The perfect companion on your sun lounger
HENRY ‘CHIPS’ CHANNON: THE DIARIES 1938-43 edited by Simon Heffe r (Hutchinson £35, 1,120pp)
HENRY ‘CHIPS’ CHANNON: THE DIARIES 1938-43
edited by Simon Heffer (Hutchinson £35, 1,120pp)
Channon’s diaries were so salacious they were initially heavily censored for publication. Now writer and historian Simon Heffer gives us part two of the full, shamelessly frank work. And a remarkable labour of love it is.
Channon was an appalling snob, sexually voracious, brutal and acid-tongued, an inveterate appeaser, anti-Semitic and generally hateful. But golly he could write.
This remarkable book, bursting with gossip, sex scandals and royal barbs, is a brilliant portrait of champagne-fuelled London life on the eve of war and in its early years.
Channon loathed Churchill (‘fat, wicked old Winston — the greatest opportunist and political adventurer alive’), felt the Queen Mother was ‘treacherous, unambitious and oh so snobbish’, and fancied Prince Philip, ‘the best-looking boy I’ve ever seen’.
He thought Britain’s guarantee to Poland a terrible mistake (‘everyone, secretly or openly, hopes that the Poles will climb down’). Hitler, he writes approvingly, ‘thinks we are an effete, finished race. He is right of course’. What a dreadful bunch they were.
Utterly compelling reading, but don’t think of taking this monster of a book in your hand luggage.
THE TICKET COLLECTOR FROM BELARUS by Mike Anderson and Neil Hanson (S&S £20, 384pp)
THE TICKET COLLECTOR FROM BELARUS
by Mike Anderson and Neil Hanson (S&S £20, 384pp)
Back in March 1996, residents of a South London council estate were shocked to see police cars gather outside the flat of one of their elderly neighbours.
He was Anthony Sawoniuk, then 75, known as ‘Tony the Pole’. He had spent his working life as a ticket collector at London Bridge — but in fact he was a prolific war criminal who had slaughtered scores of Jews in the little town of Domachevo, now part of Belarus.
Brutal and barely literate, he joined in enthusiastically when the Nazi death squads arrived, at one point forcing 15 women to strip before shooting them in the back of the head, and killing more than 50 children in the local Jewish orphanage.
But a childhood friend, Ben-Zion Blustein, then living in Israel, hadn’t forgotten Sawoniuk and was the principal prosecution witness in the Old Bailey murder trial. A riveting and haunting book that raises important questions about how far justice should reach when confronted with the worst of crimes.
QUEEN OF OUR TIMES by Robert Hardman (Macmillan £20, 704pp)
QUEEN OF OUR TIMES
by Robert Hardman (Macmillan £20, 704pp)
This landmark biography of our longest-reigning monarch should be on everybody’s shelves, especially in this tumultuous Jubilee year. Hardman is the outstanding royal author of our times and, as Mail readers know, writes with unique insight and seemingly effortless fluency.
Profound and authoritative, but also intimate, this is the The best-looking boy I’ve ever seen extraordinary story of a woman who has led her people, and her family, through massive social change in a life spanning abdication, wartime, love, tragedy and family turmoil.
Superbly researched with new interviews with world leaders, family, friends and staff, there are interesting anecdotes, humour and gripping details on every page.
A book to dip into for the rest of your life, about a woman as fascinating today as she was when she came to the throne aged 25.
THE PALACE PAPERS by Tina Brown (Century £20, 592pp)
THE PALACE PAPERS
by Tina Brown (Century £20, 592pp)
What a riot this book is: it treats the royal story as a massive romp, brilliantly but exhaustingly written in Brown’s characteristic breathless style where everything is a drama. If it isn’t peppered with exclamation marks, it should be.
Brown is always witty, often very catty and sometimes savage: Andrew Parker Bowles is a ‘walking pink gin’; Lord Snowdon is ‘decrepit’; all the royals seem to have ‘forests of bad teeth’.
There is no outstanding new scoop here, though Brown is very good on Harry’s mental frailties before meeting his wife, and the bitter feuding between Harry and William. But she brings what can be a familiar story brilliantly to life.
