books monthly christmas 2017 Pen & Sword

Your chance* to win a copy of Pen and Sword's Dickens and Christmas! See left panel (*UK Residents only)

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Lucinda Hawksley: Dickens and Christmas

Published by Pen & Sword 30th October 2017

Dickens and Christmas is an exploration of the 19th-century phenomenon that became the Christmas we know and love today and of the writer who changed, forever, the ways in which it is celebrated. Charles Dickens was born in an age of great social change. He survived childhood poverty to become the most adored and influential man of his time. Throughout his life, he campaigned tirelessly for better social conditions, including by his most famous work, A Christmas Carol. He wrote this novella specifically to strike a sledgehammer blow on behalf of the poor man's child , and it began the Victorians' obsession with Christmas. This new book, written by one of his direct descendants, explores not only Dickens's most famous work, but also his all-too-often overlooked other Christmas novellas. It takes the readers through the seasonal short stories he wrote, for both adults and children, includes much-loved festive excerpts from his novels, uses contemporary newspaper clippings, and looks at Christmas writings by Dickens's contemporaries. To give an even more personal insight, readers can discover how the Dickens family itself celebrated Christmas, through the eyes of Dickens's unfinished autobiography, family letters, and his children's memoirs. In Victorian Britain, the celebration of Christmas lasted for 12 days, ending on 6 January, or Twelfth Night. Through Dickens and Christmas, readers will come to know what it would have been like to celebrate Christmas in 1812, the year in which Dickens was born. They will journey through the Christmases Dickens enjoyed as a child and a young adult, through to the ways in which he and his family celebrated the festive season at the height of his fame. It also explores the ways in which his works have gone on to influence how the festive season is celebrated around the globe.

I have always made a habit of reading A Christmas Carol every year about this time - the version I am lucky enough to own is the hardback published in the 1980s by Chancellor Press, illustrated magnificently by Arthur Rackham, and originally published in 1915, by which time, of course, our modern Christmas celebrations were already well established. It was Prince Albert who introduced the British people to the celebration of Christmas centering upon the Christmas tree, but it is to Dickens that, in my opinion, and indeed in the opinion of author Lucinda Hawksley, we owe much of what is now commonplace in our festivities. There has been much examination of the introduction of "advent clendars" this year which have no place in our Christmas and simply reinforce the beliefs that Christmas is now being 100% exploited for commercial reasons, in the same way as Halloween. I have to agree - in our Tesco there was even an advent calendar containing 24 variety cereal packs from Kelloggs. I love Christmas, but I hate the commercialism and try to avoid it at all costs. Lucinda's book reminds us of the very meaning of Christmas through the ways in which the young Charles Dickens and his family would have celebrated it - no commercialism whatsoever. The Victorians had many faults, but they were almost to a man mindful of the true spirit of Christmas and how it should be a celebration of the birth of Christ. It is inevitable that with the horrendous worship of capitalism and personal belongings that people have drifted away from the church and the true meaning of Christmas, but the contrast between Christmas today and Christmas during the 19th century is truly remarkable and distressing. Lucinda's history of Charles Dickens and how he used his brilliant short story to shine a light on the evils of the capitalist society in which he lived is illuminating and entertaining. This is a superb book, testament to a true philanthropist and Christian, and I heartily recommend it to everyone.

 

*UK readers of Books Monthly - you could win a copy of this brilliant book courtesy of Pen and Sword - Just answer the following question: How many ghosts or spirits does Scrooge have to endure in Dickens's classic tale before he repents his ways and enters into the spirit of Christmas? Email your answer to paulenorman1@gmail.com - the first name to be drawn out of the hat wins. Don't forget to include a postal address in your email! Closing date 21st December 2017...

 

 

 

 

 

Joshua Bilton: Germany In The Great War Mobilisation and the Western Advance

Published by Pen and Sword 18th September 2017

Germany in the Great War Illustrated - Mobilisation and the Western Advance is the first volume of a projected six-part series that details, graphically, the Central Powers - Germany and Austro-Hungary - fighting to the west during the concluding months of 1914. This superbly illustrated and highly researched book covers the schema of a 'quick victory' on the WestFront (Western Front). From preparatory build-up, to mobilisation and to subsequent annexation and occupation, (90 per cent of northern France and the Kingdom of Belgium), this title manifests the 'German' perspective - a pictorial digest. Evincing German offense against the BEF (British Expeditionary Force), French and Belgium armies at the Battle of Mons, heralding the mass exodus of British troops from the region, the siege of Antwerp and the breakthrough toward Paris. Each successive chapter includes a short, introductory narrative, documenting holistically events and is accompanied by a wealth of fully captioned and rarely before seen photographs: over 500 images.
 

This amazing first volume in a new series from Pen and Sword paves the way for eye-opening photographs and analysis from WW1 expert Joshua Bilton - the series perfectly compliments Pen and Sword's other major series on the Great War, The Great War Illustrated, which last month published its account of events in 1917. The photographs are unbelievably clear, the coloured ones are fascinating, and Joshua's analysis of Germany's mobilisation in the early months is the perfect introduction to the super power's thinking and actions. This is a major new series and comes as we rapidly approach the one hundredth anniversary of the armistice, next year. Pen and Sword promised to mark the one hundred years since the outbreak of hostilities, and they have delivered on that promise handsomely.

