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Biographies and Autobiographies

In their own words or from the pen of a biographer, the lives of others hold a magnetic intrigue. Indulge your curiosity here… Read and find out more about the lives of well-known figures. 

Secret War Spies, Codes and Guerrillas 1939-1945

Secret War Spies, Codes and Guerrillas 1939-1945

Author: Sir Max Hastings Format: Hardback Release Date: 10/09/2015

Examining the espionage and intelligence stories of World War II, on a global basis, bringing together the British, American, German, Russian and Japanese histories. Here are not only Alan Turing and the codebreaking geniuses of Bletchley Park, but also their German counterparts, who achieved their own triumphs against the Allies. Hastings plots the fabulous espionage networks created by the Soviet Union in Germany and Japan, Britain and America, and explores the puzzle of why Stalin so often spurned his agents, who reported from the heart of the Axis war machine. The role of SOE and American's OSS as sponsors of guerilla war are examined, and the book tells the almost unknown story of Ronald Seth, an SOE agent who was 'turned' by the Germans, walked the streets of Paris in a Luftwafe uniform, and baffled MI5, MI6 and the Abwehr as to his true loyalty. Also described is the brilliantly ruthless Russian deception operation which helped to secure the Red Army's victory at Stalingrad, a ruse that cost 70,000 lives. The Secret War links tales of high courage ashore, at sea and in the air to the work of the brilliant 'boffins' at home, battling the enemy's technology. Most of the strivings, adventures and sacrifices of spies, Resistance, Special Forces and even of the codebreakers were wasted, Hastings says, but a fraction was so priceless that no nation grudged lives and treasure spent in the pursuit of jewels of knowledge. The book tells stories of high policy and human drama, mingled in the fashion that has made international bestsellers of Max Hastings' previous histories, this time illuminating the fantastic machinations of secret war.

The Last Escaper

The Last Escaper

Author: Peter Tunstall Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/09/2015

‘When I began my operational career, I had precisely two hours and ten minutes' worth of experience as pilot in command of a bomber at night’ The product of a lifetime’s reflection, The Last Escaper is Peter Tunstall’s unforgettable memoir of his days in the RAF and as one of the most celebrated of all British POWs. Tunstall was an infamous tormentor of his German captors dubbed the ‘cooler king’ (on account of his long spells in ‘solitary’), but also a highly skilled pilot, loyal friend and trusted colleague. ‘Single-mindedness is often the key to success in most things and, if what I am told is true – that I was to chalk up the all-comers British record number of escape attempts during the next twelve months – I attribute this entirely to that state of mind’ Without false pride or bitterness, Tunstall recounts the high jinks of training to be a pilot, terrifying bombing raids in his Hampden and of elaborate escape attempts at once hilarious and deadly serious – all part of a poignant and human war story superbly told by a natural raconteur. ‘…we had established that one could get away with using German uniform. After that, it became a regular stunt and my own speciality’ The Last Escaper is a charming and hugely informative last testament written by ‘the last man standing’ from the Colditz generation who risked their lives in the Second World War. It will take its place as one of the classic first-hand accounts of that momentous conflict.

The Frood The Authorised and Very Official History of Douglas Adams & the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Frood The Authorised and Very Official History of Douglas Adams & the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Author: Jem Roberts Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/09/2015

As a wise ape once observed, space is big - vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly so. However, if you look too closely at space, it becomes nothing but lumps of rock and sundry gases. Sometimes it's necessary to take a step back, and let a few billion years go by, before any of the true wonder and scope of the cosmos becomes apparent. Similarly, the late 20th century author, humorist and thinker Douglas Adams was big - vastly, hugely and thoroughly mind-bogglingly so, both in physical terms, and as a writer who has touched millions of readers, firing up millions of cerebellums all over planet Earth, for over 35 years - and for nearly half of that time, he hasn't even been alive. It would be ridiculous to pretend that Douglas Adams' life and work has gone unexamined since his dismayingly early death at 49 but throughout the decade since the last book to tackle the subject, the universes Adams created have continued to develop, to beguile and expand minds, and will undoubtedly do so for generations to come. An all-new approach to the most celebrated creation of Douglas Adams is therefore most welcome, and The Frood tells the story of Adams' explosive but agonizingly constructed fictional universe, from his initial inspirations to the posthumous sequel(s) and adaptations, bringing together a thousand tales of life as part of the British Comedy movements of the late 70s and 80s along the way. With the benefit of hindsight and much time passed, friends and colleagues have been interviewed for a fresh take on the man and his works.

