Margot at War
By Anne de Courcy
An unconventional view of the First World War from inside the glittering social salon of Downing Street: a story of unrequited love, loss, sacrifice, scandal and the Prime Minister's wife, Margot Asquith.Margot Asquith was perhaps the most daring and unconventional Prime Minister's wife in British history. Known for her wit, style and habit of speaking her mind, she transformed 10 Downing Street into a glittering social and intellectual salon. Yet her last five years at Number 10 were a period of intense emotional and political turmoil in her private and public life. In 1912, when Anne de Courcy's book opens, rumblings of discontent and cries for social reform were encroaching on all sides - from suffragettes, striking workers and Irish nationalists. Against this background of a government beset with troubles, the Prime Minister fell desperately in love with his daughter's best friend, Venetia Stanley; to complicate matters, so did his Private Secretary. Margot's relationship with her husband was already bedevilled by her stepdaughter's jealous, almost incestuous adoration of her father. The outbreak of the First World War only heightened these swirling tensions within Downing Street. Drawing on unpublished material from personal papers and diaries, Anne de Courcy vividly recreates this extraordinary time when the Prime Minister's residence was run like an English country house, with socialising taking precedence over politics, love letters written in the cabinet room and gossip and state secrets exchanged over the bridge table. By 1916, when Asquith was forced out of office, everything had changed. For the country as a whole, for those in power, for a whole stratum of society, but especially for the Asquiths and their circle, it was the end of an era. Life inside Downing Street would never be the same again.
By Steve Heaney, MC, Damien Lewis
No back up. No air-support. No rescue. No chance.OPERATION MAYHEM is the first ever account of a truly epic elite forces mission: one of the most highly decorated in modern military history.Airlifted deep into the heart of the African jungle in the midst of a bloody civil war, twenty-six operators from the secret British unit X Platoon were sent into combat against two thousand rebels - being used as bait to lure the enemy into a decisive, do-or-die battle. High on blood-lust, voodoo and drugs, the rebels were notorious for their brutal savagery. Equipped with captured armour, heavy machine-guns and grenade-launchers, they vastly outgunned the men of X Platoon - who were kitted out with pitiful supplies of ammunition and malfunctioning rifles, plus no body armour, grenades or heavy weaponry.Intended to last just days, the mission mutated into a desperate siege, as the men of X Platoon - more formally known as the Pathfinders - faced what the rebels dubbed 'Operation Kill British'. Half-starved, surviving on giant African snails, fungi and other bush tucker, this handful of elite warriors were forced to make their stand unaided and alone. They fought using grenades made from old food-tins and 'punji fields' - rows of vicious sharpened bamboo-stakes - as the locals joined forces with them to defend against the onslaught. Sergeant Steve Heaney was awarded the Military Cross for taking control of the battle after X Platoon lost their commanding officer. His story is full of the rough-and-ready humour and steely heroics with which these elite soldiers carried out operations far into hostile terrain.The ferocious close quarter combat at the village of Lungi Lol brought to an end the horrific, decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone. OPERATION MAYHEM is the first ever account of this untold true story - one fought and won deep behind enemy lines.
City of Lies
By Ramita Navai
This is real Tehran: a city that is hidden from view and rarely written about, where survival depends on an intricate network of lies and subterfuge.It is a place where mullahs visit prostitutes, drug kingpins run crystal meth kitchens, surgeons restore girls' virginity and homemade porn is uploaded onto the Internet and sold in the bazaars. Plotted around the city's great central thoroughfare, Vali Asr Street, CITY OF LIES chronicles the lives of eight protagonists drawn from across the spectrum of Iranian society. This is a world of gangsters, socialites, dutiful housewives and volunteer militiamen - ordinary people forced to lead extraordinary lives. Based on extensive interviews and research, CITY OF LIES is an intimate and unforgettable portrait of modern Tehran, and of what it is to live, love and survive under one of the world's most repressive regimes.
Until the Final Hour
By Traudl Junge
'To have such an uncomplicated, unaffected witness present at some of the key defining moments of the 20th century was fortunate for historians...her testimony rings absolutely true, when other politically motivated accounts of the last days of Hitler do not' Andrew RobertsTraudl Junge was 22 years old and dreamt of a career as a ballerina, until the 'opportunity of her life' beckoned and she was appointed as Adolf Hitler's secretary. From 1942 until his death she was at his side in the bunker, typing his correspondence, his speeches and even his last private and political will and testament. It was only after the war that the horrible reality of Hitler's regime began to dawn on her, and she became racked with guilt for 'liking the greatest criminal ever to have lived.' Her journal, written in 1947, is a startling eyewitness account of Hitler's court during its final years, and of the building sense of doom as the war progressed.
By David Blakeley
Nine men. 2,000 enemies. No back-up. No air support. No rescue. No chance...First in - the official motto of one of the British Army's smallest and most secretive units, 16 Air Assault Brigade's Pathfinder Platoon. Unofficially, they are the bastard son of the SAS. And like their counterparts in Hereford, the job of the Pathfinders is to operate unseen and undetected deep behind enemy lines. When British forces deployed to Iraq in 2003, Captain David Blakeley was given command of a reconnaissance mission of such critical importance that it could change the course of the war. It's the story of nine men, operating alone and unsupported, fifty miles ahead of a US Recon Marine advance and head straight into a hornets nest, teeming with thousands of heavily-armed enemy forces. This is the first account of that extraordinary mission - abandoned by coalition command, left with no option but to fight their way out of the enemy's backyard. And it provides a gripping insight into the Pathfinders themselves, a shadowy unit, just forty-five men strong, that plies its trade from the skies. Trained to parachute in to enemy territory far beyond the forward edge of battle - freefalling from high altitude breathing bottled oxygen and employing the latest skydiving technology - the PF are unique.Because of new rules introduced since the publication of Bravo Two Zero, there have been no first-hand accounts of British Special Forces waging modern-day warfare for nearly a decade. And no member of the Pathfinders has ever told their story before. Until now. Pathfinder is the only first-hand account of a UKSF mission to emerge for nearly a generation. And it could be the last.
