books monthly november 2017 nonfiction

Three blockbusters from Dorling Kindersley and a whole load of brilliant new titles from Amberley & Casemate...

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Chris Barber: Megaliths of Wales

Published by Amberley 15th September 2017

Erected by man for some long-forgotten purpose, there are large numbers of enigmatic standing stones, stone circles and burial chambers to be found in Wales. This book provides descriptions of some of the largest, tallest and best-preserved examples that can be visited still. Many of them are remarkable feats of construction, involving hewing and transporting large blocks of stone over long distances to be erected for reasons unknown.

Chris Barber examines numerous legends, once believed to be true, that are associated with the stones. Some stones are said to uproot themselves on certain nights of the year and go for a drink or swim in a nearby river. Others are reputed to have been thrown to their sites by giants or legendary figures such as King Arthur and the Devil. Some stones bear cryptic signs such as ‘cup and ring marks’, telling mute stories that we cannot read but which provide a link with our prehistoric ancestors. The question arises, why was so much energy devoted to erecting these megalithic monuments? It has been shown that stone circles have an astronomical significance and dowsers claim to have detected a hidden force in the stones, even experiencing violent reactions when they touch them. It is shown how quartz contained in the stones appears to cause fogging on photographs and other strange effects. Dowsers also claim that there are strange spiral powers in the stones that wax and wane according to the phases of the moon. Such forces of nature may well be attributed to electromagnetism.

This fascinating book is richly illustrated and gives location details of some of the more unusual sites, which are sometimes in remote locations, requiring map-reading skills to find them. These monuments were erected by man at a time when he must have felt part of nature and perhaps possessed forgotten knowledge that gave him a much closer relationship with the Earth. Read this book and you will feel compelled to go in search of the mysterious megaliths of Wales.

Chris Barber's superb book on Welsh megaliths will inspire a lot of people to make the trip to find and see them, so enthusiastic is his approach to their magic and mystery. Wales is a land of romance and secrets, and Chris's book reveals some of those secrets, enough to whet the appetite for adventure and intrigue. A brilliant little introduction to the megaliths of the principality.

 

Casemate Short History Series:

 

Carolyn Willekes: Greek Warriors

Published by Casemate September 2017

Thermopylae, Marathon: though fought 2,500 years ago in Ancient Greece, the names of these battles are more familiar to many than battles fought in the last half-century, but our concept of the men who fought in these battles may be more a product of Hollywood than Greece.
Shaped by the landscape in which they fought, the warriors of Ancient Greece were mainly heavy infantry. While Bronze Age Greeks fought as individuals, for personal glory, the soldiers of the Classical city states fought as hoplites, armed with long spears and large shields, in an organised formation called the phalanx.
As well as fighting among themselves, notably the thirty-year Peloponnesian War fought between Athens and Sparta and immortalised by Thucydides, the city states came together to fight outside threats. The Persian Wars lasted nearly half a century, and saw the Greek armies come together to fend off several massive Persian forces both on land and at sea.
This book sketches the change from heroic to hoplite warfare, and discusses the equipment and training of both the citizen soldiers of most Greek cities, and the professional soldiers of Sparta.

Also in this series:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journey: An Illustrated History of Travel (Foreword by Simon Reeve)

Published by Dorling Kindersley 5th October 2017

A lavishly illustrated account of human travel with a foreword by Simon Reeve, from the voyages of the Vikings to the flight to the Moon. Journeys have arisen from all manner of impulse, from migration and the search for food, to pilgrimages, trade, scientific curiosity, or simply the quest for adventure. Journey is a stunning visual guide to the stories of human movement and endeavour, from The Silk Road to the epic Voyager missions. Discover ancient maps, biographies of conquerors, explorers, and travellers, stories of scientific discovery and technological innovation, stunning works of art, and catalogues of travel-related memorabilia. This truly worldwide account is a glorious celebration of human journeys, and will make an impressive gift for any lover of travel and history.

 

That front cover says it all! This amazing, magnificent book has everything - stunning photographs, beautifully laid-out pages, a brilliant text - Dorling Kindersley books are among the finest in the world, and this new title, together with the one below, Natural Wonders of the World, are the latest in a long line of books that look like coffee table books but are in fact the best written in their field. The introduction to this amazing book shows a map of the known world produced in 1530. Not only is it staggeringly beautiful, it also shows the ingenuity and genius of mankind in as much as Europe, including the British Isles, are instantly recognisable shapes. I am at a loss to understand how men (and women) managed to work out the various shapes of the islands and continents on which they lived - that is a subject that should be covered in a book about cartography, of course, but I use it here as an example of the quality of illustrations that pepper this book. It is a coffee table book, very heavy, very beautiful, but it is also a book to be read and digested, because it contains precious information about how man came to travel,to make journeys, from the dawn of man to the idea that soon, very soon, we will be making the journey to Mars for the purposes of colonisation. This has to be one of the finest illustrated books on travel that has ever been published. A landmark book, a perfect Christmas present for Mum and Dad or your brother, sister, or your uncle or aunt; a book to be treasured. Don't get it on Kindle, it's never going to be the same! If ever there was an argument for keeping printed books, this and the title below are at the forefront. Amazing!

 

Natural Wonders of the World (Foreword by Chris Packham)

Published by Dorling Kindersley 5th October 2017

A continent by continent exploration of planet Earth's most amazing natural wonders and captivating landscapes, with a foreword by Chris Packham. From Iceland's Skógafoss to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, discover which of the world wonders should definitely make it onto your bucket list with this unparalleled survey of the world's incredible natural treasures. Natural Wonders of the World combines breathtaking landscape photography with 3D terrain models and other explanatory artworks to reveal what lies beneath the surface and show how geographical features are formed. From South America's Amazon River to Asia's Himalayas and Australia's Ninety Mile Beach, this is a truly unrivalled exploration of Earth's most amazing places. To complete the picture, the plants and animals that inhabit these remarkable environments are also included, making Natural Wonders of the World a unique celebration of our world as well as the most accessible-ever guide to Earth's geological processes and features.

