By Ray Connolly
What was it like to be Elvis Presley? What did it feel like when impossible fame made him its prisoner? As the world's first rock star there was no one to tell him what to expect, no one with whom he could share the burden of being himself - of being Elvis.On the outside he was all charm, sex appeal, outrageously confident on stage and stunningly gifted in the recording studio. To his fans he seemed to have it all. He was Elvis. With his voice and style influencing succeeding generations of musicians, he should have been free to sing any song he liked, to star in any film he was offered, and to tour in any country he chose. But he wasn't free. The circumstances of his poor beginnings in the American South, which, as he blended gospel music with black rhythm and blues and white country songs, helped him create rock and roll, had left him with a lifelong vulnerability. Made rich and famous beyond his wildest imaginings when he mortgaged his talent to the machinations of his manager, 'Colonel' Tom Parker, there would be an inevitable price to pay. Though he daydreamed of becoming a serious film actor, instead he grew to despise his own movies and many of the songs he had to sing in them. He could have rebelled. But he didn't. Why? In the Seventies, as the hits rolled in again, and millions of fans saw him in a second career as he sang his way across America, he talked of wanting to tour the world. But he never did. What was stopping him?BEING ELVIS takes a clear-eyed look at the most-loved entertainer ever, and finds an unusual boy with a dazzling talent who grew up to change popular culture; a man who sold a billion records and had more hits than any other singer, but who became trapped by his own frailties in the loneliness of fame.
Great British Journeys
By Nicholas Crane
Intrepid presenter Nicholas Crane investigates eight epic journeys, following in the footsteps of our greatest indigenous explorers.Nick presents eight of the most interesting traveller-chroniclers to have explored and reported on the state of the nation. From Gerald of Wales who embarked on a seven week journey around the wild perimeter of Wales in March 1188, to HV Morton, the journalist and travel writer who crossed the length and breadth of England by car in the 1920s. Others include Celia Fiennes who started her many journeys around Britain on horseback in the late 1600s at the age of 20, Tudor antiquarian John Leland, Daniel Defoe, William Cobbett, Thomas Pennant, and William Gilpin, who travelled through the north of England by boat in 1770.
Go! Go! Go!
By Will Pearson, Rusty Firmin
Inspiration for the major motion picture 6 Days, starring Jamie Bell as Rusty FirminGo! Go! Go! tells the action-packed story of the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege. It is a comprehensive and gripping account of an unforgettable six-day drama that shook Britain - and the wider world - to the core. Drawing on original and unseen source material from ex-SAS soldier Rusty Firmin, the police and the British Government, Go! Go! Go! takes us to the heart of the whole operation.The assault planning and training, strategy and tactics are described in detail, and the personal stories of the gunmen revealed - who they were, where they came from, why they did it and Saddam Hussein's direct involvement. Compelling accounts of each day of the siege from the hostages' points of view show how they dealt with captivity individually and collectively. And new material explains the negotiators' tactics and their cool exterior versus their internal turmoil as negotiations reached crisis point.
The Lightkeeper's Daughters
By Jean E. Pendziwol
The perfect holiday read; 'A beautiful novel...full of unexpected twists' DAILY MAILElizabeth's eyes have failed. She can no longer read the books she loves or see the paintings that move her, but her mind remains sharp and music fills the vacancy left by her blindness.When her father's journals are discovered on a shipwrecked boat, she enlists the help of a delinquent teen, Morgan, to read to her. As an unlikely friendship grows between them, Elizabeth is carried back to her childhood home - the isolated lighthouse on Porphyry Island, Lake Superior - and to the memory of her enigmatic twin sister Emily. But for Elizabeth, the faded pages of her father's journals reveal more secrets than she anticipates and provide the key to a moment she has never understood. The day when she found a grave, marked with her own name...
