine and fluent biography of an extraordinary man, navigating the angry waters [of Irish politics] with a sure hand but dodging none of the difficulties.' Independent on Sunday
For English read British which is not to quibble with the title but, as Jim Ring himself explains, 'During the period on which this book focuses, it was the custom - in the words of a Scot - ''to let the part - the larger part - speak for the whole.'' Those countries which received them - France, Italy, Austria, Germany, and above all Switzerland - all talked of the English, and the presence of the English in the Alps was precisely so described. To use the term British would thus have been an anachronism.' The nineteenth century will forever be associated with the growth of the British Empire, but nearer home there was a quieter conquest taking place. Gradually the English were taking over the Alps, scaling their peaks, driving railways through them, and introducing both winter sports and those quintessential English institutions - tea, baths, lawn tennis and churches - to remote mountain villages. Jim Ring tells the remarkable story of the English love affair with the Alps, from its beginnings with the Romantic movement, when poets such as Byron and Shelly wrote of the mountains with awed delight, through the great days of the 1850s and 1860s and the formation of the Alpine Club, to the inter-war years when the English assured the future prosperity of the alpine resorts by virtually inventing and then popularizing downhill-skiing. Part history, part biography, How the English made the Alps brings the characters - the artists, the scientists, the gentleman-adventurers, the invalids, the aristocrats, eccentrics and mountain-scramblers - vividly to life. 'Jim Rings's book cannot be bettered.' Daily Mail 'Fascinating' Stephen Venables, Daily Telegraph 'Evocative and entertaining' Financial Times 'A comprehensive, well-written account of a fascinating subject' Guardian
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