 

Martin Smith: Mortal Wounds

Published by Pen and Sword 30th September 2017

Human beings have a violent past. Physical hostilities between people are at least as old as humanity and the roots of such behaviour go very deep. Earlier studies have been based on a range of sources including written documents, as well as archaeological evidence in the form of weapons, armour and defences. However, each of these is fraught with problems and there is in fact only one form of evidence that can both directly testify to past violence and which has also been present throughout the whole human story -the remains of past people themselves. This book brings together a wealth of recently recognised evidence from preserved human skeletons to investigate a range of questions regarding the ways human beings have used violence to achieve their aims, in a single volume presenting this continuous thread of unbroken evidence from the early Stone Age to the 19th century. Who engaged in violence? Who were the victims? How have styles and objectives of conflict changed over time? How old is war and why did it appear when it did? All these and further questions are addressed in this cutting-edge book, the first of its kind to be aimed at the general reader and written for an audience that may not be familiar with what we can learn from the human skeleton about our shared past and the changing face of human conflict.

 

Martin Smith's analysis of conflict since the earliest times gives a fascinating insight into the human psyche and our reasons for picking fights with fellow human beings.

John Hodge: Railways and Industry in the Western Valley

Published by Pen and Sword 17th October 2016

This is the second in a new series on the South Wales Valleys by John Hodge, author of the South Wales Main Line series and North and West series, each of four volumes. The South Wales Valleys were famous for coal mining, iron and steel, tinplate works and the railways that served both industries, between them accounting for a very high percentage of employment in the area. A detailed, widely illustrated series on the valleys such as this, is long overdue and this is the second book in the series. The first book covering the area as far as Aberbeeg and the second continuing to the heads of the Valley at Ebbw Vale and Brynmawr.

 

This pictorial journey through the South Wales valleys by John Hodge will delight railway enthusiasts and social historians alike. The overall impression is that there was more going on in terms of railway development in this area of the British Isles then anywhere else. Stunning photographs.

 

Catherine Curzon: Queens of Georgian Britain

Published by Pen and Sword 30th October 2017

Once upon a time there were four kings called George who, thanks to a quirk of fate, ruled Great Britain for over a century. Hailing from Germany, these occasionally mad, bad and infamous sovereigns presided over a land in turmoil. Yet what of the remarkable women who were crowned alongside them? From the forgotten princess locked in a tower to an illustrious regent, a devoted consort and a notorious party girl, the queens of Georgian Britain lived lives of scandal, romance and turbulent drama. Whether dipping into politics or carousing on the shores of Italy, Caroline of Ansbach, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Caroline of Brunswick refused to fade into the background. Queens of Georgian Britain offers a chance to step back in time and meet the women who ruled alongside the Georgian monarchs, not forgetting Sophia Dorothea of Celle, the passionate princess who never made it as far as the throne. From lonely childhoods to glittering palaces, via family feuds, smallpox, strapping soldiers and plenty of scheming, these are the queens who shaped an era.

 

The Georgian era remains one of the most elegant in ters of just about everything, from architecture to fashion. There is no doubt that some British people resented the fact we were now ruled by German aristocrats, but there is little doubt that they fostered welcome changes in the houses in which we lived, and the clothing and manners they brought with them. Catherine Curzon's look at the Georgian Queens can't help but conjure up memories of the third Blackadder series, but there are some serious points to be made here as well, and she covers the history of these Queens in stunning and fascinating detail. A brilliant examination of Georgian society at the highest echelons.

Vivien Newman & David Semeraro: Regina Diana

Published by Pen and Sword 30th October 2017

The Untold Story of Regina Diana tells of the rebellious daughter of working-class French-Italian parents from a run-down area of Geneva who, trained by the most ruthless spymaster of them all, Elisabeth Schragmiller (aka Fraulein Doktor), became a much-adored French café -concert singer, a discreet and highly-prized prostitute plying her trade, and a successful German Great War spy. Regina's spy operations were full of intrigue: a network spanning four countries based in the shamed city of Marseille, with her performing abilities and sexual charms allowing her to lure men from privates to generals into giving her vital information. This book is not just about Regina, but also explodes the much-vaunted myth of Swiss neutrality. Switzerland, a nest of spies, was riven between support for Germany and France; in an extraordinary penetration of the upper echelons of Swiss society, the Swiss Army Commander-in-Chief was married to former German Chancellor Otto von Bismark s daughter. Yet exhuming Regina from her unmarked grave involved a tantalising journey - getting past her disavowal by both France and Switzerland, unravelling the truth behind a three-line report about a pretty Swiss singer's execution and overcoming the obfuscation of French military archivists. Even her execution was fittingly exceptional. So determined were the French authorities that she should die, her firing squad numbered not the usual twelve, but twenty-five smoking rifles.