Chapter and Verse - New Order, Joy Division and Me

Chapter and Verse - New Order, Joy Division and Me

Author: Bernard Sumner Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/09/2015

Founding member and guitarist of Joy Division and the lead singer of New Order, Bernard Sumner has been famous over the years for his reticence. Until now...An integral part of the Manchester music scene since the late 1970s, his is the definitive version of the events that created two of the most influential bands of all time. Chapter and Verse includes a vivid and illuminating account of Bernard's Salford childhood, the early days of Joy Division, the band's enormous critical and popular success, and the subsequent tragic death of Ian Curtis. Bernard describes the formation of New Order, takes us behind the scenes at the birth of classics such as 'Blue Monday' and gives his first-hand account of the ecstasy and the agony of the Hacienda days. Sometimes moving, often hilarious and occasionally completely out of control, this is a tale populated by some of the most colourful and creative characters in music history, such as Ian Curtis, Tony Wilson, Rob Gretton and Martin Hannett. Others have told parts of the story, in film and book form. Now, for the first time, Bernard Sumner gives you chapter and verse.

Maggie Smith A Biography

Maggie Smith A Biography

Author: Michael Coveney Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/09/2015

From her days as a star of West End comedy and revue, Dame Maggie's path would cross with those of the greatest actors, playwrights and directors of the era. Whether stealing scenes from Richard Burton (by his own admission), answering back to Laurence Olivier, or impressing Ingmar Bergman, her career can be seen as a Who's Who of British theatre in the twentieth century. This book also covers her success in Hollywood, inaugurated by her first Oscar for her signature film, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, as well as her subsequent departure to Canada for a prolific four-season run of leading theatre roles. Recently Dame Maggie has been as prominent on our screens as ever, with high-profile roles as Violet Crawley, the formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham, in the phenomenally successful television series Downton Abbey, and as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter film franchise: what she herself describes as 'Miss Jean Brodie in a wizard's hat'. Yet paradoxically she remains an enigmatic figure, rarely appearing in public and carefully guarding her considerable talent. Michael Coveney's absorbing biography, drawing on personal archives, interviews and encounters with the actress, as well as conversations with immediate family and dear friends, is therefore as close as it gets to seeing the real Maggie Smith.

Deep South Four Seasons on Back Roads

Deep South Four Seasons on Back Roads

Author: Paul Theroux Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/09/2015

In Deep South he turns his gaze to a region much closer to his home. Travelling through North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas he writes of the stunning landscapes he discovers - the deserts, the mountains, the Mississippi - and above all, the lives of the people he meets.

The Temporary Bride A Memoir of Food and Love in Iran

The Temporary Bride A Memoir of Food and Love in Iran

Author: Jennifer Klinec Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/09/2015

A relationship was a mathematical formula: the correct variables of age, beauty, morality and finances were entered and the output was a successful, peaceful marriage. It couldn't be, therefore, that their Iranian son could feel desire for someone six years his senior,someone who didn't come to him pure and untouched. I was an amusing visitor from another world and soon enough I should return to it, fading quietly into an anecdote ...In her thirties, Jennifer Klinec abandons a corporate job to launch a cooking school from her London flat. Raised in Canada to Hungarian-Croatian parents, she has already travelled to countries most people are fearful of, in search of ancient recipes. Her quest leads her to Iran where, hair discreetly covered and eyes modest, she is introduced to a local woman who will teach her the secrets of the Persian kitchen. Vahid, her son, is suspicious of the strange foreigner who turns up in his mother's kitchen; he is unused to seeing an independent woman. But a compelling attraction pulls them together and then pits them against harsh Iranian laws and customs. Getting under the skin of one of the most complex and fascinating nations on earth, The Temporary Bride is a soaring story of being loved, being fed, and the struggle to belong.

From the Horse’s Mouth
… or the Groom’s

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There are people who just read biographies, interested only in the details of the lives of real people. There are others, like us, who enjoy dipping a toe, every now and then, into the deep inviting waters of the biography pool, to see first-hand the experiences of a person, past or present, who captures our imagination or pique’s our interest. From the First Man on the Moon to the latest winner of a jungle-based reality TV programme; sport-star to leading politician; religious leader to Arctic explorer, the choice is vast!

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