By John Higgs
A journey along one of Britain's oldest roads, from Dover to Anglesey, in search of the hidden history that makes us who we are today.Long ago a path was created by the passage of feet tramping through endless forests. Gradually that path became a track, and the track became a road. It connected the White Cliffs of Dover to the Druid groves of the Welsh island of Anglesey, across a land that was first called Albion then Britain, Mercia and eventually England and Wales. Armies from Rome arrived and straightened this 444 kilometres of meandering track, which in the Dark Ages gained the name Watling Street. Today, this ancient road goes by many different names: the A2, the A5 and the M6 Toll. It is a palimpsest that is always being rewritten.Watling Street is a road of witches and ghosts, of queens and highwaymen, of history and myth, of Chaucer, Dickens and James Bond. Along this route Boudicca met her end, the Battle of Bosworth changed royal history, Bletchley Park code breakers cracked Nazi transmissions and Capability Brown remodelled the English landscape. The myriad people who use this road every day might think it unremarkable, but, as John Higgs shows, it hides its secrets in plain sight. Watling Street is not just the story of a route across our island, but an acutely observed, unexpected exploration of Britain and who we are today, told with wit and flair, and an unerring eye for the curious and surprising.
By Alex Perry
Taking the Great Rift Valley - the geological fault that will eventually tear Africa in two - as his central metaphor, Alex Perry explores the split between a resurgent Africa and a world at odds with its rise. Africa has long been misunderstood - and abused - by outsiders. Perry travelled the continent for most of a decade, meeting with entrepreneurs and warlords, professors and cocaine smugglers, presidents and jihadis, among many others.Opening with a devastating investigation into a largely unreported war crime in Somalia in 2011, he finds Africa at a moment of furious self-assertion. This is a remade continent, defiantly rising from centuries of oppression to become an economic and political titan: where cash is becoming a thing of the past, where astronomers are unlocking the origin of life and where, twenty-five years after Live Aid, Ethiopia's first yuppies are traders on an electronic food exchange. Yet, as Africa finally wins the substance of its freedom, it must confront the three last false prophets of Islamists, dictators and aid workers, who would keep it in its bonds.
Flowers For Algernon
By Daniel Keyes
'A masterpiece of poignant brilliance . . . heartbreaking' GuardianCharlie Gordon, a floor sweeper born with an unusually low IQ, has been chosen as the perfect subject for an experimental surgery that doctors hope will increase his intelligence - a procedure that has been highly successful when tested on a lab mouse named Algernon. All Charlie wants is to be smart and have friends, but the treatement turns him into a genius.Then Algernon begins to fade. What will become of Charlie?
Good Morning, Midnight
By Lily Brooks-Dalton
'Fans of Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven and Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora will appreciate the Brooks-Dalton's exquisite exploration of relationships.' Washington PostAugustine, a brilliant, ageing scientist, is consumed by the stars. He has spent his entire life searching for the origins of time itself. He has now been left alone on a remote research base in the Arctic circle, all communication with the outside world broken down. But then he discovers a mysterious child, Iris, who must have hidden herself away when the last of his colleagues departed. Sully is a divorced mother. She is also an astronaut, currently aboard The Aether on a return flight from Jupiter. This is the culmination of her career, the very reason for all the sacrifices she has made - the daughter she left behind, the marriage she couldn't save. But then something goes wrong with the ship's communication system.Marooned in the vast silence of space and the achingly beautiful sweep of the Arctic, both Augustine and Sully must find a way to make peace with the choices they have made and find a path to redemption.
The Boys: Triumph Over Adversity
By Martin Gilbert
In August 1945, the first of 732 child survivors of the Holocaust reached Britain. First settled in the Lake District, they formed a tightly knit group of friends whose terrible shared experience is almost beyond imagining. This is their story, which begins in the lost communities of pre-World War II central Europe, moves through ghetto, concentration camp and death march, to liberation, survival, and finally, fifty years later, a deeply moving reunion. Martin Gilbert has brought together the recollections of this remarkable group of survivors. With magisterial narration, he tells their astonishing stories. The Boys bears witness to the human spirit, enduring the depths, and bearing hopefully the burden and challenge of survival.'Martin Gilbert is to be congratulated on producing a masterly and deeply moving tribute to those who had the courage and luck to survive' Literary Review
Who Killed Piet Barol?