 

Pen and Sword continue tocome up with biopics of people of who I have never heard (until now) who were engaged in activities that would not be out of place in a modern James Bond spy thriller. These larger than life characters lived and died by the sword, and the authors' analysis of Swiss involvement in the world war 1 spy rings provides a fascinating annexe to the colourful examination of the life and times of one of the Great War's most notorious spies.

 

Dee Gordon: Bad Girls From History

Published by Pen and Sword 30thSeptember 2017

You wont be familiar with every one of the huge array of women featured in these pages, but all, familiar or not, leave unanswered questions behind them. The range is extensive, as was the research, with its insight into the lives and minds of women in different centuries, different countries, with diverse cultures and backgrounds, from the poverty stricken to royalty. Mistresses, murderers, smugglers, pirates, prostitutes and fanatics with hearts and souls that feature every shade of black (and grey!). From Cleopatra to Ruth Ellis, from Boudicca to Bonnie Parker, from Lady Caroline Lamb to Moll Cutpurse, from Jezebel to Ava Gardner. 

Less familiar names include Mary Jeffries, the Victorian brothel-keeper, Belle Starr, the American gambler and horse thief, La Voisin, the seventeenth-century Queen of all Witches in France but these are random names, to illustrate the variety of the content in store for all those interested in women who defy law and order, for whatever reason. 

The risqué, the adventurous and the outrageous, the downright nasty and the downright desperate all human (female!) life is here. From the lower strata of society to the aristocracy, class is not a common denominator. Wicked? Misunderstood? Naive? Foolish? Predatory? Manipulative? Or just out of their time? Read and decide.

 

Dee Gordon's look at an amazing catalogue of "bad girls" does everything it says on the 'tin' - many of the names inside this book are familiar to me, equally many are not, but each story is told expertly and with style - fascinating accounts of people we know about already, and people we are unfamiliar with. It's like a compendium of Sunday paper articles, only far better written and far more entertaining and educational at the same time.

 

Janet MacDonald: Horses In The British Army 1750 to 1950

Published by Pen and Sword 17th October 2017

These days horses are mainly used for leisure activities the non-rider knows little about them in a modern context, let alone a historical one. For those who would like to know more, this book encompasses the whole spectrum of horses in the British army over a 200-year period, from their acquisition and training, through their care and feeding and their transportation to theatres of war overseas. Janet Macdonald describes how, until mechanization took over in the twentieth century, the British army used horses on a grand scale. The cavalry, messengers and officers rode horses, and horses pulled guns and wagons full of supplies. Their versatility made them almost as important as weaponry. But most men of the time were unlikely to know how to ride and had to be taught, and the horses had to be trained to tolerate situations in which the civilian horse would panic and run and this process is explained here in fascinating detail. Janet Macdonald's study promises to be the standard work on this neglected aspect of the British army's history.

 

No one who has seen the film version of Michael Morpurgo's War Horse can have come away feeling unmoved. Many of Pen and Sword's WW1 illustrated volumes carry shocking pictures of fallen horses, and the thing we must remember is that our animal friends, be they horses or dogs, have no choice in where they go and what they do once they have been coerced into the armed forces. Janet's history of horses in the British army covers the comparatively modern era, but much of her narrative would apply equally to armed forces horses from much longer ago, such is the nature of our dependency on these magnificent beasts. A moving and amazing account of their involvement in our conflicts.

 

Steve Bartlett: Hereford Locomotive Shed

Published by Pen and Sword 30th October 2017

Hereford Locomotive Shed is the first in a series of in-depth studies to look closely at the changing engine allocations and operational responsibilities of motive power depots during the latter days of steam. In Herefords case this was a varied mixture of main line passenger, freight trip working, branch line passenger, station pilot duties and yard shunting. Unusually, the latter remained a steam preserve until months before depot closure in November 1964. Not forgotten are the depots small sub-sheds, which had varying responsibilities over the years, as the district boundaries changed at Ledbury, Leominster, Ross-on-Wye and Craven Arms. Their very different duties were inevitably a reflection of a bygone age and an all too rapidly changing future. The author personally recorded the Hereford railway scene from the late 1950s, until depot closure. He made shed visits several times a week, and at other times observed the ever-changing locomotive scene from the elevated Bulmers Sidewalk behind the depots coaling stage. Details carefully kept from those far-off days has proved a valuable cross reference with present-day research into Hereford's role from official records at The National Archives, Kew, and other railway research sources. Having spent almost forty years working in the industry, the author is able to sympathetically unravel and interpret the story of this hard-working mixed traffic depot. Hereford is strategically located on the North & West route from South Wales and the West of England to the North West, as well as being an important junction for Worcester & the West Midlands. Branch lines to Brecon and Gloucester radiated from this Border Counties railway junction, and freight trips radiated out to serve the surrounding area. All of this made Hereford a fascinating rail centre and a locomotive shed worthy of its story for posterity, which is meticulously recorded in this book.

 

A worthy and sympathetic study of one of the most important railway locomotive sheds in the west midlands - author Steve Barrett had personal links to Hereford Loco shed and redorded everything on camera, the result being a moving collection of pictorial social history that will fascinate laymen and railway enthusiasts alike.

