books monthly august 2017

Twenty-odd titles from Pen and Sword and a few from Amberley - brilliant new nonfiction titles...

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Paul Rabbitts: Parkitecture

Published by Amberley 15th July 2017

What are the ingredients of our great British public parks? We often think of the wider landscape of trees, grass, lakes, meandering footways, bedding displays and herbaceous borders. But they are much more than this. Among the parkitecture featured here are bowling greens; bandstands; gates, railings and boundaries; fountains; glass houses, palm houses, winter gardens and conservatories; refreshments rooms; lodges and pavilions; bridges and boathouses; aviaries; children’s play areas, and statues, memorials and monuments.

This book acts as a long overdue celebration of the buildings and monuments of our public parks.

I just wish the author had not invented such an horrific word to describe what is, otherwise, a most excellent treatise on the amazing plethora of buildings and monuments to be found in our unparalleled municipal parks... "Brexit" is bad enough... "Parkitecture" as a made up name is an abomination, but don't let the word put you off reading this brilliant little book!


Stanley Wells: Great Shakespeare Actors

Published by Oxford University Press 27th July 2017


Great Shakespeare Actors offers a series of essays on great Shakespeare actors from his time to ours, starting by asking whether Shakespeare himself was the first―the answer is No―and continuing with essays on the men and women who have given great stage performances in his plays from Elizabethan times to our own. They include both English and American performers such as David Garrick, Sarah Siddons, Charlotte Cushman, Ira Aldridge, Edwin Booth, Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, Edith Evans, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Peggy Ashcroft, Janet Suzman, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, and Kenneth Branagh. Individual chapters tell the story of their subjects' careers, but together these overlapping tales combine to offer a succinct, actor-centred history of Shakespearian theatrical performance.

Stanley Wells examines what it takes to be a great Shakespeare actor and then offers a concise sketch of each actor's career in Shakespeare, an assessment of their specific talents and claims to greatness, and an account, drawing on contemporary reviews, biographies, anecdotes, and, for some of the more recent actors, the author's personal memories of their most notable performances in Shakespeare roles.

Most of the names in this fascinating book will be "household names", people we are familiar with from our TV and cinema screens. Author Stanley Wells looks at a huge nuber of Shakespearean actors and actresses and assesses each one according to how good and successful they are or were. A must-read for lovers of the Bard.

Andrew Lacey: The English Civil War in 100 Facts

Published by Amberley 15th July 2017

The English Civil War pitted Parliament against the Crown following a breakdown in their relationship, ultimately caused by a struggle over power, religion and control. The Civil War split the country and resulted in the execution of Charles I and the exile of his son, and the English monarchy was replaced first by the Commonwealth of England and then the Protectorate. Oliver Cromwell dominated the politics of the new rule and still divides opinion today, with some seeing him as a brutal dictator and others seeing him as a hero of liberty.

The English Civil War in 100 Facts examines the twenty years of intermittent warfare, covering the first, second and third wars, from the initial conflict with Charles I to the fight of Charles II’s supporters with the Rump Parliament. Dr Andrew Lacey guides us through some of the key figures and their stories as well as some of the key battles and politics in this period that drastically altered the structure of English rule.

A The latest in Amberley's superb "100 Facts" series takes on the English Civil War, revealing some little known facts as well as reminding us of the more important aspects of a war that briefly changed the British Isles in an unprecedented manor.


Gerard Cheshire: A History of Victorian Postage

Published by Amberley 15th July 2017

There is an aesthetic beauty to old stamps, which were miniature works of art in their detail and colours, in order to make them difficult to counterfeit. It is this aesthetic sensibility that attracts many collectors of early stamps, because they look wonderful arranged on the album page, and there is a very basic desire to complete sets of stamps, so that all gaps are filled and a pleasing display is achieved.

From the early days of sending messages engraved on clay tablets, to the introduction of paper from Asia setting the trend for the next several hundred years, people have been sending mail since time immemorial.

Gerard Cheshire takes us through the fascinating evolution of the postage system and its associated history, paying special attention to the development and refinement of stamps, from their wax-seal precursors through to the well-known Penny Black and beyond.

A superb social history of the British postal service, beautifully illustrated and brilliantly written.


Andrew Jenskinson: The Story of Caravans International

Published by Amberley 15th July 2017

Founded in 1963 with the merger of three leading brands – Sprite, Eccles and Bluebird – Caravans International was a formidable combination of British caravan heritage.

Drawing on his unrivalled knowledge of the British caravan industry, Andrew Jenkinson describes the history of the individual brands within CI as well as the growing success of the company as a global brand. He follows the changing fortunes of the company in the face of increased international and UK-based competition until its collapse in 1982. The fall of CI rocked the caravan/motorhome and holiday caravan industry both at home and abroad and, despite a temporary resurgence through a management buy-out, the company was completely finished by the early 1990s.

The author describes the wide variety of vehicles that were produced under the various CI brands, some of them highly innovative, and he also draws on first-hand interviews with company employees and a remarkable collection of photographs and leaflets. With his unique access to the CI archives, including interviews with the founder of Sprite and Caravans International, Andrew Jenkinson has written the definitive history covering the highs and lows of one of Britain’s leading caravan and motorhome manufacturing brands.

A comprehensive history of Caravans International, some of the brand names of which can still be seen at holiday times in camps around the UK.


Clive Pearson: The Second World War in 100 Facts

Published by Amberley 15th July 2017

The Second World War was the most widespread conflict in human history. Involving over 100 million people from more than thirty nations, it completely reshaped the world as we know it and led to the birth of the modern era. It gave rise to world leaders both iconic and infamous, instigated the break-up of empires and set the stage for the Cold War between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, which would last for over forty years. In Britain, the war helped to solidify a national identity that lasts to this day, leading to the creation of the welfare state and highlighting the merits of an orderly queuing system.

Clive Pearson takes us on a quick march across the battlegrounds of the world’s deadliest conflict, at home and abroad. Witness the war’s defining moments and international aftermath, and discover a few lesser-known facts you may never have heard of along the way.