 

Amazing is the word that best describes this second offering from DK this month as well. I cannot emphasise enough how perfect the illustrations are in these two books, and this one, as well as looking stunningly beautiful, provides page after page of explanations, continent by continent, of how the Earth evolved over millennia into the place we are all now familiar with and now call home. Stunning photographs of natural wonders such as the Colorado River, the Great Lakes, the vast desert regions of Africa (and the map showing the composition of the continent of Africa is simply a revelation), as well as fact after fact about the flora and fauna with which we share our precious world adorn the pages of this superb book. Had books like this existed back in the 1950s, I might well have carried on with geography instead of dropping it after year 7. With the aid of a book such as this, I might have been quite good at it. This is what books are for - to educate and to entertain.

 

Masterchef Kitchen Bible

Published by Dorling Kindersley 5th October 2017

The essential cookbook for any home cook looking to create and innovate like a MasterChef champion. From cooking know-how such as how to make fresh chicken stock, to dinner party recipes including roast lamb and panna cotta, MasterChef Kitchen Bible covers everything you need to know to get perfect results every time. New forewords by Masterchef's John Torode and Gregg Wallace will set you on the road to success. Featuring stunning recipes created for the hit BBC show and classic dishes paired with 'From Ordinary to Extraordinary' variations, MasterChef Kitchen Bible will make you a winner in your own kitchen. Cook like a champion with over 250 pages of essential cook's know-how and ingredients guides. Do you aspire to cook like a MasterChef champion? Are you keen to perfect your technique, deliver classic recipes with panache, and innovate with confidence? If so, the MasterChef Kitchen Bible is the perfect source of expertise and inspiration.

 

As someone who thinks that Masterchef has reached the end of its natural life and should now be pensioned off, I was delighted to find all kinds of things related to food in this "Bible". The Masterchef brand takes over far too much television time for my liking, and Masterchef Celebrities is quite simply a joke, because 90% of the so-called "celebrities" are people of whom I have never heard. Time to call it a day in my opinion, and concentrate on educating people in the ways of food preparation and cooking in a much better way, with the aid of a series of brilliant cook books, of which this latest title from DK is actually one of the very best. As always with DK books, the photographs are stunning and the layout is amazing. I've used the word "amazing" to describe each of my three November DK books, but it's not a word I use lightly. This is the best thing about Masterchef, for me - the books. And this one is brilliant!

Steph Gillett: Bristol and Gloucestershire Aerospace Industry

Published by Amberley 15th October 2017

The British & Colonial Aeroplane Company was established in 1910 at Filton on a site that is now an Airbus design and engineering centre. BAE Systems also has facilities at Filton. Bristol aircraft engines were first built at the nearby Patchway site in the 1920s, part of which Rolls-Royce uses to manufacture aero engines. From Boxkite to Concorde, many famous aircraft were built at Bristol. Beginning with fighter aircraft manufactured during the First World War, Gloster Aircraft went on to produce aircraft until closure in 1964, including the RAF’s last biplane and its first jet fighter. Dowty developed landing gear and fuel control systems and acquired Rotol Airscrews. Parnall constructed aircraft and gun turrets at sites in Bristol and Yate. This book covers the wider aspects of the aerospace industry, including its industrial heritage, social impacts, technological developments, and continuing significance, utilising a number of archives to create a unique and well-illustrated view of aviation around Bristol and Gloucestershire.

 

As someone who grew up in Brockworth, the home of the Gloster Aircraft Company, I looked forward to reading this one with great expectations. By and large, the narrative is brilliant, but I have to take exception with Steph over her statement that the factory used to be in Brockworth but then it was in Hucclecote, as though Brockworth had been renamed and ceased to exist. This was not the case. The Gloster Aircraft Company was always in Brockworth, never in Hucclecote. It was at the western end of Brockworth, but it stopped short of Hucclecote by some considerable distance, at least in terms of the factory buildings, and I'm fairly certain the grounds, which included a county cricket ground and runways, went off into the southern Brockworth countryside. I walked to Hucclecote regularly each week to visit relatives there, and whilst it may have appeared that the two villages ran into one another, there was a clear disctinction, and the factory definitely always stayed in Brockworth. That said, this is a brilliant little book, particularly the section about the Gloster Javelin, which was at one time a familiar sight above Brockworth skies, and the engines were tested at around 10am each morning, a deafening roar that all of us who lived there recognised and loved.  This isa terrific book that brings back many happy memories of an idyllic childhood. It was a sad day for me when the factory was taken over by British Nylon Spinners and subsequently by a company that manufactured vending machines!

Rich Pittman: The Merlin EH(AW) 101

Published by Amberley 15th September 2017

Designed by the European Helicopter Industries (EHI) partnership during the 1980s, initially as a naval helicopter to help combat the threat of an attack from Soviet missile submarines, the Merlin has evolved into a multi-role helicopter today. The AW101 combines the most advanced technologies, safety by design, mission systems and leading-edge manufacturing to provide a proven platform for long-range Search and Rescue (SAR) operations in certain countries. With a typical range of 750 nm (over 1,300 km) in standard configuration, the AW101 is the most capable SAR helicopter in the world today. Other roles include transportation for Heads of State and VVIP operators; Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR); Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO); Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW); Airborne Surveillance and Control (ASaC); Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM); troop transport; utility support, CASEVAC/MEDEVAC; and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR). Lavishly illustrated throughout, Rich Pittman offers a fascinating portrait of an enduring and popular aircraft and traces its journey from design to the front line.

 

An excellent and readable history of the Merlin EH(AW) 101 helicopter from Rich Pittman - a multipurpose, versatile and strikingly beautiful aircraft.

