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.
By Russell Miller
Hugh 'Boom' Trenchard was embarrassed by being described as 'The Father of the Royal Air Force' - he thought others were more deserving. But the reality was that no man did more to establish the world's first independent air force and ensure its survival in the teeth of fierce opposition from both the Admiralty and the War Office. Born in Taunton in 1873, Trenchard struggled at school, not helped by the shame of his solicitor father's bankruptcy when he was sixteen. He failed entrance examinations to both the Royal Navy and the Army several times, eventually obtaining a commission through the 'back door' of the militia. After service in India, South Africa - where he was seriously wounded - and Nigeria, he found his destiny when he joined the fledgling Royal Flying Corps in 1912, where he was soon known as 'Boom' thanks to his stentorian voice. Quick to recognise the huge potential aircraft offered in future conflicts, he rose rapidly to command the RFC in France during the First World War despite handicaps that would have blighted conventional military careers: he was obstinate, tactless, inarticulate and chronically unable to remember names - yet he was able to inspire unflagging loyalty among all ranks. Despite his conspicuous distrust of politicians, he served as a successful Chief of the Air Staff for a decade after the war and then, at the personal request of the King, took over as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, which he reorganised and reformed. He never wavered in his belief that mastery of the air could only be achieved by relentless offensive action, or in his determined advocacy of strategic bombing. His most enduring legacy was the creation of the finest air force in the world, engendered with the spirit that won the Battle of Britain.
By Marie Arana
The dramatic life of the revolutionary hero Bolivar, who liberated South America - a sweeping narrative worthy of a Hollywood epic.Simón Bolivar's life makes for one of history's most dramatic canvases, a colossal narrative filled with adventure and disaster, victory and defeat. This is the story not just of an extraordinary man but of the liberation of a continent.A larger-than-life figure from a tumultuous age, Bolívar ignited a revolution, liberated six countries from Spanish rule and is revered as the great hero of South American history. In a sweeping narrative worthy of a Hollywood epic, BOLIVAR colourfully portrays this extraordinarily dramatic life. From his glorious battlefield victories to his legendary love affairs, Bolívar emerges as a man of many facets: fearless and inspiring general, consummate diplomat, passionate abolitionist and gifted writer.
By Mick Flynn
A raw, honest and evocative account of life as the most highly decorated serving soldier in the British Army.From the breakneck pace of an opening where he is in action in Helmand province, under fire from the Taliban, Mick Flynn pulls no punches. It's obvious that he is a trained killer. But how did it reach this point? The journey starts with his childhood, a working class lad, learning to fight and finding himself repeatedly on the wrong side of the law. Even after joining the Army he is found at fault and jailed, an experience that finally shocks him into behaving himself. From there, it is off to Northern Ireland and straight into hotspots where Mick's courage and determination are all that keep him alive. There's love too: his estranged wife, Denise, is being brought back into the picture, just as Mick tries to start a new life with his girlfriend Rachel. Can he manage to separate his ferocious soldiering persona from the real Mick? As things remain complicated, Mike flings himself into further tours of duty, in Bosnia, Iraq, the Falklands. Action-packed, shoots-from-the-hip narration from an engaging hero, this is gritty realism at its most shocking.
Billy Brown, I'll Tell Your Mother
By Bill Brown
A riveting and hugely entertaining memoir of post-war London told through the eyes of a hilariously opportunistic little boy.By the time he was ten years old, Billy Brown was running a successful little business on the black market: whatever you needed, from bricks and firewood to dress material or machetes, Billy Brown could get it - or knew a man who could. And, for the right price, he would deliver it direct to your door in an old carriage pram.With energy and insight, Billy Brown paints a vivid and lively picture of Britain emerging from the ruins of the war, the hunger for opportunity, the growing pace of modernisation and the pride and optimism that held communities together. Londoners were intent on getting themselves back on their feet, and it provided the perfect opportunity for a boy with ambition and a lively imagination.Born in Brixton, south London, in 1942, Billy Brown was a lovable scamp with a nose for mischief. Left to his own devices while both his parents went out to work, if there was trouble to be had Billy would be in the thick of it. Ignoring the shaking of fists from his neighbours, his mother's scoldings and the regular thwack of the cane on his bottom at school, Billy wheeled and dealed, charmed Woolies' Girls, planned coronation celebrations, ran circles around circus performers and persuaded villains to work on his terms.