And lastly this month, another "100 facts", this time on the second world war. Everything you need to know, really. This series is groundbreaking and cool at the same time.




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Book of the Month - Lucy Gosling: Images of the Past - The British Seaside

Published by Pen and Sword 30th May 2017

Drawing on the archives of Mary Evans Picture Library, Images of the Past The British Seaside is a nostalgic promenade through the history of Britain s seaside resorts from their early genesis as health destinations to their glorious, mid-20th century heyday, subsequent decline and recent regeneration. British coastal resorts developed during a period of vast expansion and social change. Within a century, the bathing phenomenon changed from a cautiously modest immersion in the sea to a pastime that prompted the building of vast art deco temples dedicated to the cult of swimming. Once quiet fishing villages mushroomed into bustling seafronts with every conceivable amusement and facility to entice visitors and secure their loyalty for future visits. Where transport to the coast may have once been via coach and horses or boat, soon thousands of working class day-trippers flooded seaside towns, arriving by the rail network that had so quickly transformed the British landscape. This fascinating book follows these shifts and changes from bathing machines to Butlin s holiday camps, told through a compelling mix of photographs, cartoons, illustrations and ephemera with many images previously unpublished. Covering every aspect of the seaside experience whether swimming and sunbathing or sand castles and slot machines The British Seaside reveals the seaside s traditions, rich heritage and unique character in all its sandy, sunny, fun-packed glory.


This is an absolutely magnificent stroll down memory lane, packed with brilliant photographs of how the British people discovered and relished their holidays and trips to the seaside around Britain. There must be hundreds of thousands of such photographs in archives, in people's collections - I hope Pen and Sword can find more to publish in subsequent volumes! Truly breathtaking and hugely enjoyable.


Richard Van Emden: All Quiet On The Home Front

Published by Pen and Sword 30th April 2017

The truth about the sacrifice and suffering on the home front during World War I is rarely discussed. In this book, some of the oldest men and women in the country speak about experiences and events that have remained buried for 85 years. Their testimony shows the same candour and courage we have become accustomed to hearing from veterans of the western front. Those interviewed include a survivor of a Zeppelin raid on Hull in 1915, a Welsh munitions worker recruited as a girl, and a woman rescued from a bombed school after five days. There are also accounts of rural famine, bereavement and the effects on families back home, and even the story of a woman who planned to kill her family to save them further suffering.


I The home front in WW2 is immortalised forever in Dads' Army - nothing similar for WW1, and yet the people left behind faced even bigger challenges, especially when so many men failed to return home after the hostilities. Noted WW1 historian sets the records straight in this fasinating account of what went on back home.


Jonathan Oates: Tracing Villains and their Victims

Published by Pen and Sword 4th May 2017

In this practical handbook Jonathan Oates introduces the fascinating subject of criminal history and he gives readers all the information they need to investigate the life stories of criminals and their victims. He traces the development of the justice system and policing, and gives an insight into the criminal world of the times and the individuals who populated it. In a series of concise chapters he covers all the important aspects of the subject. At every stage, he guides readers towards the national and local sources that researchers can consult the libraries, archives, books and internet sites that reveal so much about the criminal past. Sections focus on the criminal courts, trial records, the police and police reports, and on punishments transportation, execution and prison sentences. Details of the most useful and rewarding sources are provided, among them national and local newspapers, books, the Newgate Calendar, coroners records, photographs, diaries, letters, monuments and the many internet sites which can open up for researchers the criminal side of history.Tracing Villains and Their Victims is essential reading and reference for anyone who seeks to trace an ancestor who had a criminal record or was the victim of crime.


No one wants to discover that one of their ancestors was a criminal, but when you're looking at censuses and someone's missing, and you think they should be there, where else do you look? Jonathan Oates's excellent books provides a shoe-in for amateurs and professionals alike to discover the truth about their ancestors' criminal pasts.


Mike Loades: Swords and Swordsmen

Published by Pen and Sword 30th April 2017

This magnificent book tells the story of the evolution of swords, how they were made, how they were used, and the people that used them. It doesn't claim to give comprehensive coverage but instead takes certain surviving examples as landmarks on a fascinating journey through the history of swords. Each is selected because it can be linked to a specific individual, thus telling their story too and giving a human interest. So the journey starts with the sword of Tutankhamun and ends with the swords of J E B Stuart and George Custer. Along the way we take in Henry V, Cromwell and Uesugi Kenshin, and there is the most detailed discussion you'll find anywhere of all of George Washington's swords. The chapters on these specific swords and swordsmen are alternated with more general chapters on the changing technical developments and fashions in swords and their use. The reader's guide on this historical tour is Mike Loades. Mike has been handling swords most of his life, as a fight arranger, stuntman and historical weapons expert for TV and stage. He considers the sword as a functional weapon, work of art, fashion statement and cultural icon.As much as his profound knowledge of the subject, it is his life-long passion for swords that comes through on every page. His fascinating text is supported by a lavish wealth of images, many previously unpublished and taken specifically for this book.


A superb history of swords and swordsmen, with the most breathtaking coverage from the earliest days to modern times. Brilliant.

Stuart Hadaway: Tracing Your Great War Ancestors - The Egypt and Palestine Campaigns

Published by Pen and Sword 5th June 2017

Tracing Your Great War Ancestors: The Egypt and Palestine Campaigns is the first book explicitly aimed at helping the descendants of those who fought in this part of the Middle East find out more about their ancestors actions, experiences and achievements. Their wartime lives were very different to those who served on the Western Front, and yet have never before been explored from this angle. Hundreds of thousands of British and Imperial troops fought in the Western Desert, Sinai Desert, Palestine, the Jordan Valley and Syria. They served in conditions quite unlike those more familiarly faced in France and Flanders, with everyday challenges to survival including the heat, lack of water, hostile wildlife and rampant disease. The fighting too was of a different character, with more open, sweeping campaigns across desert and mountains, and comparatively little systematic trench warfare. As well as giving the reader a vivid impression of the experience of wartime service in the region, Stuart Hadaways handbook provides a guide to main sources, archives and websites that researchers can consult to get an insight into their ancestors role and their contribution to the war effort.


