By Robert Twigger
Best-selling author of Angry White Pyjamas travels across the Rocky Mountains by canoeFifteen years before Lewis and Clark, Scotsman Alexander Mackenzie, looking to open up a trade route, set out from Lake Athabasca in central Northern Canada in search of the Pacific Ocean. Mackenzie travelled by bark canoe and had a cache of rum and a crew of Canadian voyageurs, hard-living backwoodsmen, for company. Two centuries later, Robert Twigger decides to follow in Mackenzie's wake. He too travels the traditional way, having painstakingly built a canoe from birchbark sewn together with pine roots, and assembled a crew made up of fellow travelers, ex-tree-planters and a former sailor from the US Navy. Several had tried before them but they were the first people to successfully complete Mackenzie's diabolical route over the Rockies in a birchbark canoe since 1793. Their journey takes them to the remotest parts of the wilderness, through Native American reservations, over mountains, through rapids and across lakes, meeting descendants of Mackenzie and unhinged Canadian trappers, running out of food, getting lost and miraculously found again, disfigured for life (the ex-sailor loses his thumb), bears brown and black, docile and grizzly.
By Hugh Bicheno
The lives and loves of the great condottieriFederigo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, was the archetypal 'Renaissance man': a brilliant soldier, scholar and ally of the pope, he spent much of the vast wealth on commissioning artists to decorate the city.Sigismondo Malatesta, lord of the neighbouring city of Rimini, was also a brilliant soldier and generous patron of the arts. He and Federigo were locked in an epic feud which saw them fight as mercenaries for and against just about every Italian ruler of note, so long as the other was on the opposite side.Together they epitomised the spirit of the condottieri - the contract army leaders who drove the explosion of new political, commercial and artistic ideas that has since become known as the Renaissance.