Belle's Best Bits
By Belle de Jour
From the summer of 2003 Belle charted her day-to-day adventures on and off the field in a frank, funny and award-winning diaries. She was the first to reveal (among other things) how she became a working girl, what it feels like to do it for money, and where to buy the best knickers for the job. She also discusses her efforts to change from 'working girl' to working girl, whilst sneaking off to visit clients in her lunch hour. From debating the literary merits of Martin Amis with naked clients to smuggling whips into luxury hotels, this is a no-holds barred account of the high-class sex-trade, and an insight into the secret life of an extraordinary woman.
Bringing Nothing to the Party
By Paul Carr
A fascinating and hilarious expose of how a group of young opportunists, chancers and geniuses found instant fame and fortune by messing about on the web. And one man's attempt to follow in their footsteps.Having covered the first dot com boom, and founded a web-to-print publishing business during the second one, Paul counts many of the leading Internet entrepreneurs amongst his closest friends. These friendships mean he doesn't just attend their product launches and press conferences and speak at their events, but also gets invited to their ultra-exclusive networking events, and gets drunk at their parties.Paul has enjoyed this bizarre world of excess without having to live in it. To help the moguls celebrate raising millions of pounds of funding without having to face the wrath of the venture capitalists himself. But in 2006, Paul decided he didn't want to be a spectator any more. He had been harbouring a great dot com project of his own and decided it was time to do something about it.
By Judith Mackrell
The story of the splendidly unpredictable Russian dancer who ruffled the feathers of the Bloomsbury set and became the wife of John Maynard KeynesBorn in 1891 in St Petersburg, Lydia Lopokova lived a long and remarkable life. Her vivacious personality and the sheer force of her charm propelled her to the top of Diaghilev's Ballet Russes. Through a combination of luck, determination and talent, Lydia became a star in Paris, a vaudeville favourite in America, the toast of Britain and then married the world-renowned economist, and formerly homosexual, John Maynard Keynes.Lydia's story links ballet and the Bloomsbury group, war, revolution and the economic policies of the super-powers. She was an immensely captivating, eccentric and irreverent personality: a bolter, a true bohemian and, eventually, an utterly devoted wife.
By Graeme McLagan
The inside story of a secret unit that has worked under cover to expose corruption in the Metropolitan Police since the early 1990s.Shocked by the extent of corruption within its ranks, Scotland Yard set up a new anti-corruption unit in the early 1990s. Its members had to operate in conditions of unprecedented secrecy and they became known as the 'Ghost Squad'.Bent Coppers really did believe they were untouchable: they stole cash and property, fitted-up innocent people and sold secret information to cripple court cases. Many of the bent coppers are now in jail or awaiting trial but the battle against corruption is not over.Only now can the story of the 'Ghost Squad' be revealed. Award-winning BBC home affairs correspondent Graeme McLagan had followed the investigation since the beginning. He has interviewed undercover officers and many of the bent coppers they have exposed. this is the inside story of the 'Ghost Squad' and how it broke into the secret world of police corruption.
Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs
By Jeremy Mercer
Enchanting memoir of a struggling writer living and working in the eccentric Parisian bookshop, 'Shakespeare and Company''Shakespeare and Company' in Paris is one of the world's most famous bookshops. The original store opened in 1921 and became known as the haunt of literary greats, such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Bernard Shaw, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and James Joyce.Sadly the shop was forced to close in 1941, but that was not the end of 'Shakespeare and Company'... In 1951 another bookshop, with a similar free-thinking ethos, opened on the Left Bank. Called 'Le Mistral', it had beds for those of a literary mindset who found themselves down on their luck and, in 1964, it resurrected the name 'Shakespeare and Company' and became the principal meeting place for Beatnik poets, such as Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, through to Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell.Today the tradition continues and writers still find their way to this bizarre establishment, one of them being Jeremy Mercer. With no friends, no job, no money and no prospects, the thrill of escape from his life in Canada soon palls but, by chance, he happens upon the fairytale world of 'Shakespeare and Co' and is taken in.What follows is his tale of his time there, the curious people who came and went, the realities of being down and out in the 'city of light' and, in particular, his relationship with the beguiling octogenarian owner, George.