An essential guide for anyone whose ancestors were engaged in these two iconic campaigns during world war one. This series from Pen and Sword is unparalleled and goes from strength to strength.


Dick Kirby: London's Gangs at War

Published by Pen and Sword 5th June 2017

The 1950s and 1960s saw a changing of the guard in London's gangland. A new and even more ruthless breed of criminal emerged to replace the ageing generation of likes of Sabini, Mullins and Hayes. Protection rackets on bookies, club owners and shops were commonplace. Prostitution and drugs offered rich pickings. Police corruption was all too commonplace. Thanks to media interest the names of Charlie Richardson, Mad Frankie Fraser, Scarface Smithson and the Nichols became as widely known as they were feared. And then there were the Kray Twins, whose notoriety and brutality became watchwords. But as this insider book reveals they did not have it all their own way. For a thrilling and shocking story Londons Gangs at War is in a class of its own. What makes it so chilling is that the murders, torture and mayhem actually happened.


Some of this is familiar to us from TV programmes such as Foyle's War and Dads' Army - but Dick Kirby's terrific book breaks new ground in identifying and recounting what actually happened during those troubled times.


Alan Gallop: Six For The Tolpuddle Martyrs

Published by Pen and Sword 30th June 2017

In 1834 six farm labourers from the Dorset hamlet of Tolpuddle fell foul of draconian Victorian laws prohibiting assembly . Today the names of George Loveless and his brother James, Thomas Standfield and his son John, James Brine and James Hammett, who made up the Tolpuddle Martyrs, stand high on the roll of British men who have been victimised for their beliefs but stood steadfast in the face of persecution. They refused to be persuaded to betray their principles either by the promise of release or by transportation to Australia. The Tolpuddle men fought to win their freedom sustained by their passionate conviction that their sacrifices would not be in vain. Their experience and example have proved to be an inspiration for future generations and they remain icons of pioneering trade unionism. The Author has thoroughly researched their story and the result is a fascinating and revealing re-examination of this legendary saga. Their triumph over legal persecution and abuses of power over 180 years ago is told afresh in this comprehensive and attractively illustrated book which delves deeper into their story than ever before.


History will record how successive tory governments, aided and abetted by the pathetic Liberal Democrats, sought to erode the rights of trade union workers - this magnificent acocunt of the Tolpuddle Martyrs should be required reading ro anyone thinking of entering politics at any level. One can imagine soeone like Rupert Murdoch and Ian Duncan Smith pulling the stirngs for the prosecution - such people have always existed, and don't really deserve to. An eye-opener on the first really important hurdle in protecting the rights of working people... One thing is certain - the attitude of the tories hasn't really changed - they simply don't understand what it is to be a working man (or woman), and they never will.


Chris Peers: Offa and the Mercian Wars

Published by Pen and Sword 15th May 2017

In England in the eighth century, in the midst of the so-called Dark Ages, Offa ruled Mercia, one of the strongest Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. For over 30 years he was the dominant warlord in the territory south of the Humber and the driving force behind the expansion of Mercia's power. During that turbulent period he commanded Mercian armies in their struggle against the neighbouring kingdoms of Northumbria and Wessex and against the Welsh tribes. Yet the true story of Offa s long reign and of the rise and fall of Mercia are little known although this is one of the most intriguing episodes in this little-recorded phase of England s past. It is Chris Peers s task in this new study to uncover the facts about Offa and the other Mercian kings and to set them in the context of English history before the coming of the Danes.


This account of Offa of Mercia and his battles against the other kingdoms of ancient Britain is as thrilling as a Bernard Cornwell novel...


Barry Renfrew: Agincourt 1415 - Field of Blood

Published by Pen and Sword 30th April 2017

On 25 October 1415, a trapped and vastly-outnumbered force of exhausted and demoralised English archers and men-at-arms faced a colossal army of French knights on a desolate field in northern France. What took place that day became one of the greatest moments of the Hundred Years War and English history. Based on chronicles of the times, Agincourt 1415: Field of Blood is a dramatic, minute-by-minute retelling of the battle as seen through the eyes of the commanders and soldiers on both sides. This is a brutal, bloody and captivating retelling of a major British victory written by a Pulitzer Price finalist This work sets a new standard for historical fiction.


...and again, this magnificent account of the iconic and legendary battle of Agincourt has been tackled by Bernard Cornwell in his superb book of the same name - Barry Renfrew's superb account is readable, and hugely entertaining.


Ben Johnson: Digging In The Dark - A History of the Yorkshire Resurrectionists

Published by Pen and Sword 30th May 2017

Progress can be unstoppable at times, and not even death can prevent the desire for knowledge. A dark trade has long existed to provide fuel for the fires of research, a trade which is viewed by many as the most despicable occupation of all. The resurrection men of Yorkshire came from all walks of life, and employed a myriad of macabre methods to raise their defenceless prey from beneath the consecrated ground. This was a trade which offered great reward, but was definitely not for the faint of heart. Throughout this journey into the dark past of Yorkshire, we meet an infamous celebrity who made an unexpected reappearance, a travelling minstrel who was to become the talk of many towns, a child whose death was just the beginning of a tragic tale, and a holy man who helped a community but earned his own illicit rewards in return. Also to be raised from the dead are a number of explosive events, all of which lit a fire beneath the local communities and led the people of Yorkshire to the streets in violent protest. A medical school reduced to ashes, a gang of professionals moonlighting in the darkest occupation, and a scandal which would engulf a city many years after the threat of the body snatchers had been all but ended. Spanning over almost three centuries, this grim compendium of tales casts a shadow over the beauty of Yorkshire, a dark veil which reaches out in all directions, threatening the peace of the dearly departed across the length and breadth of the nations largest county.