Waspish and gossipy, it’s like being with your most amusing pal as she spills the beans over a long meal. A gem.
THE WAR ON THE WEST by Douglas Murray (HarperCollins £20, 320pp)
THE WAR ON THE WEST
by Douglas Murray (HarperCollins £20, 320pp)
An important and blistering polemic by the most formidable and gimleteyed scourge of the ‘woke’ warriors currently holding sway in so many British and American institutions, notably schools and universities, but also government departments, museums and the Church.
Why, Murray asks, is it acceptable to discuss the flaws and crimes of Western civilisation, but if we celebrate its astonishing achievements in culture, thought, science, medicine and progress it can be called ‘hate’ speech?
And why, too, he asks, if there is slavery, conquest, abuse and exploitation in our world history, are only Western nations taking the blame?
He is especially brilliant on ‘Critical Race Theory’, an American analysis that sees everything through the filter of race and puts racism as the central evil, even when there is none. An unflinching, clear-headed book that should make you very angry.
BUTLER TO THE WORLD by Oliver Bullough (Profile £20, 288pp)
BUTLER TO THE WORLD
by Oliver Bullough (Profile £20, 288pp)
He doesn’t mince his words, does Bullough, an expert financial investigator. If you have ever wondered quite why so many prime pieces of real estate in the ritziest areas of the country appear to be unoccupied, this is the book for you.
In fact, Bullough runs ‘Kleptocracy Tours’ — the equivalent of Hollywood’s showbiz tours — around the mansions and estates where the world’s worst dictators and tax dodgers hide their billions.
Sizzlingly written, this is more than just a deeply troubling look at how Britain has been corrupted by greed and pimps itself out to the world’s dirtiest money, where — in the tax havens of Britain’s territories from the Virgin Islands to Gibraltar — many of our services, prestigious businesses and even football clubs have been handed to the highest bidders, no matter how shady.
When dictators want somewhere to hide their money, writes Bullough, they turn to Britain. And when oligarchs want someone to launder their reputation, they come to Britain. Read it… and worry.
AN ACCIDENTAL ICON by Norman Scott (Hodder £22, 336pp)
AN ACCIDENTAL ICON
by Norman Scott (Hodder £22, 336pp)
It was nearly 60 years ago when Jeremy Thorpe, then a suave, urbane rising star of the Liberal Party, started an abusive sexual relationship with Norman Scott, a much younger, emotionally damaged and naive horse groom.
Most of the names in this extraordinary tale would be meaningless to modern readers, but it continues to exert a strange fascination. This is partly because of the award-winning TV drama A Very English Scandal, where Hugh Grant portrayed the man who became Liberal leader as a charming rogue.
The truth is much darker; here Scott gets the chance to tell his side of the story for the first time.
It’s a tricky read sometimes, notably when Thorpe conspires to make a shocking attempt on his lover’s life.
Politicians don’t emerge well from any of this, but at least Scott, now 82, is happy. He lives in Devon, still works with horses and has a longterm partner.
THE MAGIC IN THE TIN by Paul Ferris (Bloomsbury £16.99, 240pp)
THE MAGIC IN THE TIN
by Paul Ferris (Bloomsbury £16.99, 240pp)
Every man, whatever their age, should read this brave and painfully honest book.
It’s a brutal, poignant, often harrowing — but frequently very funny — account of one man’s journey through prostate cancer.
Ferris was a former football star with Newcastle United who, since his playing days, had forged a successful career as a physio and businessman. He was also an award-winning author whose autobiography, The Boy On The Shed, was shortlisted for the coveted William Hill Sports Book Of The Year award.
He had survived a heart attack at 48 in 2013 and was looking forward to the future. Then came the diagnosis of prostate cancer, the most common type affecting men.
Ferris is a superb writer and spares nothing as he describes what happened next: the harrowing surgery, the agonising procedures and humiliating consultations which strike at the heart of his masculinity.
He is totally devoid of self-pity, and this is ultimately a life-affirming story of what is possible with resilience, determination and deep reserves of courage.
Unmissable: please read this extraordinary book.