Christopher Brice: Brave As A Lion

Published by Casemate 15th June 2016

Hugh Gough, 1st Viscount Gough, is an interesting and controversial figure of the late Georgian and early Victorian British Army. It is said he commanded in more battles than any other British soldier of this period, save for the Duke of Wellington. Despite this there are many who have questioned his command capability and his competence, particularly where the two Sikh Wars are concerned. In this, the first major account of his life for over one hundred years, the author seeks not to defend Gough but to better understand him. This is done by attempting to draw out the other periods of his life. By so doing we gain a greater understanding of his background, experiences and influences. Gough, like so many British officers, was part of the Anglo-Irish community. However unlike many he wore his Irish heritage with pride, and would always refer to himself as an Irishman. Yet he was a‘Unionist' and fiercely proud of the British Empire. Born into a military tradition he first wore the King's uniform at the age of thirteen. He saw extensive service during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. He fought in Southern Africa and the Caribbean. During the Peninsular War he commanded the 87th Foot and was said to have been the most experienced battalion commander of the conflict. After the war he served in southern Ireland during the counterinsurgency response to the‘Rockite' movement. After a lengthy period on half-pay and promotion to major general he was appointed to command a battalion in the Madras Army. It was from here that he was despatched to command British forces fighting in China. He worked closely and effectively with his civilian and naval counterparts and was considered to have been an extremely effective commander. Returning to India he was overlooked for command of the Madras Army but was instead rewarded with the appointment of Commander-in-Chief in India. In this capacity he conquered the Gwalior State and the Sikh Empire and greatly enhanced British India. However his victories came at a high price in terms of casualties, and he was much criticised for this. Despite this he never lost a battle. He was loved by his men, largely because he suffered with them and was always willing to share in the danger. In battle he wore a white fighting coat, which made him easily identifiable to both his men and the enemy. Whilst his command ability was sometimes questioned, his courage never was. His life is an interesting tale of a career soldier, a fighting soldier, who was, as an officer who served under him remarked,"as brave as a lion".

 

Christopher Brice sets the record straight on 1st Viscount Gough - an amazing, larger than life commander od British forces from the early years of the Victorian army.

 

Jonathan F S Post: Shakespeare's Sonnets and Poes

Published by Oxford Universlty Press 28th September 2017

Not for nothing is William Shakespeare considered possibly the most famous writer in history; his works have had a lasting effect on culture, vocabularies, and art. His plays contain some of our most well-known lines (how often have you heard the phrase 'To be or not to be'?), yet whilst his poems may often feel less familiar than his plays they have also seeped into our cultural history (who has not heard of ''Shall I compare thee to a summer's day'?).
In this Very Short Introduction Jonathan Post introduces all of Shakespeare's poetry: the Sonnets; the two great narrative poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece; A Lover's Complaint; and The Phoenix and Turtle. Describing Shakespeare's double identity as both poet and playwright, in conjunction with several of his contemporaries, Post evaluates the reciprocal advantages as well as the different strategies and strains that came with writing for the stage and the page. Tackling the debates surrounding the disputed authorship of Shakespeare's poems, he also considers the printing history of Shakespeare's canon, and the genres favoured by the bard. Exploring their reception, both with contemporary audiences and through the ages until today, Post explores the core themes of love and lust, and analyzes how the sonnets compare with other great love poetry of the English Renaissance.

 

These OUP Short Introductions are the very best introduction to various subjects, including literature - this one looks at Shakespeare's sonnets and poems, and gives you everything you need to tackle the subject.

Andrew Bamji: Faces From The Front

Published by Casemate 15th August 2017

Faces from the Front examines the British response to the huge number of soldiers who incurred facial injuries during the First World War. These injuries were produced within a short time span, but (for the first time in a major conflict) did not necessarily lead to death due to developments in anaesthesia and improvements in the treatment of infection and blood loss. Casualties were evacuated back to England, where surgeons had an opportunity to develop their skills on a large patient caseload. Harold Gillies, an ambitious young surgeon, developed a new branch of surgery: plastic surgery of the face. In 1915, Gillies set up a dedicated ward for patients with facial injuries at the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot, Hampshire. Following the Battle of the Somme and the escalation in the number of casualties with facial injuries, steps were taken to establish a new hospital entirely focused on the treatment of facial injuries at Sidcup in South-East London. The Queen's Hospital treated more than 5,000 patients between its opening in August 1917 and the mid-1920s; its work was mainly funded by charitable donations. The book uncovers the history of this hospital by analysing a wide range of sources - including numerous photographs and paintings - which detail the experiences of patients and staff.

A team of surgeons and other specialised staff were brought together at Sidcup who, like the hospital's patients, came from Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US. The book argues that the development and refinement of new surgical techniques was helped by a multi-disciplinary approach. Detailed patient records - combined with notes, photographs and paintings - were used to evaluate the efficacy of experimental procedures and to educate new surgeons. Treatment often involved multiple operations and took place over long periods of time, and considerable thought was given to the recovery and rehabilitation of patients. The Queen's Hospital had two important legacies: first, it played a pivotal role in the development of modern medical practice by paving the way for a new surgical specialty - plastic surgery - and by showcasing the benefits of specialist hospitals and multi-disciplinary services; second, the reconstruction of damaged faces had a major impact on the patients themselves. Drawing on a unique collection of personal and family accounts of the post-war lives of patients treated at Sidcup, the author explores surgical and aesthetic outcomes and the emotional impact of facial reconstruction.

 

This is the second book on facial injuries from the First World War that I've reviewed in Books Monthly - a few years back another, similar book came my way. The pioneering work of Harold Gillies is legendary, and this magnificent book showcases his work and dedication in a quite remarkable and extraordinary way.

 

Alice Soule: Living With a Jude

Published by The Book Guild 28th August 2017

Alice Soule shares the story of her challenging family life and experiences, Living with a Jude after being inspired by her blog of the same name. Living with a Jude looks at Alice's family experiences, situations and decisions that they have faced as a family by having a son with severe learning disabilities.

 

 

 

Kevin Morley: Striking Similarities

Published by The Book Guild 28th August 2017

In the early part of the twentieth century, the whole of Ireland was a component part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. From 1886, the major talking point throughout the country was "home rule or no home rule". This was the prevailing media theme until in 1913, when an event occurred in Dublin that challenged this subject's right to monopolise the news. That event was what was to become known as the "1913 Dublin Lockout". This evolved into an industrial conflict between two titanic organisations, Wiliam Martin Murphy, owner of the Dublin United Tramways Company, Irish Independent group of newspapers and head of the Employers Federation on one side and Jim Larkin, James Connolly and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union on the other. A bitter dispute, beginning with a strike and resulting in a lockout of the city's workforce, lasted around eight months - taking into account when the last workers returned to their employment. Part one of Kevin Morley's comprehensive and detailed book concentrates on this lockout through to its disappointing, though not disastrous, conclusion in 1914. The second part concentrates on an event that occurred seventy years later the 1984/85 Miners Strike which gripped Britain's coalfields for a year. The similarities within the two disputes, separated by seventy years and two world wars, are quite stark and well worthy of examination in their own right.