This is the bizarre but true story of a group of Yorkshiremen who took it upon themselves to rob graves to procure cadavers for medical purposes. It is hard to believe this is all true, and some of Ben's tales sound a little "tall", but it's entertaining and most certainly dark...

Frances Clamp: Essex At War 1949-1945

Published by Pen and Sword 5th June 2017

Although much maligned, Essex is a vibrant county with a long and exciting history. Being close to the Continent and with one of Britain s longest coastlines, it was an obvious target for invasion as the threat of war grew. Many defensive structures were built by the sea and to protect major routes across the county. The remains of pill boxes can still be seen. Essex at War 1939-1945 tells how war greatly affected the county: children were evacuated both to and from Essex; being close to London the county suffered from regular air attacks; farming was important and the Women's Land Army arrived in force. Accounts of Essex airmen and sailors who supported those escaping from Dunkirk are told, and once the USA entered the war there was a new type of invasion in the county when their servicemen arrived and were welcomed at many of the county s airfields. Memories of children growing up during those difficult years are recalled. These include nights spent in cold, damp Anderson shelters, sleeping under solid tables or in claustrophobic Morrison shelters. We learn about disrupted school lessons and the fear felt when the air raid siren wailed. When the V-1 and V-2 unmanned flying bombs were launched in 1944, many still remember listening for the engines to switch off and counting the seconds until they fell to earth.


Unlike all of the otherbooks in this most excellent series, this one by Frances Clamp concengtrates on an entire county. Although Essex wasn't any more in the front line than, say, Hampshire, Sussex, Suffolk or norfolk, they did nevertheless come in for something of a bashing, and Frances recounts several accounts of how Essex was, perhaps considered unique in the matter of the Germans' attempt to reduce the British Isles to rubble. Hugely enjoyable latest title in the series.


Emily Gilbert: Rebuilding Post-War Britain

Published by Pen and Sword 30th June 2017

'Germany wasnt really a place for settling in, because after the war it was pretty devastated, and there wasnt really a chance to start again, so I thought Id come to England. It was a case of people between 18 and 50 and you had to be fit because it was mainly physical work. For men, it was mines and agricultural work and brick factories and women, mainly textiles.' 'We were thinking it was temporary. We were thinking the war would restart with the west and the east, and that the west would win, and we would be going home. But, it wasn't like that.' After the Second World War, thousands of Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian refugees, uprooted by war and conflict in their homelands, were recruited from Displaced Persons Camps in Germany to fill labour shortages in Britain. This unknown episode in Britain's immigration history is brought to life in this book, through interview extracts and documentary sources. Women were the first recruits to the so-called European Volunteer Worker Schemes, in which 25,000 Baltic men and women came to Britain between 1946 and 1951, to work in hospitals, textiles, agriculture, coal mining and other undermanned areas of industry. Initially regarding their stay in Britain as temporary, a majority of these Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian men and women remained in Britain their whole lives. Recently joined by more migrants from the Baltic States, this book tells the story of Britain's Baltic communities, from the earliest accounts of their arrival in Britain to the present day.


The not insignificant matter of East European immigration into Britain has evidently happened before. Germany was in ruins, Britain was largely unscathed, although some towns and cities suffered more than others, of course. Emily Gilbert described how the Eat Europeans found the prospect of settling in and working in Britain appealed. A fascinating and unknown slice of British social history.


Stephen Wynn & Tanya Wynn: Women In The Great War

Published by Pen and Sword 31st May 2017

The First World War was fought on two fronts. In a military sense it was fought on the battlefields throughout Europe, the Gallipoli peninsular and other such theaters of war, but on the Home Front it was the arduous efforts of women that kept the country running.

Before the war women in the workplace were employed in such jobs as domestic service, clerical work, shop assistants, teachers or as barmaids. These jobs were nearly all undertaken by single women, as once they were married their job swiftly became that a of a wife, mother and home maker. The outbreak of the war changed all of that. Suddenly, women were catapulted into a whole new sphere of work that had previously been the sole domain of men. Women began to work in munitions factories, as nurses in military hospitals, bus drivers, mechanics, taxi drivers, as well as running homes and looking after children, all whilst worrying about their men folk who were away fighting a war in some foreign clime, not knowing if they were ever going to see them again.

With the work came a wage, which provided women with financial freedom for the first time, as well as an element of independence and social integration, which they would have possibly never otherwise experienced. Women were not paid the same wages as men for doing the same work, but what they did earn was much more than they had ever earned before.

This was also a time of the suffrage movement, who wanted more out of life for women. Accordingly, some of these women were reluctant to stop working, with some of these being sacked so that returning soldiers could have their prewar jobs back. Whilst, tens of thousands of women were left widowed, many with young children to bring up. Despite all of this, one thing was for sure, for lots of women there was no going back to how things had been before the war. There was only going to be one way, and that was forward.


I've read stories in magazines and novels about how men returning from action on the Western Front and elsewhere during WW1 returned home to find their jobs taken by women. Stephen and Tanya Wynn take us back four years to the time when the decisions were taken that the women left behind were given the task of keeping vital industries running, particularly agriculture but also in arms and equipment manufacture for the BEF. Superlative social history from Pen and Sword.


Michael A Vanns: The Great Central Railway

Published by Pen and Sword 31st May 2017

This compelling book centers on the Great Central Railways early history, focusing particularly on its drive to reach London. It follows the subsequent fortunes of the London Extension right up until its closure, and into the preservation era, examining the remarkable achievements of hundreds of enthusiasts and their continuing struggle to fulfill the aspirations of those 1969 visionaries.

In 1899 the Great Central Railway opened a new main line between Nottinghamshire and London. It was built to the highest of standards; civil and mechanical engineers able to benefit from the experience of over fifty years of British railway construction. It was a glorious achievement. Yet, despite incorporating some of the best facilities to enable it to operate in a more efficient way than its older rivals, it had a short working life compared to its contemporaries. By the end of the 1960s, most of it had closed. However, ironically, that abandonment by the state-owned British Railways presented an independent and enterprising group of railway enthusiasts with a unique opportunity to operate their own main line with their own engines. In 1969 the Main Line Preservation Group was formed with a vision to re-create a fully functioning, double track, steam-worked main line between Nottingham and Leicester.

