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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 story of the unsung heroines who flew the newest, fastest, aeroplanes in World War II - mostly in southern England where the RAF was desperately short of pilots. Why would the well-bred daughter of a New England factory-owner brave the U-boat blockades of the North Atlantic in the bitter winter of 1941? What made a South African diamond heiress give up her life of house parties and London balls to spend the war in a freezing barracks on the Solent? And why did young Margaret Frost start lying to her father during the Battle of Britain? They - and scores of other women - weren't allowed to fly in combat, but what they did was nearly as dangerous. Unarmed and without instruments or radios, they delivered planes for the Air Transport Auxiliary to the RAF bases from which male pilots flew into battle. At the mercy of the weather and any long-range enemy aircraft that pounced on them, fifteen of these women died, among them Amy Johnson, Britain's most famous flyer. But the survivors shared four unrepeatable years of life, adrenaline and love. The story of this 'tough bunch of babes' (in the words of one of them) has never been told properly before. The author has travelled to four continents to interview all the surviving women pilots, who came not just from the shires of England, but also from the U.S.A, Chile, Australia, Poland and Argentina. Paid GBP 6 a week, they flew up to 16 hours a day in 140 different types of aircraft, though most of them liked Spitfires the best.
**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.