 

Peter Rutt: Man Of Two Worlds

Published by The Book Guild 28th September 2017

Peter Rutt has removed religion, science, mainstream belief and the prevailing trend of opinion to bring Man of Two Worlds, a book about the mechanics of life and death. Peter invites the reader to join him on his journey of discovery as you travel together to unravel the tangled threads of existence. Man of Two Worlds is part biographical and part learning as Peter discusses past lives, Angels, auras, chakras and karma - all of which are part of the rich tapestry of life and death.

 

Stephen M Flynn: Human Resource Alignment

Published by Matador 28th September 2017

Is your human resources (HR) strategy aligned with that of your business? Often an organisation s strategy is expressed in financial or marketing terms; in some cases it is even absent. It is then hard to translate into HR plans. Human Resource Alignment offers practical advice to HR professionals in creating an HR plan that is in sync with the overall business strategy. Stephen s book offers the concept of organisational maturity as the means of translating the business strategy into HR practice. The reader is shown how to identify the current maturity level of their business from the pattern of work practices evident in the organisation. The book then demonstrates how to select a pattern of tangible HR practices that align with the organisation s maturity level. Finally, the reader is shown how to structure their HR department to deliver the newly-created HR plan. Human Resource Alignment draws from Stephen s 36 years experience of the human resources profession, 18 of which he has spent as a Senior HR Director. Alongside Stephen s practical experience, the book draws on contributions from the wider HR literature; ultimately providing a template that can be adapted for the needs of any and every organisation. The book will appeal to business leaders and HR professionals, as well as those entering and studying the world of human resources and personnel.

 

Stuart Bell: Faith In Conflict

Published by Helion 15th July 2017

It may seem obvious that the Great War, with its immense cost in terms of lives lost and injuries of body and mind incurred, must have had a significant impact on the religious faith of the British people. There is much anecdotal evidence to support that perception, but how typical of the wider population of combatants and civilians were those stories? In Faith in Conflict, Stuart Bell examines a wide range of published and archival sources to explore how the war affected the beliefs of the churchgoers of wartime Britain, as well as the majority who rarely attended church, but who believed in God and in the afterlife. The language which they heard from the pulpits and the hymns that they sang expressed a variety of responses. Undergirding everything was a firm belief that God was on the side of Britain - a nation divinely chosen to ensure the triumph of right over military might. Faith in Conflict explores how ordinary soldiers pondered how an all-powerful God could allow such carnage and shows that the well-known First World War fatalism was the least problematic response to the apparent randomness of falling shells. The language of the 'God of Battles' and 'Lord of Hosts' is analysed to show how confidence in divine support was founded on a belief that Britain was, like the Israel of the Old Testament, fighting with God's support. Two particular features of wartime faith are identified: the first is the practice of praying for the dead, which very soon after the start of the war, became almost universal across the Church of England; the second is the idea of a suffering God, which was promoted by the famous chaplain Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy (also known as 'Woodbine Willie'). He argued that rather than a 'passionless potentate', the only understanding of God which made moral sense in the midst of the fighting was a 'comrade God' who wept and shared in his children's suffering. Stuart Bell shows how the language of chivalry and martyrdom was used to express both the country's confidence in the righteousness of the cause and the belief that those who died in what was a Holy War were assured of eternal salvation. The memoirs of five soldiers - representative of a wide spectrum of faith - are examined; finally, he explores the reasons for the very limited influence of the war on religious practice.

 

Examines the controversial subject of faith among the armed forces.

Peter Dennis: Wargame The American Civil War

Published by Helion 15th September 2017

In the 'Battle in America' series well-known historical illustrator Peter Dennis breathes life back into the 19th century paper soldier, supplying all the artwork needed to create the armies which fought for and against the Union across the United States. Here the blue and the grey regiments can clash again, using simple rules from Veteran wargamer Andy Callan.

Although the figures can be used with any of the commercial sets of wargame rules, an introduction to wargaming and a simple set of rules by veteran wargamer Andy Callan is included, along with buildings, trees and even artillery along with daring rebel cavalry and colourful Zouaves.

 

Peter Dennis's brilliant wargaming series continues with two titles from America's rich history - the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.

 

Peter Dennis: Wargame The American Revolutionary War

Published by Helion 15th September 2017

In the 'Battle in America' series well-known historical illustrator Peter Dennis breathes life back into the 19th century paper soldier, supplying all the artwork needed to create the armies which struggled for Liberty across the states of the colonial new world. Here Washington's army can clash again with the redcoats of the King, using simple rules from veteran wargamer Andy Callan.

Although the figures can be used with any of the commercial sets of wargame rules, an introduction to wargaming and a simple set of rules by veteran wargamer Andy Callan is included, along with buildings, trees and even artillery and brave Minute men and ruthless Hessian mercenaries.

 

 