This book explores the journey, development and changes of the Great Central Railway and is a fantastic guide to how the railway industry has changed over time.


Where I live in North Norfolk, there is a heritage steam railway that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists and boosts the local economy. Most people now agree that Beeching went too far in culling British Rail's lines, and overcrowded passenger trains are testament to that. This wonderful book tells how a group of enthusiasts seized the oppoertunity to perpetuate the steam railway line from Nottingham to Leicester, thus preserving Britain's steam heritage in the East Midlands. Brilliant.


Jim Blake: Trolleybus Twilight

Published by Pen and Sword 30th April 2017

In this new photographic album from Pen & Sword, transport historian and photographer Jim Blake presents a fascinating selection of pictures of a form of public transport now sadly missing from Britain's streets trolleybuses. Most British trolleybus systems flourished in the inter-war years, particularly the 1930s. The biggest fleet was that of London Transport. But for the Second World War, it would have been bigger still if South London's trams had been replaced by trolleybuses, as intended. London, however, replaced these with motor-buses instead, influencing other operators to abandon their trolleybuses, too. By the 1960s, their demise was well under way. Fortunately, during that decade, Jim travelled throughout England and Wales, photographing buses, coaches, steam locomotives and trolleybuses. This book features the latter, beginning with their final weeks in London, then continuing to places as diverse as Bournemouth and Cardiff, Bradford and Maidstone. Most pictures have never been published before. Taken between 1962 and 1968, they transport the reader back to a wonderful land with many quaint forms of public transport, particularly trolleybuses! What will strike readers is their variety of liveries, manufacturers and so on. Britain's last trolleybuses ran in 1972. Despite many other world cities having modern trolleybus systems today, it will be a long time before they return to our streets, if ever! How sad when our cities are polluted by vehicles powered by internal combustion engines: trolleybuses are completely pollution-free!


I remember spending the summer holidays with relatives in Hornchurch when I was about five or six years old. We had ic creams from Dickie-Bird, a man on a tricycle who went around the streets plying his trade, and we went into London and rode on trolleybuses... How they functioned remains a mystery to me, but they must have been around for a good part of the first half of the 20th century. This marvellous book tells the sad story of the demise of the trolleybus but revels in their glory with some fascinating and beautiful photos. Superb.


Geoff Plumb: British Railways In The 1960s - Southern Region

Published by Pen and Sword 30th April 2017

After the Second War, Britain's railways were rundown and worn out, requiring massive investment and modernisation. The Big Four railway companies were nationalised from 1948, and the newly formed British Railways embarked on a programme of building new Standard steam locomotives to replace older types. These started to come on stream from 1951. This programme was superseded by the 1955 scheme to dieselise and electrify many lines and so the last loco of the Standard types was built in 1960 and the steam locomotives had been swept entirely from the BR network by 1968. This series of books, 'The Geoff Plumb Collection', is a photographic account of those last few years of the steam locomotives, their decline and replacement during the transition years. Each book covers one of the former Big Four, the Southern Railway, London Midland & Scottish Railway, Great Western Railway and London & North Eastern Railway, including some pictures of the Scottish lines of the LMS and LNER. The books are not intended to convey a complete history of the railways but to illustrate how things were, to a certain extent, in the relatively recent past and impart some information through comprehensive captions, which give a sense of occasion often a last run of a locomotive type or over a stretch of line about to be closed down. The photos cover large parts of the country, though it was impossible to get everywhere given the overall timetable of just a few years mainly when the author was still a schoolboy with limited time and disposable income to get around. Pictures are of the highest quality that could be produced with the equipment then available, but they do reflect real life and real times. In simple terms, a look at a period not so long ago but now gone forever.


The latest in the brilliant series of Geoff Plumb's photographic collection showing the last days of British Railways steam, some in glorious colour, the majority in black and white. An amazing collection.


Murray Naylor: England's Cathedrals By Train

Published by Pen and Sword 30th April 2017

One of the jewels in the nation's crown is its Anglican cathedrals. Many, constructed after the invasion of 1066, stand as monuments to the determination and commitment of their Norman builders. Others have been built in later centuries, while some started life as parish churches and were subsequently raised to cathedral status. Places of wonder and beauty, they symbolize the Christian life of the nation and are visited today more than ever, as places that represent England's religious creed, heritage and the skills of their builders. Eight hundred years later came the Victorians, who pioneered the Industrial Revolution and created railways. Like their Norman predecessors, their creations were built to last: the railway system bequeathed to later generations has endured in much the same form as when it was originally constructed and there is certainly little sign that railways will be displaced by other modes of transport in the foreseeable future. Combining a study of thirty-three English cathedrals and the railway systems which allow them to be reached, the author seeks to celebrate these two magnificent institutions. In the process he hopes to encourage others to travel the same journeys as he himself has undertaken.


I believe this may be a new edition of this iconic book, because I'm sure I've reviewed it several years ago. It remains one of the best books on visiting iconic church buildings across Britain by railway. Brilliant.


Don Benn: Biography of British Train Travel

Published by Pen and Sword 30th June 2017

Biography of British Train Travel is a collection of mainly previously unpublished articles and short stories, covering a lifelong interest in railways. It spans a wide spectrum over the years, from the early days in Kent in 1960, through the many hours on the lineside on the Surrey Hills line and the South Western main line, to the last frantic years of steam on the Southern, and the current steam scene, as well as the privileged and exciting times spent riding on the footplate of steam locomotives. It majors on the author's main railway passions of steam locomotives, train running performance, including modern motive power and all matters Southern. Locomotive performance in Europe and a tramway are also included, as is a fascinating minor- and little-visited narrow gauge railway in southern England, plus heritage traction on the London Underground. The book comprises approximately 350 illustrations, many in colour, as well as contemporary timetable extracts and copies of notebook pages, which cover shed visits in Scotland. Fifty train running logs are included, together with some detailed records of days spent by the line sides of railways when steam was still the predominant motive power in parts of the south.