LEFT ON TENTH by Delia Ephron (Doubleday £16.99 304pp)
LEFT ON TENTH
by Delia Ephron (Doubleday £16.99 304pp)
You had to turn left on Tenth Street if you were travelling downtown in Manhattan to the apartment Delia Ephron, the hugely successful Hollywood screenwriter and novelist, shared with her beloved husband of more than three decades.
When he died, Delia found herself alone at the age of 72, left on Tenth again. Then her life took a series of turns, some perilous, some miraculous. These are the subject of this wonderful, courageous and cheering book.
With her sister Nora, Ephron wrote the classic romcom, You’ve Got Mail, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
Twenty years later her life began to echo her film: engulfed by loss, out of the blue an email from a widowed psychoanalyst pinged into her inbox.
They fall in love by mail, then meet and find unbridled passion: it’s like being a teenager again, writes Delia. Then heartbreak strikes as she falls victim to the same cancer that killed her sister.
After a long and harrowing treatment, love wins the day, and for anyone in later life this is a message of golden optimism.
Surrounded by friends, you want to share her life: it proves that good things can happen to good people. Do read this magical book.
OLD RAGE by Sheila Hancock (Bloomsbury £18.99, 272pp)
by Sheila Hancock (Bloomsbury £18.99, 272pp)
In 2016, Sheila Hancock, one of our best-loved and most hard-working actors, began writing her new book.
She hoped it would be a gentle record of a fulfilled old age, an inspirational journey through her later years, full of memories of her life in showbiz and her much-loved late husband, the actor John Thaw.
She had many friends, a devoted family, lovely homes in London and France, she could still remember lines.
But it didn’t work out quite like that. From Brexit to her daughter’s breast cancer, from scruffy Jeremy Corbyn to her own painful illness, from Trump to the blight of Covid lockdowns, the world seemed determined to knock her from every quarter.
Home alone, talking to pigeons and shouting at her TV, she takes a long, hard look at her life, her loves and her beliefs as she opens up about her ninth decade.
The result is this sparkling memoir, as funny and insightful as it is moving. Hancock is brilliant company as she looks back on her life as a daughter, mother, widow and still an excellent performer, while railing against much of the modern world. In the end, all that matters is love. A wonderful read.
IT’S NOT A PROPER JOB by Chris Tarrant (Great Northern £17.99, 256pp)
IT’S NOT A PROPER JOB
by Chris Tarrant (Great Northern £17.99, 256pp)
The morning after the pilot episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? went out, Chris Tarrant was walking to his London hotel when a lorry driver wound down his window and shouted, ‘Phone a friend!’ That’s when the presenter sensed something very special might be happening. The show went on to be one of the biggest in the world.
This riotously entertaining memoir is not so much a book, more a collection of celebpacked stories, and very jolly they are too — as you would expect from someone who has been a TV fixture for decades.
There’s fishing with Eric Clapton, carol singing with Rod Stewart, larking around with Paul McCartney, fundraising with George Michael. And much more.
Great fun, and Tarrant emerges as a likeable and self-deprecating star.
THE GIFT OF A RADIO by Justin Webb (Doubleday £16.99, 256pp)
THE GIFT OF A RADIO
by Justin Webb (Doubleday £16.99, 256pp)
He may have one of the bestknown voices in Britain as the longest-serving presenter of Radio 4’s Today programme, but it turns out he is a wonderful writer, too.
This superb memoir stops just as Webb joins the BBC and is an immaculate portrait of a certain type of middle-class upbringing in the 1970s. He never knew his father (the celebrated broadcaster Peter Woods, who had a brief affair with his mother) and didn’t get on with his stepfather, who was clearly an undiagnosed manic depressive.
He was sent to a peculiar Quaker boarding school, where he discovered a love of rugby, familiar to all who listen to Today.
To those of us of, um, a certain age, one of the joys of this warm, generous book (significantly, dedicated to his stepfather as well as his mother) is the detail of life in that extraordinary decade — nipping off with a packet of Players No6, cider at 70p a gallon, listening to Fire by Arthur Brown or watching Tomorrow’s World where ‘chaps in ill-fitting suits tried to explain new-fangled devices called computers’. A pleasure to read.