Tuesday, 27 December 2011
Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2012
2011 was a great year for fresh and groundbreaking material, Mao's Great Famine showed us that, let's hope 2012 is even more fruitful. Here are a few titles due for publication in 2012 which I'm looking forward to and are definitely on my pre-purchase list.
By Jane Ridley
Publication Date: 30 Aug 2012
This promises to be an exciting new approach to biography and is certainly by an acclaimed historian and biographer. Edward Vll, who gave his name to the Edwardian Age and died in 1911, was King of England for the final 10 years of his life. He was 59 when at last he came to power. Known as Bertie, and the eldest son of Victoria and Albert, he was bullied by both his parents.
His mother, Queen Victoria, the first and most powerful woman in his life, blamed Bertie's scandalous womanising for his father's early demise. Although Bertie was heir to the throne, she refused to give him any proper responsibilities, as a result of which he spent his time eating (his waist measurement was 48 inches and his nickname was 'Edward the Wide'), betting on race-horses and shooting grouse. He was married off to Alexandra of Denmark, who was beautiful but infantile, lavishing her affection on her doggies and pet bunnies.
Bertie's numerous mistresses included the society hostess Daisy Brook ('Babbling Brook') and the gorgeous but fragile Lillie Langtry (with whom he 'played house' in a specially built hide-away home). The last of the women in his life was the clever and manipulative Alice Keppel. He always placed her at dinner next to his most important guests, because of her grasp of politics, her brilliant conversation and her formidable skills at the Bridge table.
When Bertie finally became king, he did a good job, especially in foreign policy. This colourful book will hopefully give him due credit, while painting a vivid portrait of the age in all its excess and eccentricity, hypocrisy and heartbreak.
By Carol Lea Clark
Publication Date: 4 Sep 2012
Carol Clark is an associate professor of English at the University of Texas at El Paso and has written more than 50 magazine articles and eight textbooks. She held a Fulbright to Jordan in 2008–2009 and discovered this long forgotten chapter in American history while at the American Centre for Oriental Research in Amman.
In the middle of the Mexican-American War, the secretary of the Navy authorized Lt. William Francis Lynch to command an unusual expedition, not south to the war zone, but east to Ottoman Palestine, now Israel and Jordan, to map the Dead Sea. Traversing this backwater of a dying empire, Lynch forged life-saving alliances with a Bedouin sheik and a Hashemite Sharif. Horses weren’t strong enough, so he improvised with foul-tempered camels to haul metal boats overland from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee. He navigated the treacherous, uncharted rapids of the Jordan and braved near starvation before reaching Jerusalem. But why exactly ? The expedition followed a long tradition of quasi-scientific expeditions as it attempted to establish that the Dead Sea lay below sea level—but it didn’t generate enough knowledge to justify the expense or the suffering of the fifteen Americans who joined Lynch’s obsessive quest. Was it a publicity stunt? Or the first step in returning Muslim Palestine to its former glory as a Judeo-Christian land of milk and honey? Well CLASH OF EAGLES will attempt to answer all these questions while recounting this seemingly foolhardy mission that the Civil War soon derailed. Another hundred years would pass before America again involved itself in the Middle East.
By Virginia Rounding
Publication Date: 13 Feb 2012
Few characters in history are as fascinating or controversial as Nicholas and Alexandra. From their passionate love to their horrifying execution, they are alternately viewed as innocent victims of Bolshevik assassins or blamed for causing the Revolution themselves. When it come to reading about their tragic downfall, there is so much material to choose from, especially amongst the numerous pieces of recent scholarship on the subject, it can be difficult to know where to start and it's hard to believe that some authors still regularly publish books on the subject hoping to add something new and fresh.
However, acclaimed author Virginia Rounding, will in 2012 be attempting to offer a different kind of biography, with an intimate look that probes the souls of these unforgettable figures, and tells the story of their passion and its consequences for Russia. Through newly revealed letters and diaries, Rounding explores the Empress' ill health, examines the enigmatic triangular relationship between Nicky, Alix and her confidante Ania Vyrubova, and looks anew at the reasons behind their reliance on the infamous Rasputin. Her conclusions purport to be 'surprising', we'll find out in February.
By Simon Webb
Publication Date: 1 April 2012
'Most people are unaware that London was a terrorist target as long ago as 1867'. Author Simon Webb already has a well established pedigree as a writer on the history of London with two published tittles on the subject: 'Unearthing London: The Ancient World Beneath the Metropolis' and 'Life in Roman London'.
In 2012 However he brings his gaze firmly into the heart of the modern period in a book which will attempt to give us a new perspective on the emergence of modern terrorism, a phenomenon that now allegedly has its roots in Victorian London, the city being a target for terrorists long before the provisional IRA and al-Qaeda.
There is no double that this kind of investigation should be able to draw numerous parallels with current news stories and I for one will be there in April to find out.
By Michael Munn
Publication Date: 10 May 2012
Hitler's rise to power in Germany owed much to the creation of his own celebrity. Hitler believed he was an artist, not a politician, and in his Germany politics and culture became one. This celebrity was cultivated and nurtured by Joseph Goebbels, Germany's supreme head of culture. Hitler and Goebbels enjoyed the company of beautiful female film stars, and Goebbels had his own 'casting couch'. In Germany's version of Hollywood there were scandals, starlets and secret agents, premieres and party politics, and an actress who was the key to killing Hitler. In Nazi Germany, the cult of celebrity was the embodiment of Hitler's style of cultural governing. The country's greatest celebrities, whether they were actors, writers or musicians, could be one of only two things: if they were compliant they were lauded and awarded status symbols for the regime, but If they resisted or were simply Jewish they were traitors to be interned and murdered.
Michael Munn is a writer and film historian. He has written biographies of John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen and in this book he promises to give us a shocking account of Hitler's fantasy of power and stardom, of the correlation between art and ambition, of films used as a weapon, and of sexual predilections. It reveals previously unpublished information about the 'Hitler film', which Goebbels envisaged as 'the greatest story ever told', while Hitler was planning on his own Wagnerian finale.
By Nic Compton
Publication Date: 1 Mar 2012
2012 will be the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic and many authors will have been working for years on books intended for publication in April 2012. In that 100 years many books have tried to capture the disbelief, the chaos and the terror of the fateful night the Titanic sank 100 years ago, and while many of the releases due in 2012 look to add absolutely nothing to this hobby horse of mine, this is one book I do have my eye on. The author certainly has the right background. Nic Compton was Editor of Classic Boat Magazine until 2000, and since then has travelled the world as a journalist and photographer. He has written for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including The Independent, Yachting Monthly and Yachting World and is the author of a wide range of books on nautical subjects.
Titanic on Trial will attempt to bring to life the tragedy through the voices of those who survived it. Stories about the sinking have become legendary - how the band played to the end, how lifeboats were lowered half-empty - but amongst the films, novels and academic arguments, only those who were there can separate truth from fiction. This book gives the story back to those people. After the sinking, inquiries into the loss of 1,517 lives were held in both the UK and US. The 1,000 or more pages of transcripts represent the most thorough and complete account of the sinking, told in the voices of those who were there. For the first time, these transcripts of the courtroom questions and answers have been specially edited and arranged chronologically, uncovering and drawing out the real drama of the Titanic's final night. The witnesses are transformed into characters in a much bigger story, and the events are described from the perspectives of people in every part of the ship, from a stoker in the boiler room escaping just before the watertight doors sealed behind him, to first class passengers trying to buy their way onto lifeboats. This book looks to be a genuinely accessible and unique insight into what really happened on the night.