Beautifully illustrated book chronicling Britain's railway heritage. No one can fail to be moved by the contents of this book, it really is superb.


James Lowry: Fiddlers and Whores

Published by Pen and Sword 15th March 2016

Entertaining insight into aspects of naval life normally hidden. Explanatory notes put Lowry's world in context. Never previously published, never intended for publication, these frank and revealing memoirs were written by an adventurous Irish surgeon, and describe his life afloat and ashore in Nelson's Mediterranean Fleet during the years 1797 to 1804. 'A country of fiddlers and poets, whores and scoundrels' - Nelson's famous description of Naples - was a world eagerly embraced by a James Lowry, who was driven to sea, apparently, by a sheer sense of adventure and a desire for exotic travel. Sent out to join Nelson's victorious fleet after the battle of the Nile, he was to experience plenty of naval action, and to see more foreign climes than perhaps he had anticipated. Taking part in the successful British campaign against the remnant of Napoleon's army in Egypt brought him into contact with an entirely different culture, but perhaps not as strange as the 'wooden world' of the Navy, which he chronicles with the detached and slightly bemused eye of an outsider. However, what really engaged his interest (and enthusiasm) was the relaxed sexual mores of Italian society. His memoirs were written at the request of his younger brother, so, untrammelled by any thought of publication, he was able to recount his adventures with relish - and in rather more medical detail than is proper. Many of the seemingly unlikely events can be confirmed from other sources - notably the corpse of the executed rebel Caracciolo surfacing alongside Nelson's flagship to terrify the Neapolitan King who was on board at the time. The original manuscript has been in the hands of Lowry's descendants for two centuries, but this entertaining and enlightening account is here published for the first time.


First-hand account of James Lowry's exploits as a young man seconded to Nelson's fleet following the successful Battle of the Nile. Scandalous goings-on, particularly in Italy... a bit of an eye opener for the folks back home, but never before published and never actually intended for publication...


Chris Scott & Alan Turton: Hey For Old Robin!

Published by Helion 15th June 2016

Hey For Old Robin! was the cry of the Earl of Essex's army during the First Civil War as, contrary to modern popular belief, Robert Devereux was well-liked by the men he led. This book fills a gap in the literature of the Civil Wars, taking up the challenge to write a new history of Essex and his Army and examining the often-repeated view that he was a cautious dullard with little military skill. The two authors Christopher Scott and Alan Turton, both well known published military historians, present a more balanced view of Parliament's first Lord General, bringing him out of the shadow of Cromwell. In doing so they are not afraid to bite the bullet of period and modern criticism of Essex as a strategist and tactician, as well as his reported failings as a man.

Based on primary research, including site visits to scenes of his triumphs and disasters, they trace the story of the early campaigns, beginning with Edgehill, then Brentford and Turnham Green, the relief of Gloucester and the retreat to Newbury, the Siege of Reading, the Thames Valley Campaign, the disaster of Lostwithiel and the rebuilding of the army for Second Newbury. Whilst they leave the detailed examination of the various battles fought by Essex and his men to more specialist books, they tell the story of each of the campaigns and share their thoughts on Essex's problems and his decisions and actions. They also examine how the armies were constituted, officered, recruited and maintained, as well as its reductions and transfers.

In separate chapters they describe Essex's Foot, the Horse, the Dragoons, The Artillery and The Train, dealing with what the army wore, what it was paid, what weapons it used, the flags it carried and how it was organised, operated and fought. All this is set within a sound understanding and appreciation of the background of the seventeenth century and Essex's place in the socio-political zeitgeist as well as period military thinking and practice. Illustrated with a wealth of seldom-seen contemporary engravings of Essex's officers and friends and newly commissioned maps, as well as uniform and cornets & colours plates, this work is of great use to anyone with an interest in our civil wars including academics, local historians, re-enactors and wargamers.


A brilliant account of the life and times of the Earl of Essex, one of Crowell's right-hand men during the second civil war. The authors succeed in bringing to life this much neglected figure and his armies in exquisite and minute detail. A tour de force of British civil war history - one of the best books I've read on the subject.


David Ogilvy: The De Havilland Mosquito

Published by Amberley 15th June 2017

The de Havilland DH 98 Mosquito was one of the fastest and most versatile aircraft of the Second World War. One of the first multi-role aircraft, it was used for reconnaissance and also as a fighter, fighter-bomber, night fighter and interceptor.

This book, written by David Ogilvy, one of the last surviving pilots to have flown Mosquitos in squadron service and later in a civilian capacity, spread intermittently over fifteen years, provides an expert inside story of the secret development of the aircraft, the astonishing impact it made when first flown, its operational achievements, handling qualities and the many design developments that took it from quicksilver photographic reconnaissance aircraft to long-range bomber and pathfinder.

As preparations are made to bring a working Mosquito back to Britain from New Zealand, this book is a worthy testament to one of the most remarkable British military aircraft.


There no one more qualified to write about this iconic British aircraft than Mr Ogilvy, one of the last surviving Mosquito pilots. I remember having to choose which Airfix kit at 2/6d to begin my collection with back in the 1950s, and the Mosquito was the aircraft I chose. There's something about it...


Keith Wilson: RAF Transport Command - A Pictorial History

Published by Amberley 15th June 2017

When RAF Transport Command was created in March 1943, it was formed by the renaming of Ferry Command. The delivery of aircraft from manufacturers to operational units had been ongoing since the start of the Second World War; but was significantly intensified by the supply of American machines flown across the Atlantic from 1940. Later, Transport Command took over the role of dropping paratroops. It even undertook the ferrying of mail from the UK to troops fighting across Europe, using specially modified Spitfires and Hurricanes for the role.

After 1945 and the conclusion of the Second World War, Transport Command grew considerably in size. In 1948, it was at the forefront of the Berlin Airlift. It would later serve the RAF particularly well during the Suez Crisis, the Malayan Emergency, and the nuclear trial on Christmas Island.