 

Kevin Turton: Northamptonshire At War 1939-1945

Published by Pen and Sword 30th October 2017

When the Second World War was declared in September 1939, Northamptonshire was better prepared for the years that followed than it had been twenty-five years earlier. Lessons had been learned from the First World War, and people were far more aware of the impact modern warfare could have on their lives. Through film, press and radio, they were able to monitor the events in Europe in a way unprecedented by any previous generation, which led to a greater understanding of world politics and a realisation that the rise to power of Adolf Hitler would have predictable repercussions. So, when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain addressed the nation after Germany's armies had invaded Poland, war, for many, had already become inevitable. But what exactly did this mean to the people of Northamptonshire, and how did they react to the threat of invasion? What were the consequences of the conflict on the Home Front? How did Northamptonshire's towns and villages function through six years of grinding warfare? These questions, and many others, are examined and answered in the pages of this book. This is the story of those who were there; the people who never accepted the possibility of defeat, who coped with rationing, blackouts, conscription and aerial bombardment, and then welcomed Londons evacuees and greeted the American Airforce with open-armed hospitality. Using military events as a background, this book relates Northamptonshires story, from the parts played in the war effort by the shoe industry, the Northamptonshire Regiment, the Home Guard, the ARP and to, of course, the people.

 

Northamptonshire at war 1939-45 is the latest excellent volume in Pen and Sword's comprehensive study of counties and towns and cities as they experienced the second world war, with iconic photographs and eyewitness accounts that illustrate perfectly the attitudes and preparations made by such places to minimise the impact of the war on its people. This series is one of the most important social case histories available.

 

Susan T Moore: Tracing Your Ancestors Through the Equity Courts

Published by Pen and Sword 30th October 2017

The records of the Courts of Equity, which dealt with cases of fairness rather than law, are among the most detailed, extensive and revealing of all the legal documents historians can consult, yet they are often neglected. Susan Moore's expert introduction to them opens up this fascinating source to researchers who may not be familiar with them and dont know how to take advantage of them. As she traces the purpose, history and organization of the Courts of Equity from around 1500 to 1876, she demonstrates how varied their role was and how valuable their archives are for us today. She covers the Courts of Chancery, Exchequer, Star Chamber, Requests, Palatinates and Duchy of Lancaster in clear detail. Her work shows researchers why their records are worth searching, how to search them and how many jewels of information can be found in them. This introduction will be appreciated by local, social and family historians who are coming to these records for the first time and by those who already know of the records but have found them daunting.

 

This remarkable new book in Pen and Sword's Tracing Your Ancestors series serves as a timely reminder that although Ancestry.co.uk and FindMyPast.co.uk have vast sets of data to start you off, there comes a time when you need to tackle dead ends by using resources you ight not have thought of. Susan Moore's book goes down one particular avenue of enquiry and presents the evidence that the Equity Courts can provide a ultitude of answers to questions that might have at one time proved impossible to find.

Rafaele D'Amato: Decorated Roman Armour

Published by Pen and Sword 13th September 2017

From the time of the Bronze Age, the warriors of all tribes and nations sought to emblazon their arms and armour with items and images to impress upon the enemy the wealth and power of the wearer. Magnificently decorated shields were as much a defensive necessity as a symbol of social status. Equally, decorative symbols on shields and armour defined the collective ideals and the self-conceived important of the village or city-state its warriors represented. Such items were therefore of great significance to the wearers, and the authors of this astounding detailed and extensively research book, have brought together years of research and the latest archaeological discoveries, to produce a work of undeniable importance. Shining Under the Eagles is richly decorated throughout, and as well as battlefield armour, details the tournament and parade armour from Rome's the earliest days. Dr Raffaele D'Amato is an experienced Turin-based researcher of the ancient and medieval military worlds. After achieving his first PhD in Romano-Byzantine Law, and having collaborated with the University of Athens, he gained a second doctorate in Roman military archaeology. He spent the last year in Turkey as visiting professor at the Fatih University of Istanbul, teaching there and working on a project about the army of Byzantium. He currently work as part-time researcher at the Laboratory of the Danubian Provinces at the University of Ferrara, under Professor Livio Zerbini.

 

I had always believed that the Roman Army was run on hard discipline, and it never occurred to me that individual members of the military might have taken it upon themselves to decorate their armour, indeed, I don't believe I have ever seen anything quite like the author suggests happened, so this magnificent book is something of an eye-opener for me!

 

Jeremy Gordon-Smith: Photographing The Fallen

Published by Pen and Sword 5th October 2017

Ivan Bawtree has left behind a vast array of archives that tell the story of his work as a photographer with the Graves Registration Units on the Western Front from 1915 to 1919. He travelled to numerous parts of Northern France and Flanders most notably the Ypres Salient to photograph and record graves of fallen soldiers on behalf of grieving relatives. He was one of only three professional photographers assigned to this task, hired by the newly formed Graves Registration Commission in 1915. Through his pencil and lens we gain detailed insight not just into the work he did and the men he worked with, but also aspects of the military zones, the perils of proximity to the Front Line, the devastation of war, and the birth and early work of the Imperial War Graves Commission. Today, the war cemeteries that Ivan saw spring up across battle-scarred landscapes provide the most widespread and enduring reminder of the scale of loss and sacrifice of the Great War.

