New and forthcoming
In Queer City Peter Ackroyd looks at London in a whole new way – through the history and experiences of its gay population.
In Roman Londinium the city was dotted with lupanaria (‘wolf dens’ or public pleasure houses), fornices (brothels) and thermiae (hot baths). Then came the Emperor Constantine, with his bishops, monks and missionaries. And so began an endless loop of alternating permissiveness and censure.
Ackroyd takes us right into the hidden history of the city; from the notorious Normans to the frenzy of executions for sodomy in the early nineteenth. He journeys through the coffee bars of sixties Soho to Gay Liberation, disco music and the horror of AIDS.
Today, we live in an era of openness and tolerance and Queer London has become part of the new norm. Ackroyd tells us the hidden story of how it got there, celebrating its diversity, thrills and energy on the one hand; but reminding us of its very real terrors, dangers and risks on the other.
'Peter Ackroyd is the greatest living chronicler of London' Independent
One of the founder members in 1895 of what became the Rugby League, Batley was once a thriving centre of commerce, one of the bustling mill towns in the Heavy Woollen District of West Yorkshire. More than 120 years on, times have changed, even if the town's Victorian buildings remain, but one constant is the importance of the club as the centre of the community. And in 2016, the Batley Bulldogs brought more than their fair share of pride to the town. They were Underdogs, but gave their professional Super League rivals a run for their money in a season that surpassed all expectations.
Given unprecedented access to the team - players, staff and fans - Tony Hannan charts a fascinating year in the life of a lower-league club, of labourers spilling blood and guts on to Batley's notorious sloping pitch before getting bruised bodies up for work on a Monday morning, of hand-to-mouth existence at the unglamorous and gritty end of British sport. And at their centre is the Bulldogs captain Keegan Hirst, the first rugby league player to come out as gay, and inspirational coach John Kear, just two men in the most colourful cast of characters. It was also a year when the town was plunged into tragedy by the brutal murder of local MP Jo Cox, a great supporter of the club.
Underdogs is more than just a book about Batley though. It is the story of northern working-class culture, past and present, and a report from the front-line of a society struggling to find its identity in a changing world.
Circuit de Monaco. Monte Carlo. The ultimate race in the Formula One calendar.
When you think of Formula One, you think of Monaco. Once a year, yachts jam the harbour, celebrities fill the stands and luxury sports cars litter the streets as of thousands of people gather from across the world to watch the greatest, and one of the oldest, races in motorsport.
Monaco is glamorous, prestigious and seductive. But for the drivers, it is the most demanding race of the year. The narrow streets, tight corners and sharp elevations make it the ultimate test of driving skill. It is physically draining and mentally exhausting.
Proposed today, the race would not exist but it remains the jewel in the crown for every Formula One driver. There is simply no other race like it.
Win at Monaco and your name is etched in history. You will join the likes of Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.
With exclusive interviews and insight from drivers and a wealth of F1 insiders, award-winning sportswriter Malcolm Folley goes behind the scenes to discover what it's really like to drive and live and breathe this iconic circuit. He reveals along the way a unique and definitive portrait of the circuit, and recreates in thrilling detail its most extraordinary weekend, when only three cars finished.
In the second volume of his acclaimed new history of the Second World War, James Holland examines the momentous turning points of 1941–1943: Hitler’s invasion of Russia; America’s entry into the conflict; the devastating Thousand Bomber Raids over Germany; the long struggle in the deserts of North Africa; and the defeat of the U-boats in the crucial Battle of the Atlantic.
As in his first volume, Germany Ascendant, he interweaves his account of the well-known events of the period with the personal stories of individuals caught up in them - on all sides. Through interviews, letters, diaries and reports, he allows us to see the war not just from the perspective of politicians, military commanders and strategists, but also through the eyes of civilians bombed out of their homes, resistance members stranded in the frozen Norwegian winter, sailors risking their lives in the Atlantic convoys, German aces striving for supremacy in the air, and ordinary soldiers battling for survival in the scorching sands of Libya.
He also looks behind the scenes at the all-important ‘machinery’ of war: the manufacturing, farming and vital supply lines that underpinned the entire conflict and ultimately determined its course. From the battle fronts on land, sea and air, to the streets, fields and factories of Britain, America and Germany, he paints a dramatic and compelling portrait of these pivotal years when the tide began to turn.
Combining his own research with only recently accessible archive material, Holland looks afresh at this cataclysmic conflict, reassessing long-held views and challenging conventional assumptions. The result is ground-breaking history that redefines the war in the West and makes us think again about the events that shaped our modern world.
One hundred years on...