By Richard Mason
A Book of the Year - The TimesA Book of the Year - Observer A Book of the Year - Mail on SundayAvoiding the chaos of the First World War, Piet Barol leaves the bustle of civilization and heads into Africa's greatest forest. With a business to build and secrets to escape, his only weapons are courage and intuition. His African guides have their own reasons for taking him to their ancestral lands. What he finds there changes him forever, and unleashes a chain of events he can neither predict nor control... This "gorgeous treat of a novel" (The Times, Book of the Month) is a funny, sexy, irreverent, and intensely moving portrait of what unites human beings when their sacred mysteries are blown apart.
Get Me the Urgent Biscuits
By Sweetpea Slight
'A sparkling memoir full of charm and wit' NINA STIBBE'Anyone who loves the theatre will love this book' ZOË WANAMAKERAt eighteen, after moving to London with dreams of becoming an actress, an impressionable girl who paints freckles on her face begins work experience in a West End theatre company. In between mail-outs and making cups of coffee she meets the formidable producer Thelma Holt. Within a fortnight Thelma has stolen her, cancelled her audition for RADA, sent her to evening classes to learn to type, organised a minuscule salary and renamed her. From that moment she becomes Sweetpea. Her days are spent in an eccentric office where Alan Rickman or Vanessa Redgrave might pop in at any moment. Evenings are filled with the adrenaline of an opening-night performance or the chatter of a smart restaurant where casting for the next production is discussed. Existing somewhere between glamour and penury, Sweetpea finds herself surrounded by dynamic personalities and struggling to trust her own creative instincts. Over the years her apprenticeship takes in unusual demands, misbehaving actors, divinely inspired directors and a hot-air balloon ride with British theatre's finest. GET ME THE URGENT BISCUITS is a keenly observed memoir about the vanishing world of London's West End in the 1980s and 1990s, in which a young woman is swept into the orbit of a theatrical impresario. Shrewd, poignant and irresistibly funny, above all it is a coming-of-age story about the search for independence and an ode to the beguiling nature of theatre.
By James Evans
AN EVENING STANDARD NO. 1 BESTSELLERDuring the course of the seventeenth century nearly 400,000 people left Britain for the Americas, most of them from England. Crossing the Atlantic was a major undertaking, the voyage long and treacherous. There was little hope of returning to see the friends and family who stayed behind. Why did so many go? A significant number went for religious reasons, either on the MAYFLOWER or as part of the mass migration to New England; some sought their fortunes in gold, fish or fur; some went to farm tobacco in Virginia, a booming trade which would enmesh Europe in a new addiction. Some went because they were loyal to the deposed Stuart king, while others yearned for an entirely new ambition - the freedom to think as they chose. Then there were the desperate: starving and impoverished people who went because things had not worked out in the Old World and there was little to lose from trying again in the New. EMIGRANTS casts light on this unprecedented population shift - a phenomenon that underpins the rise of modern America. Using contemporary sources including diaries, court hearings and letters, James Evans brings to light the extraordinary personal stories of the men and women who made the journey of a lifetime.
By Laura Dawes
At the beginning of the Second World War, medical experts predicted epidemics of physical and mental illness on the home front. Rationing would decimate the nation's health, they warned; drugs, blood and medical resources would be in short supply; air raid shelters and evacuation would spread diseases; and the psychological effects of bombing raids would leave mental hospitals overflowing. Yet, astonishingly, Britain ended the war in better health than ever before. Based on original archival research and written with wit and verve, FIGHTING FIT reveals an extraordinary, forgotten story of medical triumph against the odds. Through a combination of meticulous planning and last-minute scrambling, Britain succeeded in averting, in Churchill's phrase, the 'dark curse' on the nation's health. It was thanks to the pioneering efforts of countless individuals - doctors, nurses, social workers, boy scouts, tea ladies, Nobel Prize winners, air raid wardens, housewives, nutritionists and psychologists - who battled to keep the nation fit and well in wartime. As Laura Dawes shows, these men and women not only helped to win the war, they paved the way for the birth of the NHS and the development of the welfare state.