The Last Empress
By Hannah Pakula
Entertaining and masterly biography of Madame Chiang Kai-shek - the woman who built modern China.THE LAST EMPRESS revolves around a fascinating, manipulative woman and her family who were largely responsible for dragging China into the modern world. Soong May-ling, or Madame Chiang as she was known, is uniquely positioned at the heart of this story. As her husband came to represent the hopes of the West in the East, she acted as his adviser, English translator, secretary, and most loyal champion, finding herself on the world stage with Franklin D Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. A savvy politician, she remained a popular if controversial figure both at home and abroad.Hannah Pakula brilliantly narrates the life of this extraordinary woman - how she charmed the United States out of billions of dollars while remaining dedicated to her China, and how she managed to influence if not change the history of the twentieth century.
By Richard Davenport-Hines
The life of Lady Desborough - beautiful heiress, aristocratic hostess, unfaithful wife, tragic mother, Edwardian icon.Born in 1867 and orphaned at three, Ettie Fane was brought up by a beloved grandmother and then two adoring, almost incestuous, bachelor uncles. At twenty she married Willy Grenfell, later Lord Desborough. Beautiful, rich, charming and clever, Ettie soon became a leading hostess at the two magnificent country houses she had inherited. Leading politicians, writers and artists were very much part of her circle.But there was a dark side too, as this book will reveal. Ettie could be manipulative and cruel. Her eldest son Julian, after a nervous breakdown at Oxford, rejected her world and values. Nemesis and tragedy were not far away. In 1915 Julian died of war wounds. Six weeks later her second son Billy was killed in action. Her youngest son Ivo would be killed shortly after the war. But despite intense private misery, she reacted with outward courage and self-mastery. Grief revealed the greatness of her spirit. In the 1920s and 1930s she continued to collect new types, especially gifted young men, relishing people of all ages up to her death in 1952, a redoutable survivor from a vanished age.
The Devil And Maria D'avalos
By Victoria Hammond
Steeped in the overripe beauty, violence and exoticism of sixteenth century Naples, this is the riveting story behind one of the most famous and terrible murders in the history of the Renaissance. In 1590, the great and tormented composer Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, murdered his beautiful wife Maria d'Avalos and her aristocratic lover. Gesualdo was a character of Shakespearian proportions: nobleman, musical genius and, for the last sixteen years of his life, madman-or so it is alleged. With the chilling calculation of a hunter, he staged the violent and bloody murder of the lovers like an opera. Yet far from ending his torment, in the years that followed Gesualdo became increasingly persecuted by his furies and demons. Inspired by this story that has haunted generations of Neapolitans and ignited the imaginations of artists the world over, Victoria Hammond has written a lush and sensual evocation of love, desire and madness, vividly imagining the life of the mysterious and seductive Maria, her tormented marriage to Carlo, and her affair with Fabrizio Carafa, the handsomest and accomplished nobleman in Naples.
By Peter Brune
Ralph Honner: Kokoda Hero is the story of one of Australia's great World War II battalion commanders.Honner fought as a junior officer in the first and triumphant North African battles of Bardia, Tobruk and Derna. He then took part in the heartbreaking and disastrous campaigns in Greece and Crete where he was one of the last Australians to be evacuated by submarine-three months after Crete's fall.But it was during 1942, at Isurava on the Kokoda Trail and at the Japanese beachhead of Gona in Papua New Guinea, that Ralph Honner played a decisive role in the making of an Australian legend. Worshipped by his men, he was severely wounded in 1943 and, after a long convalescence, served Australia with distinction as a public servant, political figure and diplomat.
Child of the Revolution
By Luis Garcia
Cuba, a land of cigars, hot nights, sultry music and romantic revolutionary heroes. But what was it really like to live in Fidel Castro's tropical paradise? With an evocative wide-eyed innocence, Luis M. Garcia takes us back to his Cuban childhood and his parents' dreams of escape.Child of the Revolution is a story about growing up in an extraordinary place at an extraordinary time, as the superpowers prepared to go to war over nuclear missiles installed on the tiny Caribbean island. It's a story set in a world of uncertainty and revolutionary upheaval, where a 10-year-old swears allegiance to Lenin, Marx and the mythical Che Guevara under swaying palm trees, with no idea of what it all means, except this is the only way to become a 'better revolutionary' - and get out of school early. It is also the story of brothers and sisters torn apart by politics and how a Cuban teenager and his family end up - by sheer accident ? - on the other side of the world.Warm, generous and gently amusing, Child of the Revolution stirs the heart and brings music to the soul.
By Jonathan Spence
A biography that penetrates Mao's rhetoric and infamous self-will to distil an intimate portrait of a man as withdrawn and mysterious as the emperors he disdained.From humble origins in the provinces, Mao Zedong rose to absolute power, unifying with an iron fist a vast country torn apart by years of weak leadership, foreign imperialism and war. In this sharply drawn account Jonathan Spence, award-winning historian and author of acclaimed books about the old and the new China, brings to life this modern day emperor and the tumultuous era that he did so much to shape. He presents Mao as a 'Lord of Misrule', who deliberately turned upside-down the traditional hierarchies of Chinese society. Spence captures Mao in all his paradoxical grandeur and sheds light on the radical transformation he unleashed that still reverberates in China today.