 

I have to admit that I was expecting the subject matter of this book to be something more sinister - Pen and Sword's mighty collection of WW1 photographs includes many thousands of photographic images of dead soldiers, and that was what I was expecting, not photographs of various war graves etc. This is not to say that I was disappointed - the author reminds us of the dedication of Ivan Bawtree as he travelled around the Western Front taking photographson behalf of the families and friends of the men who had fought and died there, and this turns out to be something of an awesome reminder of the wasted lives, the futility of war, and the power of the photographic image.

 

Duncan Leatherdale: Life of a Teenager in Wartime London

Published by Pen and Sword 30th October 2017

Life in wartime London evokes images of the Blitz, of air-raid shelters and rationing, of billeted soldiers and evacuated children. These are familiar, collective memories of what life was like in wartime London, yet there remains an often neglected area of our social history: what was life like for teenagers and young people living in London during the Second World War? While children were evacuated and many of their friends and family went to fight, there were many who stayed at home despite the daily threat of air raids and invasion. How did those left behind live, work and play in the nation's capital between 1939 and 1945? Using the diary entries of nineteen-year-old trainee physiotherapist Glennis 'Bunty' Leatherdale, along with other contemporary accounts, Life of a Teenager in Wartime London is a window into the life of a young person finding their way in the world. It shows how young people can cope no matter the dangers they face, be it from bombs or boys, dances or death.

 

There are many newsreels and photographs of children playing in the post-war years on bomb sites, but the subject of this book has not, to the best of my knowledge, been tackled before - the lives of teenagers in wartime London. We know all about the people who chose to stay in London during the Blitz, but few such memoirs include specific mention of teenagers. Duncan Leatherdale's studies are among the most important of all such studies in that they catalogue the lives, the times, the feelings of teenagers who survived this most terrorising of times.

 

Simon Webb: Myths That Shaped Our History

Published by Pen and Sword 30th October 2017

All nations and peoples have a body of legendary tales and semi-historical episodes which explain who they are and help to define their place in the world. The British are no exception and in this book Simon Webb explores some of the most well-known episodes from British history; stories which tell the British about themselves and the country in which they live. Examining these events in detail reveals something rather surprising. In every case, the historical facts are greatly at variance with what most British people think that they know about such things as the Battle of Waterloo, Magna Carta, the suffragettes and so on. Indeed, in many cases the reality is precisely the opposite of what is commonly believed. For example, the Battle of Waterloo was not a victory for the British army, Magna Carta did not set out any rights for ordinary people and the suffragettes delayed, rather than hastened, the granting of votes for women. This book shows that much of what the British believe about their history has been either grossly distorted or is just plain wrong; revealing some of the misconceptions which are held about famous incidents from the nation's past. In each case, the truth is far richer and infinitely more interesting than the version learned by schoolchildren. These myths, for that is what they essentially are, reveal as much about the way that the British people like to see themselves now as they do about what happened in the past.

 

Author Simon Webb deconstructs a huge number of myths that have shaped our beliefs and which have been perpetrated in perpetuity down through the ages in our schools and universities! This is a fine collection of social myths which for the most part obscure what really happened. Everybody who thinks they have some historical knowledge appertaining to our country should read this remarkable and fascinating book!

 

Peter Johnson: Festiniog Railway Vol. 2

Published by Pen and Sword 1st October 2017

Opened in 1836 as a horse tramway using gravity to carry slate from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog, by the 1920s the Festiniog Railway had left its years of technical innovation and high profits long behind. After the First World War, the railway’s path led inexorably to closure, to passengers in 1939 and goods in 1946. After years of abandonment, visionary enthusiasts found a way to take control of the railway and starting its restoration in 1955. Not only did they have to fight the undergrowth, they also had to fight a state-owned utility which had appropriated a part of the route. All problems were eventually overcome and a 2½ mile deviation saw services restored to Blaenau Ffestiniog in 1982. Along the way, the railway found its old entrepreneurial magic, building new steam locomotives and carriages, and rebuilding the Welsh highland Railway, to become a leading 21st century tourist attraction. Historian Peter Johnson, well known for his books on Welsh railways, has delved into the archives and previously untapped sources to produce this new history, a must-read for enthusiasts and visitors alike. The Festiniog Railway’s pre-1921 history is covered in Peter Johnson’s book, Festiniog Railway the Spooner era and after 1830-1920, also published by Pen & Sword Transport.

 

Now this is something I have experienced at first hand - on a family holiday to North Wales back in the 1970s, and it is an experience I shall never forget! The whole of North Wales is steeped in mystery and romance, and the preserved steam railways, including the Festiniog Light Railway, iconic in itself, remains one of the most engaging and entertaining of all. This is volume 2 of a two-volume history of the little railway, a remarkable testament to the ingenuity of man and the power of the landscape. Fantastic!

