Synonymous with starlets, European royalty and the spectacle of the Cannes film festival, the Côte d’Azur has attracted the rich, the famous and the unscrupulous since it was ‘discovered’ by writers and artists in the late nineteenth century. For the English, the French Riviera had provided the solace of a ‘place in the sun’ since the Regency period, lured as they were by mild winters, dazzling sea and sky, and codes of behaviour less oppressive than those demanded at home. An entertaining mix of social and cultural history, here Jim tips his hat to the time when the Riviera was ours.
Immortalized as the author of The Riddle of the Sands, Erskine Childers led a life quite as enigmatic and adventurous as his classic novel. Of Anglo-Irish stock, he was an imperialist who was gradually drawn into the great cause of his day, that of Irish independence. His enthusiasm first took constitutional form; then in 1914 he became the gun-runner who trafficked arms into Dublin to support the forerunner of the IRA; eventually he became the confrere of Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins as principal propagandist for the Republican cause. Caught up in the civil war that followed the break from Westminster, he was executed by the Irish Free State in November 1923. Erskine Childers was the winner of the Marsh Prize for biography and has established itself as the standard work on this remarkable man.
From the Cuban Missile Crisis to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the threat of nuclear Armageddon was an everyday reality. The front line of what Churchill called the ‘balance of terror’ was the submarine forces of the Soviets and the West that were responsible for the delivery of nuclear ballistic missiles targeted on the world’s largest cities. Hundreds of feet beneath the waves, these leviathans vied for supremacy, a supremacy that would signal to their political masters their ability to achieve global dominance – or indeed destruction. Jim’s ground-breaking book follows the careers of six Royal Navy submarine commanders and shows the part they played in bringing the Cold War to a close. In the words of Admiral Sir John Coward, ‘There was a war and we won it.’ It was the winner of the Mountbatten Prize.
We Come Unseen
As the British Empire spread across the globe during the nineteenth century, another quieter conquest was going on much nearer home. Gradually the English were taking over the Alps, driving railways through the mountains and introducing, as one diarist out it, those ‘cardinal British institutions – tea, tubs, sanitary appliances, lawn tennis and churches’ to remote villages where previously only a few bold souls had dared to go. This is the story of the English love affair with the Alps. It’s the tale of the seafaring race who were the first to climb the peaks, introduce skating, toboganning and ski-ing to the mountains, and who laid the foundation of the whole winter sports phenomenon.
How the English made the alps
The story of the Alps at war seems a contradiction in terms, yet Europe’s great mountain range played a pivotal part in the Second World War. As Hitler declared, ‘my great plans were forged there,’ much of the war was directed from his ‘eagle’s nest’ in Berchtesgaden, and with the fall of France, Switzerland became an oasis of democracy in a fascist desert – as well as a nest of spies. With great verve and authority, Jim weaves these stories into the definitive account of this neglected theatre of the war. It is a story of how the Alps withstood the Swaztika, culminating in the Allies great armies sweeping through Western Europe, racing the Red Army to the east, to descend on the rumoured Alpine redoubt.
Storming the eagle's nest
It’s 1946. Britain is occupied by a victorious Nazi Germany, and world war is drawing to a close with the Nazis’ defeat of the Soviet Union. All seems lost until the February Rising. Hitler visits London, now no more than a provincial city in the Third Reich – and is assassinated. His death triggers upheaval amongst the Nazis and revolt across Occupied Continental Europe. Caught in the centre of this game of life and death are the two young princesses, Elisabeth and Margaret. What price the lives of the two young women, first and second in line to the throne or not, when weighed against the impact of the newly developed atomic bomb, poised to destroy a major city? What price a Queen’s Ransom? Jim’s debut novel offers a dark, often humorous insight into the bravery, brutality and absurdity of war – and what might have been.
What a powerful and enduring image we have of the Great War and how misleading it is. The great writers of the conflict - Owen, Graves, Sassoon - have embedded the horrors of the Trenches of the Western Front so firmly in folk memory that the other six Fronts of the land war and the war at sea have been forgotten. In his latest book, Jim dramatizes fourteen turning points of the war to explore the different ways in which the Kitchener armies of John French and Douglas Haig vied with the Grand Fleet of David Beatty and John Jellicoe to win the war. With a rich cast of characters matching the epic stories of Ypres, Jutland and the Somme, this is a highly readable, refreshing and surprising take on the war that was intended to end war.