On 18 July 1917, a heavy artillery barrage was unleashed by the Allied forces against an entrenched German army outside the town of Ypres. it was to be the opening salvo of one of the most ferociously fought and debilitating encounters of the First World War.
Few battles would encapsulate the utter futility of the war better that what became known as the Battle of Passchendaele. By the time the British and Canadian forces finally captured Passchendaele village on 6 November, the Allies had suffered over 271,000 casualties and the German army over 217,000.
Passchendaele: Requiem for Doomed Youth shows how ordinary men on both sides endured this constant state of siege, with a very real awareness that they were being gradually, deliberately felled. Here, Paul Ham tells the story of an army caught in the grip of an extraordinary power struggle – both global and national. As Prime Minister Lloyd George and Commander Haig’s relationship deteriorated beyond repair, so a terrible battle of attrition was needlessly and painfully prolonged.
Ham lays down a powerful challenge to the ways in which we have previously seen this monumental battle. Through an examination of the culpability of governments and military commanders in a catastrophe that destroyed the best part of a generation, Paul Ham argues that Passchendaele, far from being a breakthrough moment, was the battle that nearly lost the Allies the war.
‘Paul Ham brings new tools to the job, unearthing fresh evidence of a deeply disturbing sort. He has a magpie eye for the telling detail.’ Ben Macintyre, The Times
THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
'The most brilliant and fascinating book I have read in my entire life' Dan Snow
'A huge contribution... remarkable' Antony Beevor, BBC RADIO 4
'Extremely interesting ... a serious piece of scholarship, very well researched' Ian Kershaw
The Nazis presented themselves as warriors against moral degeneracy. Yet, as Norman Ohler's gripping bestseller reveals, the entire Third Reich was permeated with drugs: cocaine, heroin, morphine and, most of all, methamphetamines, or crystal meth, used by everyone from factory workers to housewives, and crucial to troops' resilience - even partly explaining German victory in 1940.
The promiscuous use of drugs at the very highest levels also impaired and confused decision-making, with Hitler and his entourage taking refuge in potentially lethal cocktails of stimulants administered by the physician Dr Morell as the war turned against Germany. While drugs cannot on their own explain the events of the Second World War or its outcome, Ohler shows, they change our understanding of it. Blitzed forms a crucial missing piece of the story.
This extraordinary re-creation of the life of a medieval Italian merchant, Francesco di Marco Datini, is one of the greatest historical portraits written in the twentieth century.
Drawing on an astonishing cache of letters unearthed centuries after Datini's death, it reveals to us a shrewd, enterprising, anxious man, as he makes deals, furnishes his sumptuous house, buys silks for his outspoken young wife and broods on his legacy. It is an unequalled source of knowledge about the texture of daily life in the small, earthy, violent, striving world of fourteenth-century Tuscany.
'Datini has now probably become most intimately accessible figure of the later Middle Ages ... brilliant and intricate' The Times
'As a picture of Tuscany before the dawn of the Renaissance it is a complement to The Decameron' Sunday Times
Matt Charman, Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Stephen Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, and Mammoth Screen, producers of Poldark and Victoria, are producing a big budget TV series based on the book.
Maxwell Knight was a paradox. A jazz obsessive and nature enthusiast (he is the author of the definitive work on how to look after a gorilla), he is seen today as one of MI5's greatest spymasters, a man who did more than any other to break up British fascism during the Second World War – in spite of having once belonged to the British Fascisti himself. He was known to his agents and colleagues simply as M, and was rumoured to be part of the inspiration for the character M in the James Bond series.
Knight became a legendary spymaster despite an almost total lack of qualifications. What set him apart from his peers was a mercurial ability to transform almost anyone into a fearless secret agent. He was the first in MI5 to grasp the potential of training female agents.
M is about more than just one man however. In its pages, Hemming reveals for the first time in print the names and stories of seven men and women recruited by Knight, on behalf of MI5, and then asked to infiltrate the most dangerous political organizations in Britain at that time. Until now, their identities have been kept secret outside MI5. Drawn from every walk of life, they led double lives—often at great personal cost—in order to protect the country they loved. With the publication of this book, it will be possible at last to celebrate the lives of these courageous, selfless individuals.
Drawing on declassified documents, private family archives and interviews with retired MI5 officers as well as the families of MI5 agents, M reveals not just the shadowy world of espionage but a brilliant, enigmatic man at its centre.
On 12th April 1981 a revolutionary new spacecraft blasted off from Florida on her maiden flight. NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia was the most advanced flying machine ever built – the high watermark of post-war aviation development. A direct descendant of the record-breaking X-planes the likes of which Chuck Yeager had tested in the skies over the Mojave Desert, Columbia was a winged rocket plane, the size of an airliner, capable of flying to space and back before being made ready to fly again. She was the world’s first real spaceship.
