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Giles Whittell is chief leader writer for The Times, and was previously the paper's correspondent in Los Angeles, Moscow and Washington. He has written five previous books - Bridge of Spies, Spitfire Women of World War II, Extreme Continental, Central Asia and Lambada County. He lives with his wife, Karen Stirgwolt, and three sons in south London.
**The Financial Times' Travel Book of the Year 2018** How many snowflakes does it take to build a snowman? Where is the snowiest place on Earth? When will the last snowflake fall? Snow has a lot in common with religion. It comes from heaven. It changes everything. It creates an alternative reality and brings on irrational behaviour in humans. But unlike most religions, snow has never had a bible, until now. Giles Whittell, a passionate snow enthusiast, takes the reader on a quest through centuries and continents to reveal the wonders of snow. Along the way he uncovers the mysteries of snow crystal morphology, why avalanches happen, how snow saved a British prime minister's life, and the terrifying truth about the opening ceremony of the 1960 winter Olympics. The Secret Life of Snow is the next best thing to a white Christmas, an anthropology and travelogue for everyone from ski addicts to the millions of people who have never even seen it.
The dramatic events behind the Oscar-winning film, Bridge of Spies, tracing the paths leading to the first and most legendary prisoner exchange between East and West at Berlin's Glienicke Bridge and Checkpoint Charlie on February 10, 1962. Bridge of Spies is the true story of three extraordinary characters whose fate helped to define the conflicts and lethal undercurrents of the most dangerous years of the Cold War: William Fisher, alias Rudolf Abel, a British born KGB agent arrested by the FBI in New York City and jailed as a Soviet superspy for trying to steal America's most precious nuclear secrets; Gary Powers, the American U-2 pilot who was captured when his plane was shot down while flying a reconnaissance mission over the closed cities of central Russia; and Frederic Pryor, a young American graduate student in Berlin mistakenly identified as a spy, arrested and held without charge by the Stasi, East Germany's secret police. The three men were rescued against daunting odds, and then all but forgotten. Yet they laid bare the pathological mistrust that fueled the arms race for the next 30 years.Weaving the three strands of this story together for the first time, Giles Whittell masterfully portrays the intense political tensions and nuclear brinkmanship that brought the United States and Soviet Union so close to a hot war in the early 1960s. He reveals the dramatic lives of men drawn into the nadir of the Cold War by duty and curiosity, and the tragicomedy of errors that eventually induced Nikita Khrushchev to send missiles to Fidel Castro.Drawing on new interviews conducted in the United States, Europe and Russia with key players in the exchange and the events leading to it, among them Frederic Pryor himself and the man who shot down Gary Powers, Bridge of Spies captures a time when the fate of the world really did depend on coded messages on microdots and brave young men in pressure suits. The exchange that frigid day at two of the most sensitive points along the Iron Curtain represented the first step back from where the superpowers had stood since the building of the Berlin Wall the previous summer--on the brink of World War III.
THE DRAMATIC EVENTS BEHIND THE FILM BRIDGE OF SPIES. 'Riveting, meticulously researched and beautifully written, Bridge of Spies unlocks one of the most fascinating espionage mysteries of the Cold War' - Ben Macintyre, author of Agent Zigzag and SAS Rogue Heroes Bridge of Spies is a gripping, entertaining, hair-raising and comical story, which moves effortlessly from the hardware of high-flying planes and new missiles to the geopolitics of the nuclear stand-off and through the poignant personal stories of its central protagonists: Powers, the all-American hero, blacklisted for not having killed himself on his descent to earth; a KGB spy who has spent aimless and lonely years achieving nothing in the US; and the opposing leaders Khrushchev and Eisenhower, both trapped in a spiral of confrontation neither wants. Telling the true story that inspired Le Carre's famous scene, Bridge of Spies is a brilliant take on the absurdity and heroism of the Cold War days that will appeal to a new generation of readers unfamiliar with the history but drawn in by the compelling and vividly recreated narrative.
This is the incredible true story of a wartime sisterhood of women pilots: a group of courageous pioneers who took exceptional risks to fly Spitfires, Hurricanes and Lancasters to the frontlines of World War II. The women pilots of Air Transport Auxiliary came from all countries and backgrounds. Although not allowed into combat, they demonstrated astonishing bravery in their supporting role: flying unarmed, without radios or instruments, and at the mercy of the weather and enemy aircraft, they delivered battle-ready planes to their male counterparts, the fighter pilots of the RAF. The story of these remarkable women pilots - among them Amy Johnson and Lettice Curtis - is a riveting account of women in wartime, and a fitting tribute to their spirit and valour.