This book covers a pictorial history of Transport Command operations from 1943 through to 1967, when RAF Transport Command was renamed Support Command.

Illustrated with images from the Air Historical Branch – many of which have never previously been published.


Amberley specialises in all aspects of British social history, and the love and care with which their excellent books are produced is perfectly well evidenced in this pictorial history of Transport Command. Superb.


Graham Cross: Slybirds

Published by Fighting High Publishing 1st May 2017

The distinctive black and yellow chequered markings of the 353rd Fighter Group, the ‘Slybirds', made them one of the USAAF ‘Mighty' 8th Air Force's most colourful fighter groups. Flying P-47D Thunderbolts and later P-51D Mustangs the 353rd's appearance in the skies over occupied Europe witnessed growing American air power and helped to change the course of the air war. From mid-1943 until the end of hostilities in Europe, the 353rd participated in all major aerial battles from the 1943 Regensburg and Schweinfurt raids to ‘Big Week', the attacks on Berlin, and the support of the D-Day landings and Normandy campaign in 1944. They went on to win the Distinguished Unit Citation during the Arnhem operation of September 1944 and after converting to P-51 Mustangs they continued to play a full and prominent role in the final smashing of the Third Reich from the air.

Fighting High Publishing has come together with respected 8th Air Force historian Graham Cross to tell the story of the ‘Slybirds'. With access to an unparalleled photographic archive built up over nearly thirty years of close association and friendship with the group, the author provides a detailed representation of all aspects of the group's key activities. Focussing not just on the aircraft and pilots but also the vital work of the ground crews and service personnel, this is a stunning tribute that fills a major gap in the history of 8th Fighter Command. A full honour roll to those who made the ultimate sacrifice is included along with details of all POWs and all confirmed claims by the Group's air-to-air aces.

Packed with nearly 450 photos, the majority of which are previously unpublished, unseen wartime colour photos and detailed captions, this book is a visual and information feast. This latest volume in Fighting High Publishing's ‘Odyssey' series is the most in-depth photographic record of the 353rd to date and provides a unique window on a fighter group at war.


An amazing photographic tribute to the 353rd fighter group of the USAF. Magnificent.


Joanne Lee Philpott: Dreaming Of a Divine Life

Published by Matador 28th June 2017

Dreaming of a Divine Life is the inspirational true story of a woman who built her life back up after losing everything. Joanne dreamt of a Yoga Retreat in Italy, but found herself with a half built house in the Italian hills and bringing up four children on her own. Yet through adversity, Joanne saw that these problems were a blessing in disguise as there is a purpose to every relationship and a reason for every situation. Readers from all walks of life will relate to Joanne's difficult and sometimes shocking experiences. Through her spiritual awakening she teaches readers how to cultivate their own happiness by opening their hearts and developing self love, peace and compassion for others. The aim of the book is to give hope to those who think that there is no way out of a situation where everything has gone wrong, using descriptions of spiritual practices, eternal truths and secrets to life that will help the reader to awaken their inner wisdom. In her memoir Joanne draws from 17 years of experience teaching yoga, but it is not solely a book for readers that practice the discipline. Inspired by the work of Elisabeth Gilbert and Louise Hay, Dreaming of a Divine Life is an engaging memoir with a spiritual twist, which will make readers laugh and cry, and want to fulfil their spiritual purpose and manifest their dreams.

Peter Murphy: Modern British Abulances

Published by Amberley 15th June 2017

The ambulance service uses a lot of specialised vehicles in its day-to-day role of providing emergency care, routine transport and emergency response. These range from the specially constructed ambulance bodies on commercial chassis to small car conversions. In this collection of images, Peter Murphy reveals the true range of different types of ambulances used in Britain in the twenty-first century. In addition to the front-line ambulances used by the NHS, those of voluntary aid societies, private ambulances, works ambulances and air ambulances are also featured. Alongside all the services, the different vehicle marques and coach builders are shown. Each photograph shows a particular type of ambulance and, wherever possible, the company provided the conversion to an ambulance is noted.

These images show the fascinating changes that have taken place over the past few years, both in the boundary of ambulance services’ work and in also the design of Britain’s ambulances themselves, as they undertake their vital, lifesaving work.


We see them every week on TV in Casualty and Holby City, and on our roads, and we take the for granted. It falls to Peter Murphy to talk us through the subtle changes in vehicle design and adaptation in this ground-breaking history of the modern British ambulance. Simply brilliant.


Peter C Brown: Birmingham Airport Through Time

Published by Amberley 15th June 2017

Birmingham Airport has a history stretching back to the Second World War, when it was requisitioned for use by the military. During the post-war years, races and public events were held at the site and it grew steadily throughout the remaining years of the twentieth century. By the mid-1970s, Birmingham Airport was handling over a million passengers and, in May 1984, the main terminal was opened by the Queen, with capacity for 3 million passengers, giving opportunity for more routes and an increase in passengers using Birmingham Airport. After the West Midlands County Council was abolished in 1986, ownership of the airport was transferred to a joint committee of the seven West Midlands District Councils.

The old terminal at Elmdon has been turned over to cargo, and the old terminal building protected with ‘Listed’ status. On 20 October 2003, Concorde made her final visit to Birmingham Airport as part of her farewell tour. In July 2007, Birmingham was voted the best airport in Europe in the 5 million to 10 million passengers per year category, and it continues to go from strength to strength. In this book Peter C. Brown explores the history of Birmingham Airport, using a range of period and contemporary images.


This book does exactly what it says on the cover. Plenty of excellent photographs and an excellent narrative. People living in the West Midlands who make their journeys from this airport will identify readily with it, other than that it's another of Amberley's superlative social histories.