Johnnie Astor & Alexandra Campbell: Esmond - The Lost Idol. 1895-1917

Published by Helion 15th September 2017

Esmond Elliot, younger son of the Earl of Minto, Viceroy of India, was killed while serving with the Scots Guards, aged 22, at the beginning of the Passchendaele Offensive. Compiled from his grieving mother's memorial of his life, together with his letters, diaries and photographs from the front, the story begins with a sweeping panorama of a golden pre-war era, featuring Canada, the splendour of the Raj, Eton and the Royal Family, and ends with sacrifice on the Western Front. After leaving Eton in 1914, Esmond gave up his place at Cambridge and joined the Lothians and Border Horse Yeomanry. He arrived in France in February 1916 as ADC to Geoffrey Feilding who was in charge of the Guards Division. As a staff officer, he was exposed to the complexities and responsibilities of High Command and to senior military figures, but he yearned for action and, six months later, joined the Scots Guards, a regiment which would take him to the frontline. During the bitter winter of 1916/17, he saw fierce fighting on the Somme, when his Battalion suffered terrible losses. In preparation for the Passchendaele Offensive, which began on 31 July 1917, Esmond led a daring raid across the Yser Canal, returning with vital intelligence which helped the Guards Division in their successful seizure of the bank on the enemy side four days before the main assault. A week later, while in command of his Company, he was killed by a single bullet. Esmond's jottings, direct and spontaneous, reveal the rapid transformation and maturing of a young officer exposed to war. His mother's collection of letters shows the extent to which one life, albeit brief, touched so many people and how the memory of it, and the influence of his goodness, left a lasting impression. John Buchan wrote of Esmond: "His gallantry was remarkable even among gallant men and in the darkest days his debonair and gentle spirit made a light around him." And in a letter to Esmond's mother, his Platoon Sergeant paid the following tribute: "We have lost our idol for we had set him on a pedestal in our hearts. He came to us and claimed our affections so that, now he has gone, we will miss him more than words can tell." rofessor Sir Hew Strachan: "The account of a young vibrant and privileged life cut short at Ypres in 1917 is at one level a familiar one, not least in its apparent tragic inevitability. But The Lost Idol is much more. It is the story of a mother as well as a son, of a family as much as a regiment. And alongside the words are the pictures. Esmond Elliot, like many soldiers of the First World War, recorded his experiences with a Kodak Vest Pocket Camera: new technology enabled images to give wings to his words."

 

A fascinating biopic of Esmond Elliott, younger son of the Viceroy of India, killed at Passcendaele in 1917.

 

Allan Hailstone: Berlin In The Cold War 1959-1966

Published by Amberley 15th October 2017

With nearly 200 unique images photographed on the streets of Berlin by the author between 1959 and 1966, Berlin in the Cold War depicts a city which demonstrated the conflict between East and West at that time like no other. The photographs throw into focus the situation existing both before the building of the Berlin Wall, when anyone could move freely between the two halves of the city, and after its construction, when most Westerners could, with some difficulty, make the crossing. Allan Hailstone took many photographs during several visits in those years, some surreptitiously, despite restrictions placed on photography in East Berlin. These photographs provide a taste of this once dramatically divided city.

 

Amberley's collection of wartime and post-wartime images is rapidly becoming the most important. These amazing images compliment a facainting narrative about Berlin during the cold war,

 

 

Jim Morris: The Who's Who Of British Crime in the twentieth Century

Published by Amberley 15th October 2017

The Who’s Who of British Crime spans the whole twentieth century, and covers an enormous range of crimes and misdemeanours – by turns appalling, brilliant, gruesome and audacious. All the nation’s most famous wrongdoers are here, from the mystery of Lord Lucan to the Great Train Robbery, the Brinks-Mat robbers and Jeffrey Archer. And it’s not just the villains; some of the twentieth century’s top lawyers and police officers are included for the part they have played in upholding the principles of the law. An unsavoury roll call of the men and women whose misdeeds live on in the national memory, an exploration of some of our most notorious unsolved cases and a celebration of the advances made in the fight against crime, this guide tracks the changing face of criminal activity over 100 years.

 

I can't fault this book, except to say that the author has omitted Ian Huntley and the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman...

 

Arran Johnston: On Gladsmuir Shall The Battle Be!

Published by Helion 15th September 2017

In the summer of 1745, a charismatic (but inexperienced) young Prince sailed to Scotland - determined to wrest the crowns of Great Britain from the head of George II. In a few short weeks, he raised an army large enough to challenge the government's forces in Scotland and, against the odds, stormed to a shocking victory over them at the Battle of Prestonpans. Celebrated ever since in song and art, Prestonpans nevertheless proved to be a false dawn on the road to defeat at the Battle of Culloden seven months later, but without his victory at Prestonpans and all the opportunities it provided, Charles Edward Stuart ('Bonnie Prince Charlie') could never have invaded England and his short uprising would then have been but a footnote in the history of Georgian Britain. This book - the climax of years of on-site investigation and source analysis - pieces together the events of the Prestonpans campaign in unprecedented detail. Focusing on the week of the battle, the author's knowledge of the towns and villages through which the armies marched brings their motions vividly to life. Combined with eyewitness testimonies and close scrutiny of the evidence presented to the Board of Inquiry in 1746, this allows the reader to understand the build-up to the battle from an individual, as well as strategic, level. Such an understanding is revealed as critical, as the effects of morale, landscape and personality are shown to have determined the fate of the battle far more than the relative power of broadsword and bayonet. The book opens with an exploration of the battlefield area prior to the Rising, before analysing the political and military strengths and weaknesses of the opposing causes; this includes rarely-provided information on the career of Sir John Cope. After following the opening campaign in the Highlands, the reader is then taken on a detailed day-by-day journey through the week leading to the battle. The account of the engagement itself - driven by eyewitness testimony and contemporary evidence - also incorporates the latest archaeological analysis of the site to create the most detailed and engaging presentation yet of this famous and dramatic event. Its aftermath and legacy, both on a local and national level, is then considered before the book concludes with a look at the changes which have occurred across the battlefield landscape up to the present day. This is a study of one of Britain's best-documented, but least analysed, battles - seen from within the landscape and communities around which it was fought. No longer should the two days of events which make up the Battle of Prestonpans be viewed simply as the prologue to a future defeat; instead, they are presented as they were understood at the time: as the climax of a month-long campaign which, it seemed, would determine the fate of Scotland.

 

An amazing and vivid account of the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745.