 

Ashley Jackson The Yorkshire Artist

Published by Pen and Sword 3rd October

'Ashley Jackson The Yorkshire Artist' contains a collection of paintings that have been personally chosen by the artist to bring together his personal memories and intimate reflections of the emotions and atmosphere that he has captured in each watercolour painting. As he explains, 'All artists paint what inspires them, what allows them to capture what they see with their eyes with their hands and heart. We all have differing inspirations, mediums and connections with our subject mine is the Yorkshire Moors.' From the open moorland of Marsden Moor to the inhabited landscape of Whitby, this book brims with what Ashley does best; capturing the atmospheric skies and drama of the landscape. As Ashley explains, 'I have strived throughout my life to witness and portray every mood swing of nature as she takes a stand against all that the elements throw at her, whether that be rain, wind, snow or fire.' You will truly find Ashley Jackson and his 'Yorkshire Mistress', as he calls the Yorkshire landscape, laid bare in these stunning paintings.

 

Ashley Jackson's paintings are unbelievably beautiful and, for me, provide a reminder of the landscapes that echo through some of the most iconic classic literature that is part of our heritage. The paintings are truly stunning, with a haunting beauty that captures to perfection the brilliance of the landscapes he has captured for all time. A remarkable, stunning collection.

 

Nick Holland: The Real Guy Fawkes

Published by Pen and Sword 30th October 2017

Guy Fawkes, born in York in 1570, is one of the key figures in British history, taking a central role in a plot that would have destroyed the ruling class and changed the nation forever. Today protesters wear his mask, families burn his effigy, and he is an instantly recognisable name and face. But just who was the real Guy Fawkes? In this new book, we take an exciting look at the flesh and blood person behind the myth. We find out what radicalised the man who was born a Protestant, and yet planned mass murder for the Catholic cause. The book takes a fresh look at Guy's early life in York and beyond, and examines how that led to him becoming a Catholic mercenary and a key member of the 1605 Gunpowder treason. This fresh new biography of Guy's life removes the layers of complexity that can cloud the British history of this time: an era when fearful Catholics hid in tiny priest holes, government spies were everywhere, and even your closest friends could send you to be hung, drawn and quartered. Guy and his conspirators were prepared to risk everything and endanger everyone, but were they fanatics, freedom fighters, or fools? This explosive read, accompanied with beautiful illustrations, is accessible and engaging, combining contemporary accounts with modern analysis to reveal new motivations behind Guy's actions.

 

This book could not have come at a more appropriate time, for it allows readers to find out about Fawkes without having to endure the horror and the gore the BBC thought necessary for their recent dramatisation of Fawkes's life. Many people were turned off by the graphic horror, and it is something quite different to read a perfectly researched and presented history. Full marks to Nick Holland for his timely reminder of what it would have meant to get rid of a hated government by fair means or foul. The book could be considered an inspiration for people who are sick to death of our current government, possibly the most evil in the whole of British history...

 

Martin Connolly: Hitler's Munich Man

Published by Pen and Sword 17th October 2017

Between the First and Second World Wars, there was a growth of fascism in Britain and anxiety about revolution was in the air. Concerns of a possible Fascist attempt to overthrow the established order were high, not to mention the rise of Hitler and the threat of invasion. With secret clubs and clandestine meetings now a threat, the security services decided to infiltrate their ranks. Sir Barry Domvile had served with honour during the First World War and had risen to Director of Naval Intelligence. He became involved with Oswald Mosley and other far right leaders, also visiting prominent Nazis in Germany, with whom he became enamoured and forming 'The Link', a far right, pro-German organisation. Concerns were raised and in 1940 he, along with his wife and son, were detained and imprisoned without trial under Regulation 18B of the Defence (General) Regulations 1939, under suspicion of being involved in a secret plot to bring in a Fascist Government. Hitler's Munich Man gives a detailed account of Domvile's background, detention and hearings that were held behind closed doors and reveals the extent of his Fascism, pro-German attitudes and anti-Semitism. The first book to throw a spotlight on the saga, it examines his writings, both open and issued under a pseudonym, and considers the legitimacy of his detention. With photographs from the German archives, substantial coverage using the Secret Service files, Domvile's personal diaries and other sources, the book will illuminate and inform the reader.

 

I find it hugely significant that the second half of Domvile's name is "vile" which itself is an anagram of "evil"... Martin Connolly's biopic of this truly vile man is an eyeopener, a revelation, the story of a man who sold his soul to Hitler and fascism. The similarities to what's going on in central Europe right now, with the rise once more of something I thought the world had banned forever after the end of World War 2, is frightening. Domvile's world is fascinating but disturbingly real, and brought briliantly to life by the author.

 

Ron Lock: The Anglo Zulu War - Isandlwana

Published by Pen and Sword 7th October 2017

In 1878, H.M. High Commissioner for Southern Africa and the Lieut. General Commanding H.M. Forces, clandestinely conspired to invade the Zulu Kingdom. Drastically underestimating their foe, within days of entering the Zulu Kingdom the invaders had been vanquished in one of the greatest disasters ever to befall a British army. The author not only dramatically describes the events leading up to the Battle of Isandlwana , and the battle itself but, with new evidence, disputes many aspects of the campaign long held sacrosanct.