On board were men with the Right Stuff. The Shuttle’s Commander, moonwalker John Young, was already a veteran of five spaceflights. Alongside him, Pilot Bob Crippen was making his first, but Crip, taken in by the space agency after the cancellation of a top secret military space station programme in 1969, had worked on the Shuttle’s development for a decade. Never before had a crew been so well prepared for their mission.
Yet less than an hour after Young and Crippen’s spectacular departure from the Cape it was clear that all was not well. Tiles designed to protect Columbia from the blowtorch burn of re-entry were missing from the heatshield. If the damage to their ship was too great the astronauts would be unable to return safely to earth. But neither they nor mission control possessed any way of knowing.
Instead, NASA turned to the National Reconnaissance Office, a spy agency hidden deep inside the Pentagon whose very existence was classified. To help, the NRO would attempt something that had never been done before. Success would require skill, pinpoint timing and luck …
Drawing on brand new interviews with astronauts and engineers, archive material and newly declassified documents, Rowland White, bestselling author of Vulcan 607, has pieced together the dramatic untold story of the mission for the first time. Into the Black is a thrilling race against time; a gripping high stakes cold-war story, and a celebration of a beyond the state-of-the-art machine that, hailed as one of the seven new wonders of the world, rekindled our passion for spaceflight.
*With a foreword by Astronaut Richard Truly*
‘Beautifully researched and written, Into the Black tells the true, complete story of the Space Shuttle better than it’s ever been told before.’
Colonel Chris Hadfield, former Astronaut and Space Station Commander
‘Brilliantly revealed, Into the Black is the finely tuned true story of the first flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Rowland White has magnificently laid bare the unknown dangers and unseen hazards of that first mission … Once read, not forgotten.’
Between July and November 1917, in a small corner of Belgium, more than 500,000 men were killed or maimed, gassed or drowned - and many of the bodies were never found. The Ypres offensive represents the modern impression of the First World War: splintered trees, water-filled craters, muddy shell-holes.
The climax was one of the worst battles of both world wars: Passchendaele. The village fell eventually, only for the whole offensive to be called off. But, as Nick Lloyd shows, notably through previously unexamined German documents, it put the Allies nearer to a major turning point in the war than we have ever imagined.
Ireland in its own words: a dazzling compendium
Over the past hundred years, Ireland has undergone profound political, social and cultural changes. But one thing that has not changed is the Irish genius for observation and storytelling, invective and self-scrutiny. Ireland: The Autobiography draws upon this genius to create a portrait of a century of Irish life through the words of the people who lived it.
Broadcaster and historian John Bowman has mined archives, diaries and memoirs to create a remarkably varied and delightfully readable mosaic of voices and perspectives. Ireland: The Autobiography is a brilliantly selected, wide-ranging and engrossing take on the last century of Irish life. It gives us a portrait of Ireland unlike anything we've read before.
'Absorbing and illuminating ... John Bowman has selected a range of accounts of Irish life that do justice to what happened, what it felt like, and the personal and societal experiences alongside the "official" version.' Diarmaid Ferriter, Irish Times
'A treasure' Irish Examiner
'A whistle-stop tour of the seismic, seminal and explosive events which shaped the nation as we know it' Irish Independent
'Entertaining and informative' Sunday Business Post
'A remarkably varied and delightfully readable mosaic of voices and perspectives' Women's Way
'A thoughtful and eclectic collection' Irish Mail on Sunday
'Incarnations makes the mind fly across time, place and history. You may smile as, mentally, you walk alongside Khilnani up some flinty slope. You will keep thinking about what he said long after' Daily Telegraph
For all of India's myths, its sea of stories and moral epics, Indian history remains a curiously unpeopled place. Sunil Khilnani's Incarnations fills that space: recapturing the human dimension of how the world's largest democracy came to be. In this stunningly illustrated and deeply researched book, accompanying his major BBC Radio 4 series, Khilnani explores the lives of 50 Indians, from the spiritualist Buddha to the capitalist Dhirubhai Ambani - lives that light up India's rich, varied past and its continuous ferment of ideas. Khilnani's trenchant portraits of emperors, warriors, philosophers, poets, stars, and corporate titans - some famous, some unjustly forgotten - bring feeling, wry humour, and uncommon insight to social dilemmas that extend from ancient times to our own.
As he journeys across the country, and through its past, Khilnani uncovers more than just history. In rocket launches and ayurvedic call centres, in slum temples and Bollywood studios, in California communes and grimy ports, he examines the continued, and often surprising, relevance of the men and women who have made India - and the world - what it is. Their stories will inform, move and entertain this book's many readers.