 

Nigel Atter & Peter Simkins: In The Shadow Of Bois Hugo

Published by Helion 15th September 2017

This is the first book dedicated to the subject of the 8th (Service) Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment during the First World War - and this particular Kitchener battalion has been a neglected topic of study; however, there is a rich mine of information to be found - including the methods of recruitment; the initial training (or lack of it); the lack and late arrival of equipment; and the actual fighting experience of the 8th Lincolns at Loos. Importantly, this volume challenges the well-established British historiography about the general reserves and their performance at Loos, with the author arguing that the reserves, rather than being routed, stood, fought and died at Loos in 1915. Following extensive archival research, the author has also built up a picture of the officers, which range from the very young junior second lieutenants straight out of university - the Officer Training Corps (OTC) - to a man who had seen 25 years' army service, but had never experienced a shot fired in anger until Loos. The men who constituted the ordinary soldiers were commonly the 'salt of the earth' - drawn from the ranks of the industrial and agricultural labouring classes. There is no great captain amongst them, but their grit and determination to the bitter end is an example of soldierly conduct in the best traditions of the British Army. British historiography hasn't been kind to the reserves who fought at Loos - claiming, at worst: 'They bolted!' and, at best, they were tired out by a forced march... hungry and wet through. The reality is at least one company stood and fought until almost completely out of ammunition, with all their officers dead or seriously wounded; surrounded by Germans with machine guns, the surviving Lincolns were captured. The experience of the 8th Lincolns is placed in the wider context, with the British Expeditionary Force's (BEF) learning process during 1915 and the aftermath of the accusations which led to the dismissal of Sir John French as Commander-in-Chief of the BEF and Sir Douglas Haig's appointment as the Chief. This book will appeal on a number of levels: it documents the life of an otherwise hitherto unknown Kitchener battalion; it challenges orthodox historiography; and it firmly shows that rather than running away, the 8th Lincolns (and, more generally, the reserves) behaved, by and large, with courage and resolution.

 

The centenary of the first world war has seen a huge nuber of books about specific battalions and regiments - this time it's the turn of the 8th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment.

 

Serena Merton: Jack and Hopit

Published by Helion 15th September 2017

A chance discovery of the existence of the gravestone carved with the battle honours of Hopit - the Tipperary-foaled hunter - led the author to research the Great War relationship of Hopit and 19-year-old Second Lieutenant John (Jack) Forrester Colvin in their four long years on the Western Front. Extensive family photograph albums bring a personal element to the story of this long partnership, while the war diaries of the 9th Lancers and letters from individual soldiers tell the wartime story. Jack's father, Forrester, commanded two reserve regiments of cavalry and was Advisor of Horses to the 11th Corps of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) throughout the Great War. After the Armistice and, as part of the Army of Occupation in Cologne, he was responsible for the future of the horses who had served King and Country - choosing which were to be repatriated; which were to continue with their regiments; and which were to be sold to French and Belgian farmers (and, unfortunately, butchers). Jack and Hopit's post-war years were spent point-to-pointing, hacking and hunting together - and though Hopit died in 1927, his elaborate gravestone hints at the closeness of their relationship through those most gruelling of years on the Western Front.

 

A beautiful and moving account of a man who devoted his army life to caring for and looking after horses, including one particular friend, known as Hopit. .

 

David Rogers: Bullets, Bombs and Poison Gas

Published by Helion 15th July 2017

Soldiers in the trenches were issued with four bullets a day unless they were either snipers or manned a machine gun. This does not seem like a lot of bullets. However, four bullets a day is 28 per week. Therefore a million soldiers need 28 million bullets per week. Of course there were a lot more than a million troops at the Western Front, so the number of required bullets was more than that! I realise that some of the soldiers performed vital service functions and some were busy on other duties, nevertheless there was a need for a lot of bullets. Supplying the troops was further complicated by the need to ensure that the many and varied shells were available for the howitzers, mortars and other artillery. Furthermore, there was a need for essential supplies of a whole manner of other materials, including rations for the troops and food for the many horses. Aircraft and tanks also started to make an appearance on the battlefield at this time which required supplies. Indeed there is one account of a horse drawn cart carrying aircraft fuel to the aeroplanes! The move to modern technology must have been interesting to watch. The static nature of battle was somewhat unique in the annals of warfare and led to the use of a narrow gauge railway network and a roll on roll off ferry port in Kent to speed deliveries along. Unfortunately, not all of the traffic was towards the trenches. Sadly there were many casualties who needed to return to the hospitals either in the field or back in Britain. The returning trains performed this vital function. Servicing this supply chain was a complex business, leading to some interesting issues.

 

A fascinating look at the logistics of weapons and ammunition supply during the Great War...

 

Justina Blakeney: The New Bohemians Handbook

Published by Abrams 10th October 2017

The New Boho Handbook guides readers in beautifully simple techniques for adding good vibes, and style to living spaces. Packed with hundreds of ideas for bringing positive energy to your home, the book features exercises and activities for thinking about rooms in new ways. With Justina's expert guidance, learn how to rearrange, paint, prop, and plant your way to a home that's fresh and inspiring. Uncover your 'spirit environment'and learn how to use colour and scent to enhance mood, productivity, and relaxation. Revel in Justina's encouraging advice, ('you got this!') and easily and affordably turn any dwelling into a personal sanctuary.

 

 

 

And there was me thinking that Boho concerned something in the fashion industry... this book is vibrant, colourful and full of joy - a celebration of a style in all its glory. Superb!

 

Ray Evans: Churchill's Boomers

Published by The Book Guild 28th September 2017

Ray Evans recounts his childhood growing up in Birmingham, at a pivotal point of history: six years previously the National Health Service Act came into effect and changed the landscape of medical care forever. Another four years prior to that, the Education Act raised the minimum age of leaving education to fifteen. Weaving humour through factual anecdotes, Ray sketches the incidents that shaped his life, also bringing in post-WW2 references. Illustrated with original full-colour cartoons by Colin Fisher, Churchill s Boomers will appeal to readers who can both remember that time, and those that are interested in the period. Ray is now retired and is able to devote more time to his passion for writing. As well as self-publishing two other books, he has seen a number of his plays performed on stage.

 

 

 

Claire Baldry: Different Genes

Published by Matador 28th October 2017

Sixty-one year old Louise finally learns she is adopted after the death of her mother. She embarks on a quest to reveal the secrets of her past, helped by new companion and lover, Simon, whom she meets after joining an Internet dating site. In her first full-length novel, author Claire Baldry sensitively explores the growing closeness between the newly retired couple as they develop their mutual understanding and physical relationship. The reader is reminded of the changing values of the postwar years, while Simon and Louise visit places from Louise's past and meet people who knew her mother and grandmother. Together, they begin to unlock the forgotten secrets of Louise's past - but in the face of so much change and uncertainty, can Louise let her relationship flourish? The story is set mainly in the author's home county of East Sussex, but finishes in Kent, when Louise and Simon finally visit her birth mother's grave at a convent in Chatham. This immensely readable journey of discovery is a charming and bittersweet mixture of romance, sadness and genuine suspense.

