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.
Why did Guy Burgess, 1st class Cambridge scholar and apparently one of the most British of characters, agree to work for a foreign power, of which he knew very little, as a student and continue to serve them as one of the Cambridge Spies for some thirty years before disappearing permanently to the Soviet Union as the net closed in? So accessible and at times reading like a who's who from 1920 to 1950, Andew Lownie’s biography of Guy Burgess draws on incredibly extensive interviews with more than a hundred people who knew Burgess personally and the discovery of hitherto secret files, to bring to life the many lives of one of Britain’s most notorious, fascinating, charming and and yet ruthless traitors. Whether you detest the idea of someone so intelligent, gifted and privileged undermining his own country in the wholesale way he did, or not, the book deserves to be read so people can see beyond the vilified stereotype and understand the effect that social, political and intellectual upheaval can have on an impressionable young man, with no moral compass and a deep-seated desire to be someone and to shape events. A message from the Author... I’ve been fascinated by the Cambridge Spy Ring since Andrew Boyle’s The Climate of Treason led to the exposure of Anthony Blunt in 1979. Why had these members of the Establishment betrayed everything to which they apparently subscribed? What did they betray and how did they get away with it? The most enigmatic, complex and , I discovered, the most important was Guy Burgess who is a gift for a biographer. I hope I have conveyed the paradoxes of Stalin’s Englishman and you enjoy the book as much as I’ve enjoyed researching and writing it. Like for Like ReadingA Spy Among Friends: Philby and the Great Betrayal, Ben MacintyreDeception: Spies, Lies and How Russia Dupes the West, Edward Lucas
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
London Couture is the first book to examine, in detail, the luxurious garments produced by the rarefied London couture industry - from lavish ballgowns to sharply tailored suits and spectacular court dress - as well as the designers who conceived them, their clients and the prestigious publications that disseminated and promoted the 'London Look'. Expert authors from around the world have delved into museum collections, as well as the archives of prestigious designers, textile suppliers and fashionable journals, to bring together this pioneering study of the London couture houses of the early to midtwentieth century, renowned for their superb craftsmanship and attention to detail. This is a stunning and substantial highly illustrated tome which will be admired by all who view it. Click here to see Dior by Dior .
Dior by Dior is a unique portrait of the classic Paris haute couture of the 1950s and offers a rare glimpse behind the scenes. Written by Christian Dior himself he details his childhood in Granville, the family and friends closest to him, his sudden success, his most difficult years and details of how he started his career in fashion as well as charting the growth of the house of Dior. Beautifully packaged in a cloth binding with ribbon marker and head and tail bands together with a collection of stunning photographs some of which are overlayed by sketches on tracing paper. It is glorious and a must read for all followers of fashion. Click here to see London Couture by Edwina Ehrman.
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.
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.
One of my very favourite books of last year, a wonderful all encompassing history of European and American home life as experienced over the past 500 years. Judith Flanders overturns our notions of what home has meant in previous centuries, our own notions of the family home would seem fantastical even to someone from 100 years ago. How advancements have been made are lovingly detailed and the humblest household item is considered alongside more necessary items such as bricks for the walls and glass for the windows. I loved the wealth of detail, the quotations from diaries, letters and literature and how one is left wondering what the future will bring, will future homes be unrecognisable to us? ~ Sue Baker Like for Like Reading If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home, Lucy Worsley House Proud: 19th Century Watercolour Interiors, Gail S Davidson, Floramae McCarron-Cates & Charlotte Gere
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.
The extraordinary story of one of the survivors of the infamous 1996 Everest disaster - now made into a film, Everest, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley and Josh Brolin. Heartstoppingly exciting and ultimately very moving, Left for Dead is a terrific read. Everest is due to be released in the UK on 18 September 2015. Click below to view the trailer.
From the Horse’s Mouth
… or the Groom’s
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