 

 

 

The attempt to make a prequel to one of the most brilliat films ever made, Zulu, was ill-judged, badly cast and stereotyped in a way that could never be used to describe Zulu. Ron Lock's brilliant study of Isandlwana is pure history, the true story of this seminal battle, or rather massacre, of the Zulu wars, very readable, stirring, adventurous, and hugely entertaining.

 

Phil Carradice: The Cuban Missile Crisis

Published by Pen and Sword 30th October 2017

When the world held its breath It is more than 25 years since the end of the Cold War. It began over 75 years ago, in 1944 long before the last shots of the Second World War had echoed across the wastelands of Eastern Europe with the brutal Greek Civil War. The battle lines are no longer drawn, but they linger on, unwittingly or not, in conflict zones such as Syria, Somalia and Ukraine. In an era of mass-produced AK-47s and ICBMs, one such flashpoint was the Cuban Missile Crisis The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was the closest the world has yet come to nuclear war, a time when the hands of the Doomsday Clock really did inch towards the witching hour of midnight. By placing nuclear missiles on the Caribbean island of Cuba where, potentially, they were able to threaten the eastern seaboard of the USA, Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviet Union escalated the Cold War to a level that everyone feared but had never previously thought possible. In a desperate and dangerous game of brinkmanship, for thirteen nerve-wracking days Premier Khrushchev and President Kennedy held the fate of the world in their hands. Kennedy, in particular, wrestled with a range of options allow the missiles to stay, launch an air strike on the sites or invade Cuba. In the end, he did none of these but the solution to one of the deadliest dilemmas of the twentieth century proved to be a brave and dramatic moment in human history.

 

There is a brilliant film starring Kevin Costner, Thirteen Days, which for some strange reason has never been transferred to Blu-Ray and remains at a ridiculously high price when every other film from that era has reduced right down in price. This book mirrors that film, and, as usual, provides far more background information than you would ever get in a film. I don't remember being that interested in the events that might have led to a nuclear war, other than the headlines I would have read in newspapers such as the Daily Sketch and the Herald. I was a teenager, and the world just carried on around me - I don't even remember my parents being that concerned. Now, this extraordinary slice of history, this thirteen days that saw the world on the brink of annihilation, is something that fascinates me almost as much as the assassination of JFK. An amazing book!

 

Kate Bradbury: The Wildlife Gardener

Published by Pen and Sword 5th October 2017

'A joyous book' - Alan Titchmarsh.  Bright, colourful and boundlessly enthusiastic, this is also a practical guide to making your garden a refuge for wildlife to fit all plots. - Chris Packham. 'The Wildlife Gardner' is a book which helps you to create wildlife habitats in your very own garden, and is very handily split into sections on shelter, food and water. Kate gives advice on the best nectar and pollen plants to grow, dos and don'ts of bird feeding and organic methods of pest control.There are also 10 step-by-step projects that will help encourage wildlife into your garden, such as: creating a bumblebee nester, making a green roof and building a hedgehog box. With step-by-step pictures to help you follow the instructions, these homely creations are all achievable in a weekend and are suitable for even the smallest gardens. Also included is a mini field guide, which will help you to identify the birds and other creatures that you are likely to spot in your garden. Kate gives tips on particular species, explaining what to look out for and how to cater for specific birds, mammals, bees, butterflies, moths and pond life. 'The Wildlife Gardener' is a passionately written, practical book that is essential reading for those who would like to make homes for wildlife in their garden.

 

We are in the middle of an amazing awakening of interest in wildlife and television pundits are queueing up to inform, to educate and to entertain us and explain how we should all be doing more to encourage wildlife in our gardens. This brilliant book by Kate Bradbury has page after page of practical advice, peppered with stunning illustrations of what we can expect to see in our gardens if we follow the fantastic advice the experts give us. A beautiful book - Pen and Sword have done our wildlife proud with this amazing book!

 

Tim Newark: Empire of Crime

Published by Pen and Sword 28th September 2017

Sometimes the best intentions can have the worst results. In 1908, British reformers banned the export of Indian opium to China. As a result, the world price of opium soared to a new high and a century of lucrative drug smuggling began. Just as the banning of alcohol in America during Prohibition made illicit fortunes for the Mafia and other gangsters, organized criminals grew rich on the trade of illegal narcotics throughout the British Empire.

Empire of Crime introduces the reader to a whole new collection of heroes and villains, including US international drug-buster Harry J. Anslinger, Shanghai underworld master criminal Du Yue-sheng, and tough North-West Frontier police chief Lieutenant Colonel Roos-Keppel, nemesis of Afghan criminal gangs. The book shows how gangsters exploited the Empire’s global trade routes to establish criminal networks across the world. In many ways, these early drug dealers were the forerunners of today’s cartels.

Digging deep into colonial archives, author Tim Newark weaves hidden reports, secret government files, and personal letters together with first-hand accounts to tell this epic but little-known story of the battle between law enforcement and organized crime.

 

Lovers of True Crime will revel in this amazing collection of stories about master criminals and the men and women who hunted them down!