 

 

Patricia Bamurangirwa: Africanism

Published by Matador 28th October 2017

The true story of understanding of some young people in Africa. In her book, Patricia Bamurangirwa delves into the more serious aspects of emigrating from Africa to Britain and other Western countries alike and challenges some of them face. This is a heartfelt book that aims to bring hope and confidence to those from minority backgrounds, but also to those who have not personally experienced the trials and tribulations of being from an minority ethnic group within the UK. It also serves to educate readers about the cultural and societal issues currently facing Africa from the responsibilities that have been facing Africa for years, to the corruption and violence, to the leaders of the Western world who need to learn to be happy being rich alongside the African continent. While the book is a true story, explains Patricia, all the names have been changed. Africanism encourages every young person to be proud of their heritage, background and ethnicity, as well as the country within which they currently live. This is a book about patriotism, passion and pride. Patricia Bamurangirwa will bring readers to tears with her story, but also hopefully bring laughter too. This is ultimately a story of self-confidence and belief, which will appeal to anyone looking for a motivational and inspirational story.

 

Reg Barker, Charles Clarke, David Fraser, Albert Gunn, Henry Wagner & Steve Darlow: Last of the Kriegies

Published by Fighting High Publishing, 25th September 2017

‘For you the war is over'. ‘Last of the Kriegies' tells the extraordinary stories of five of the last remaining Second World War RAF Bomber Command Prisoners-of-War: pilot Reg Barker, bomb aimer Charles Clarke, air gunner David Fraser, air gunner Albert Gunn and navigator Henry Wagner. Each veteran shares the journey they went through joining up with the Royal Air Force, their training and crewing up, and operational duties with RAF Bomber Command. We accompany them on raids over enemy territory as they fight to survive against the relentless flak, searchlights, and deadly enemy nightfighters. Eventually each airmen's next of kin receives a knock on the door and the dreaded ‘regret to inform' you telegram.

Reg, Charles, David, Albert and Henry describe the circumstances in which they are shot from the sky, descending by parachute in to hostile territory, and their subsequent failed attempt to avoid capture. Interrogation follows and we hear how the downed airmen negotiate the aggressive and devious tactics employed by their captors as they try and extract secret information. Our ‘Kriegsgefangener' soon find themselves behind the barb wire of a German prison camp facing the trials and tribulations of daily life as a ‘kriegie'; the battle with hunger and frustration, the baiting and harassing of prison guards, friendships made, and attempts to break out and escape their captivity. In the final months of the war some of our POWs endure the gruelling and harsh conditions of the forced ‘Long March'. Despite frustrating delays, as the Nazi regime enters its final death throes, our airmen eventually taste the sweetness of liberation and journey home to loved ones and family.

Fighting High Publishing and Bomber Command historian Steve Darlow present the extraordinary testimony of five veterans who endured and survived being shot down, captivity, degradation, and suffering. Illustrated with previously unpublished photographs and with a foreword from former Gulf War POW Squadron Leader Bob Ankerson RAF (Ret'd) ‘Last of the Kriegie's' reveals the extraordinary strength and resilience of the human spirit struggling with incarceration and the loss of freedom.

 

There can be no substitute for the real thing. This magnificent book, in their own words, by five veterans of Bomber Command, is one of the finest voices from the past I have ever read. It has all the thrills of Reach For The Sky, all the tension of The Great Escape. A superb memorial to POWs everywhere and everywhen...

 

Amy Licence: Catherine of Aragon - An Intimate Life of Henry VIII's True Wife

Published by Amberley 15th October 2017

Catherine of Aragon has been remembered as a tragic figure, the woman Henry VIII divorced for want of a male heir. Amy Licence takes issue with this portrayal: her study presents neither a victim nor a divorcee, but a highly educated Spanish princess and a great humanist queen who, in the early years of her marriage, was Henry's advisor and his warrior. A magnificent portrait of a 'complex, passionate, unbreakable woman', the biography also upholds Catherine's unwavering conviction that her 'divorce' was invalid.

 

There is little doubt, with the benefit of hindsight, that Henry was quite wrong to divorce Catherine - would we still be a part of the Roman Catholic Church had he not fought and won against the might of Rome on this issue? Whatever the rights and wrongs of the affair, Amy Licence's superb new study of Catherine sheds new light on a woman who refused to bow down and go away, but who chose to live her divorced life to the full. A rich panoply of Tudor Britain, and a very readable account of one of the most iconic of our former queens.

 

Dennis M Spragg: Glenn Miller Declassified

Published by Casemate 1st September 2017

On December 15, 1944, Maj. Alton Glenn Miller, commanding officer of the Army Air Force Band (Special), boarded a plane in England bound for France with Lt. Col. Norman Francis Baessell. Somewhere over the English Channel the plane vanished. No trace of the aircraft or its occupants has ever been found. To this day Miller, Baessell, and the pilot, John Robert Stuart Morgan, are classified as missing in action.

Weaving together cultural and military history, Glenn Miller Declassified tells the story of the musical legend Miller and his military career as commanding officer of the Army Air Force Band during World War II. After a brief assignment to the Army Specialist Corps, Miller was assigned to the Army Air Forces Training Command and soon thereafter to Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, in the UK. Later that year Miller and his band were to be transferred to Paris to expand the Allied Expeditionary Forces Programme, but Miller never made it.

Miller’s disappearance resulted in numerous conspiracy theories, especially since much of the information surrounding his military service had been classified, restricted, or, in some cases, lost. Dennis M. Spragg has gained unprecedented access to the Miller family archives as well as military and government documents to lay such theories to rest and to demonstrate the lasting legacy and importance of Miller’s life, career, and service to his country.

 

Dennis Spragg's examination of the mystery of Miller's disappearance is forensic archaeology at its very best. With the JFK papers released earlier this week, now is the perfect time to look back at one of the most mysterious disappearances of the last century. A masterpiece.