'Consistently illuminating ... Like all the best stories, it is about the timeless tides of power and influence ... trade deals can sometimes be sexy, thrilling and epic' Sinclair McKay, Spectator
Life in Europe was fundamentally changed in the 16th century by the astonishing discoveries of the New World and of direct sea routes to Asia. To start with England was hardly involved and London remained a gloomy, introverted medieval city. But as the century progressed something extraordinary happened.
Stephen Alford's evocative, original and fascinating new book uses the same skills that made his widely praised The Watchers so successful, bringing to life the network of merchants, visionaries, crooks and sailors who changed London forever. In a sudden explosion of energy English ships were suddenly found all over the world - trading with Russia and the Levant, exploring Virginia and the Arctic, and fanning out across the Indian Ocean.
London's Triumph is above all about the people who made this possible - the families, the guild members, the money-men who were willing to risk huge sums and sometimes their own lives in pursuit of the rare, exotic and desirable. Their ambitions fuelled a new view of the world - initiating a long era of trade and empire, the consequences of which we still live with today.
'Masterfully opens up a little explored realm: how the quest for religion and spirituality drives hundreds of millions of Chinese' Pankaj Mishra
'A fascinating odyssey ... a nuanced group portrait of Chinese citizens striving for non-material answers in an era of frenetic materialism' Julia Lovell, Guardian
'The reappearance and flourishing of religion is perhaps the most surprising aspect of the dramatic changes in China in recent decades...this is a beautiful, moving and insightful book' Michael Szonyi
In no society on Earth was there such a ferocious attempt to eradicate all trace of religion as in modern China. But now, following a century of violent antireligious campaigns, China is awash with new temples, churches, and mosques - as well as cults, sects, and politicians trying to harness religion for their own ends. Driving this explosion of faith is uncertainty - over what it means to be Chinese, and how to live an ethical life in a country that discarded traditional morality and is still searching for new guideposts.
The Souls of China is the result of some fifteen years of studying and travelling around China. The message of Ian Johnson's extraordinary book is that China is now experiencing a 'Great Awakening' on a vast scale. Everywhere long-suppressed religions are rebuilding, often in new forms, and reshaping the values and behaviours of entire communities.
Ian Johnson is as happy explaining the wonders of the lunar calendar as talking to the yinyang man who ensures proper burials. He visits meditation masters and the charismatic head of a Chengdu church. The result is a rich and funny work that challenges conventional wisdom about China. Xi Jinping, China's current leader, has put a return to morality and Chinese tradition at the heart of his ideas for his country - but, Johnson asks, at what point will the rapid spread of belief form an unmanageable challenge to the Party's monopoly on power?
The first day of the Somme has had more of a widespread emotional impact on the psyche of the British public than any other battle in history. Now, 100 years later, Robert Kershaw attempts to understand the carnage, using the voices of the British and German soldiers who lived through that awful day.
In the early hours of 1 July 1916, the British General staff placed its faith in patriotism and guts, believing that one ‘Big Push’ would bring on the end of the Great War. By sunset, there were 57,470 men – more than half the size of the present-day British Army – who lay dead, missing or wounded. On that day hope died.
Juxtaposing the British trench view against that from the German parapet, Kershaw draws on eyewitness accounts, memories and letters to expose the true horror of that day. Amongst the mud, gore and stench of death, there are also stories of humanity and resilience, of all-embracing comradeship and gritty patriotic British spirit. However it was this very emotion which ultimately caused thousands of young men to sacrifice themselves on the Somme.
In 1984 the pulsing electronics and soft vocals of Smalltown Boy would become an anthem uniting gay men. A month later, an aggressive virus, HIV, would be identified and a climate of panic and fear would spread across the nation, marginalising an already ostracised community. Yet, out of this terror would come tenderness and 30 years later, the long road to gay equality would climax with the passing of same sex marriage.
Paul Flynn charts this astonishing pop cultural and societal U-turn via the cultural milestones that effected change—from Manchester’s self-selection as Britain’s gay capital to the real-time romance of Elton John and David Furnish’s eventual marriage. Including candid interviews from major protagonists, such as Kylie, Russell T Davies, Will Young, Holly Johnson and Lord Chris Smith, as well as the relative unknowns crucial to the gay community, we see how an unlikely group of bedfellows fought for equality both front of stage and in the wings.
This is the story of Britain’s brothers, cousins and sons. Sometimes it is the story of their fathers and husbands. It is one of public outrage and personal loss, the (not always legal) highs and the desperate lows, and the final collective victory as gay men were final recognised, as Good As You.