 

Chris Jagger: Escorting the Monarch

Published by Pen and Sword 30th October 2017

Escorting the Monarch is as close to an official history of the Metropolitan Police's 'Special Escort Group' (SEG) as one could hope for. You may have seen the team at work; as the combination of motorcycles and cars pass you by, they glide elegantly and seemingly effortlessly through busy traffic. Developing a dedicated and diligent team culture, they are masters of their trade. They hold a well-earned reputation for excellence amongst their peers; delivering their passengers (and cargo) on time, safely, in a great deal of style, and without fuss or mishap. Professional and precise in the execution of their operations, they are neither shaken nor stirred. Although the work of the SEG demands exquisitely high levels of presentation there is little room for gloss or glitter. The individuals and property they are charged to protect are assessed by government to need the highest possible levels of protection. From queens, kings, presidents and emperors, to priceless works of art, terrorists and high risk prisoners, the group escort them all. Written by the son of a retired SEG officer who himself served in the British Government's security and intelligence community, Escorting the Monarch is told, in part, through first hand stories and anecdotes gleaned from former officers of the group. The insights offered are unique, privileged and first of their kind. Chris Jagger unfolds a collection of fascinating and never before told stories built on high profile events, such as the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, and the visit of Nelson Mandela. Now the SEG have honed their skills for over 6 decades. Through a carefully constructed description of a changing security and political environment across the decades, and an insightful analysis of the ingenuity of those who have severed with the SEG, Escorting the Monarch explains the events that made the group who they are today.

 

Chris Jagger's amazing memoirs are timely and entertaining - sometimes it is easy to spot the Special Branch officers holding open car doors for royalty and politicians, sometimes they are more discreet. Chris's tales are very well written and presented, and give us a special insight into what happens when these VIPs are on the move. Fascinating!

 

Graham Simons: Conet! The World's First Jet Airliner

Published by Pen and Sword 30th October 2017

This new volume from the respected and well-regarded aviation historian and author Graham Simons is sure to appeal to all aviation enthusiasts, including as it does a wide array of historical sources and archival information drawn together into one consolidated volume - the closest to a definitive study of the craft than any produced before. Extensively illustrated throughout, the book features details lifted directly from enquiry and salvage reports, much of which has never been published before and offers a unique insight into the failures and tragedies that blighted the early days of development, laying down lessons that were ultimately to benefit later designs. As part of his research into the book, the author met and interviewed Harry Povey, the De Havilland Production Manager and John Cunningham, the Comet test pilot who would be the first to experience flight at the helms of the iconic craft. Both of these first hand accounts are relayed in the book, adding a deeper sense of authenticity and a more personalised account of proceedings than facts and reports alone are able to achieve. Attention is also paid to the derivative Nimrod design, and the book features an interview that the author conducted with the aircraft commander of the last ever Nimrod operational flight. Interviews of this kind are supplemented by the author's own narrative of proceedings, setting personal experience within historical context and exploring the themes and historical topics that the interviews evoke.

 

That amazing, iconic photograph that adorns the front cover of this brilliant book says it all - not just for aviation enthusiasts, this is a piece of social and transport history that will interest anyone who ever looked at those cutaway drawings in the Eagle comic, anyone who lived through the heady days when Britain was still (almost) a superpower, and anyone who travelled in that most beautiful of airliners.

 

Martin Mace: Assassinations Anthology

Published by Pen and Sword 3rd October 2017

The infamous Valkyrie assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler on 20 July 1944 failed to kill the German Führer. It did not succeed simply because von Stauffenberg's briefcase containing the explosives was moved behind one of the stout wooden legs of the conference table, resulting in the blast being deflected away from Hitler. It was a very close call, and has led to endless speculation about what might have happened if that briefcase had been placed just a few inches to one side. There had been many other attempts on Hitler's life, any one of which could have succeeded and the whole of human history might have taken a different course. If Hitler had died at any stage in the Second World War, would Germany have immediately sued for peace, or would the generals have taken over and fought a far more practical war than the obdurate Führer? Equally intriguing is the possible failed assassination attempt on General de Gaulle on British soil. Who, one wonders, was behind that scheme, and how would Anglo-French relations have developed if he had been killed? If the aircraft he was to fly on set off just a few minutes earlier would it have crashed to the ground? In Assassinations Anthology a number of well-known authors and historians have looked at past events where key individuals were involved in either attempts on their lives, or strange incidents occurred which, had they led to their deaths, might have radically affected the outcome of the war. Events surrounding Stalin and Jan Smuts are investigated, as well as the peculiar circumstances relating to the theft of a valuable Gainsborough painting. Just how great a role did the Government s Chief Whip, David Margesson, play in persuading the MPs to accept the unpopular Winston Churchill as Prime Minister, and what would have happened if Margesson had been killed when the Gainsborough disappeared? It is fascinating stuff. Grounded in actual events, the various scenarios portrayed in this collection examine the likely chain of events that would have followed if the assassination attempts had succeeded. A few inches, a few minutes that was all the difference between life and death, and between the past that we know and one that we can only imagine.

 

Although the front cover is dominated by Adolf Hitler, the actual book contains many more tales of failed assassinations and plots, ably written by specialists in this field of crime; these types of story might once have graced the pages of journals such as John Bull, Argosy or even Reader's Digest. An amazing collection of real-life assassination attempts that will keep you amused for hours!

 


 

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.