Matt Macnabb: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Collectibles

Published by Amberley 15th June 2017

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been a powerhouse franchise ever since the debut of the indie comic book back in 1984. The TMNT have captivated kids and those young at heart for over thirty years now with several movies, multiple cartoon series, ongoing comics and one of the most extensive and playable toylines in history. The golden era of TMNT for many fans was from 1988 to 1995 and it’s that vintage era that this book aims to focus on. When you’re dealing with such an expansive franchise it’s essential to nail down a focus and the original cartoon and movies are still regarded by many fans as the definitive TMNT.

In this book author, collector and pop culture historian Matt MacNabb, who runs, examines everything from the Playmates toyline to the more obscure product offerings – from fast food toys, food product, school supplies and trading cards to video games, VHS and books.


I was never a fan of the turtles - our two younger children were, and we bought some of the comics for them, but they were never as popular with all four of us as The Real Ghostbusters and Thomas The Tank Engine. I'm amazed there's even a trade in Turtle memorabilia, but there you go! Collector Matt McNab does an excellent job presenting his findings in this really colourful book.


Caroline Ikin: The Kitchen Garden

Published by Amberley 15th June 2017

The kitchen garden was once a vital component of the country estate, supplying fruit, vegetables and flowers to meet the needs of the family and their household. A vast range of fruit and vegetables was grown, from everyday crops of potatoes and cabbages to the exotic delights of grapes, peaches and pineapples.

The table had to be supplied all year round, and gardeners were expert in forcing, ripening and storage of produce. All sorts of gadgets and technology were employed, from cucumber straighteners and pest fumigators to oil-fired boilers and rubber hosepipes. Horticultural techniques were developed for growing plants and fruit that are still used in our gardens today. This knowledge was passed on, as gardeners worked their way up from garden boy, employed to wash pots and scare birds, to undergardener, journeyman and then foreman, with the most ambitious reaching the prestigious position of head gardener. Working life in the kitchen garden was a seasonal routine of sowing, potting, watering and cropping.

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 the kitchen garden in all its variety.


Kitchen Gardens traditionally refer to the gardens in which essential produce was produced (and still is) and which are attached t stately homes and manor houses, and this latest social history from Amberley tells the story of how they came about and the mechanisms that were introduced for keeping them going in order to provide much needed food for the inhabitants and staff. Really, really interesting!


Natasha O'Hear & Anthony O'Hear: Picturing The Apocalypse

Published by Oxford University Press 27th July 2017

The book of Revelation has been a source of continual fascination for nearly two thousand years. Concepts such as The Lamb of God, the Four Horsemen, the Seventh Seal, the Beasts and Antichrist, the Whore of Babylon, Armageddon, the Millennium, the Last Judgement, the New Jerusalem, and the ubiquitous Angel of the Apocalypse have captured the popular imagination. One can hardly open a newspaper or click on a news web site without reading about impending financial or climate change Armageddon, while the concept of the Four Horsemen pervades popular music, gaming, and satire. Yet few people know much about either the basic meaning or original context of these concepts or the multiplicity of different ways in which they have been interpreted by visual artists in particular. The visual history of this most widely illustrated of all the biblical books deserves greater attention.

This book fills these gaps in a striking and original way by means of ten concise thematic chapters which explain the origins of these concepts from the book of Revelation in an accessible way. These explanations are augmented and developed via a carefully selected sample of the ways in which the concepts have been treated by artists through the centuries. The 120 visual examples are drawn from a wide range of time periods and media including the ninth-century Trier Apocalypse, thirteenth-century Anglo-Norman Apocalypse Manuscripts such as the Lambeth and Trinity Apocalypses, the fourteenth-century Angers Apocalypse Tapestry, fifteenth-century Apocalypse altarpieces by Van Eyck and Memling, Dürer and Cranach's sixteenth-century Apocalypse woodcuts, and more recently a range of works by William Blake, J. M. W. Turner, Max Beckmann, as well as film posters and stills, cartoons, and children's book illustrations. The final chapter demonstrates the continuing resonance of all the themes in contemporary religious, political, and popular thinking, while throughout the book a contrast will be drawn between those readers of Revelation who have seen it in terms of earthly revolutions in the here and now, and those who have adopted a more spiritual, otherworldly approach.


As well as providing a huge number of classic paintings and illustrations that illuminate the themes and characters from Revelation, this excellent book also furnishes us with a series of chapters enabling us to get to the bottom of the meaning of the text in some detail. This is a book that will interest religious scholars and laymen alike.


W A Sumner: The Theology of Truth

Published by The Book Guild 28th June 2017

The Theology of Truth begins with a review of the different types of truth or certainty, ranging from mathematical realities through to theological ideas. The rest of the book is a selection of different scriptural materials from around the world. The writers of these materials all claim, directly or indirectly, to tell us the truth about life and death. Author W. A. Sumner uses certain parts of the Bible, Old and New Testament, and places them alongside each other to draw comparisons between them. Sumner goes on to outline the various forms of truth ranging from mathematics to art and on to philosophical and theological. He analyses each book of scripture on that framework. He aims to have done this with a certain degree of objectivity. The importance of this book lies in the factor that not every piece of scripture is actually of the truth, or spiritual enhancing. The author has chosen various types of literature to illustrate the different genres available to illustrate his theories.


Curtis Roosevelt: Upstairs at the Rossevelts

Published by Potomac Books 1st July 2017

Curtis Roosevelt knew what it was like to live with a president. His grandfather was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. From the time Curtis, with his sister, Eleanor, and recently divorced mother, Anna Roosevelt Dall, moved into his grandparents' new home―the White House―Curtis played, learned, slept, ate, and lived in one of the most famous buildings in the world with one of its most famous residents. Writing about his childhood from that perspective, Curtis Roosevelt offers anecdotes and revelations about the lives of the president and First Lady and the many colorful personalities in this presidential family. From Eleanor's shocking role in the remarriage of Curtis's mother to visits from naughty cousins and trips to the "Home Farm," Upstairs at the Roosevelts' provides an intimate perspective on the dynamics of one of America's most famous families.


With Trump in the White House there could not be a better time for people to read about one of the most iconic and fascinating of comparatively recent White House occupants, told by FDR's grandson. Fascinating!



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.