Alan Moorehead: The Russian Revolution

Published by Amberley 15th October 2017

The Russian Revolution dismantled the ancient Tsarist autocracy and led to the rise of the Soviet Union. The Russian Empire collapsed with the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II and the old regime was replaced in February 1917. In the second revolution that October, the Provisional Government was removed and replaced with a Bolshevik (Communist) government.

The Bolshevik party, led by Vladimir Lenin, appointed themselves as leaders and seized control of the countryside, establishing the Cheka to quash dissent. To end Russia’s participation in the First World War, the Bolshevik leaders signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany in March 1918.

Civil war erupted among the ‘Reds’ (Bolsheviks), the ‘Whites’ (anti-socialist factions), and non-Bolshevik socialists. It continued for several years, during which the Bolsheviks defeated both the Whites and all rival socialists. In this way, the Revolution paved the way for the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1922.

In this book Alan Moorehead gives a brilliant account of these formative events. This not only remains the most readable account of the revolution, but sheds fascinating light on the Western view of the Soviet Union at the time of writing during the Cold War.

 

 Everyone is aware of the Russian revolution and the events that led up to the downfall of the Tsarist regime and the execution of the Russian royal family. Alan Moorehead's superb new book doesn't reveal anything we didn't already know, but recounts the events in a particularly user-friendly and readable way. A magnificent introduction to one of the most awesome events of the early twentieth century.

 

Nirmala Nataraj: The Planets

Published by Chronicle Books 7th November 2017

This magnificent visual tour of our solar system explores the wonders of space. More than 200 photographs from the archives of NASA are paired with captions detailing the science behind some of the planets most extraordinary phenomenon. Images of the newly discovered areas of Jupiter, the fiery volcanoes on Venus, the mysterious Planet Nine, and many more astronomical marvels are revealed in these pages. A preface by Bill Nye helps contextualise the images, providing fascinating details on the history of NASA's pioneering missions and the future of planetary exploration. Anyone with an interest in science, astronomy, and the mysteries of space will delight in this awe-inspiring guide to our cosmic neighbourhood.

 

 Abrams and Chronicle seem to have access to some of the finest collections of Nasa deep space photographs - this latest bok, simply entitled The Planets, and covering the planetary bodies of our own solar system, is beautifully printed and enough to take your breath away with the sheer beauty of the celestial images. Perfect narrative, perfect images - perfect book!

 

Anni Byard: 50 Finds From Oxfordshire

Published by Amberley 15th October 2017

Every year the general public find thousands of ancient objects and coins, many of which are recorded with the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). Since coming to Oxfordshire in 2004, the Scheme has recorded over 30,000 artefacts, from ancient hand axes and Roman coins to Saxon jewellery and Civil War cannonballs. Hoards of ancient gold coins may easily capture the imagination, but there are other objects that our ancestors left behind that are just as informative, if not more valuable, and which provide us with a glimpse into human life over the past 450,000 years.

Oxfordshire has a very long and rich archaeological heritage. Attracting settlement and commerce for millennia, the county boasts some of the earliest human artefacts from the Upper Thames Valley, large Roman villas and military encampments, early Christian religious institutions, a medieval university and Civil War battlefields. In between this grandeur is the story of everyday life, evidenced by the objects left behind only to be discovered hundreds if not thousands of years later.

Covering all periods of human history and every corner of the county, 50 Finds from Oxfordshire highlights some of the best archaeological artefacts found by ordinary members of the public and recorded with the Scheme.

 

Latest in Amberley's 50 Finds series, focuses on Oxfordshire's rich and varied archaeological history. A brilliant series continues.

Anthony Carragher: Lost?

Published by Matador 28th October 2017

As Liverpool F.C. reach their 125th anniversary, amidst the celebrations, doubts persist. Are they still elite? Can their prolonged title drought be ended? Foreign owners say they came to win but the trophy cabinet lies bare. Where to next for the reds? Lost? explores the gloried past, the moneyed present and the uncertain future of both Liverpool F.C. and the English game at large. Have they lost their way? Liverpool F.C. s most famous manager, Bill Shankly, declared that the club exists to win trophies and for many years this maxim proved true, as Liverpool became one of the most successful clubs in European football and dominated the scene in England for over two decades. Yet recently, the victories have dried up and Liverpool have not won the league title in over a quarter of a century. Football is also in a state of flux as major TV deals have made the Premier league the wealthiest in the world, but the gap between the elite clubs and those striving to catch up widens. Has the game lost it s soul? Who will rise and who will fall as a new uncharted era in footballl unfolds? Lost? captures exclusive interviews with key figures including former Liverpool managers, Brendan Rogers and Roy Evans, the Shankly family and a whole host of footballing legends, past and present. The book also includes reflective pieces on an array of Premier League clubs from both a sporting and cultural perspective, looking not just at the team in isolations, but also at the communities and landscapes that shape them

 

Twigs Way: Tea Gardens?

Published by Amberley 15th October 2017

A sunlit lawn, blossom-laden trees, rustic chairs around tables laden with teapots and cakes, the tinkle of teacups and the murmur of conversation – what could be more British than a tea garden? As a nation obsessed with tea drinking and gardening, it is not surprising that the British combined the two. The popularity of tea gardens took hold in London in the eighteenth century, and grew during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, when suburban family parties joined cycling clubs and charabanc outings to sample tea gardens far and wide. Despite the British weather, tea gardens thrived for over two hundred years.

Wonderfully illustrated with evocative contemporary images, this book charts the rise of tea gardens, their origins in earlier spa gardens, their distinctive style, their furnishings and accoutrements, their sad decline and triumphant return in the twenty-first century. It also includes a list of tea gardens that can be visited today.

This book is part of the Britain’s Heritage series, which provides definitive introductions to the riches of Britain’s past, and is the perfect way to get acquainted with tea gardens in all their variety.

 

An exquisite look at how tea gardens came into being in the first place, and a celebration of their rich cultural contribution to the wellbeing of the nation. A beautiful little book in Amberley's Heritage series.


 

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its sixteenth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.