“Killing Thatcher. The IRA, the Manhunt and the Long War on the Crown” by Rory Carroll (published by Mudlark)

’Iron Lady’ in luck as hotel bomb kills, destroys

The Irish Republican Army’s attempt to assassinate British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher very nearly succeeded when their bomb exploded in the Grand Hotel, Brighton, at 2.54am on October 12, 1984, the final day of the Conservative Party annual conference. Author Carroll profiles the protagonists ...

“Beyond the Wall: East Germany, 1949-1990” by Katja Hoyer (published by allen lane)

A whole lot more than Trabants, the Stasi and barbed wire

Historian and journalist Katja Hoyer's fat book offers an overflowing history of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), better known as East Germany, integrating just about every fact we might need to know with first-hand accounts from citizens about how they experienced the four decades ...

“The Widow Couderc” by Georges Simenon (published by Penguin Classics)

Greed, hate, jealousy poison human hearts

Georges Simenon could be a subtle writer. Take the very first words of this novel – “He was walking. For at least three kilometres, he was alone on the road across which tree trunks cast oblique shadows every ten metres, and he strode on, ...

“Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon 50th Anniversary” (published by Thames & Hudson)

Before the real madness set in

Rock history offers the established facts that “The Dark Side of the Moon” album from 1973 is Pink Floyd’s masterpiece, a hi-fi buff’s dream with some 50 million copies sold, a number surpassed by very few others. For the true Floyd fan, it can ...

“The Greatest Escape” by Neil Churches (published by Macmillan)

The day an entire POW camp slipped away

Great, greater, greatest .... The film “The Great Escape” from 1963 immortalised the break-out by 76 Allied prisoners-of-war from the supposedly escape-proof Stalag Luft III camp in Germany in March 1944. But greater than great, apparently, was “The Greatest Escape”, the most successful POW ...

“Stalin’s Architect. Power and Survival in Moscow” by Deyan Sudjic (published by Thames & Hudson)

Murder and ambition – where to draw the line?

The question is, as posed by this biography of the life and career of Boris Mikhailovich Iofan (1891-1976), if you have worked your way up to be the state archictect to the murderous megalomaniac Joseph Stalin, how do you survive years close to the ...

“Maigret and the Penguin Books” (published by the Penguin Collectors Society)

Multitude of covers covering a multitude of sins

The world is divided neatly into collectors and others, the latter being people who scratch their heads trying to understand why there are oddballs around them who amass such bizarre items as different strands of barbed wire, back scratchers and banana stickers (yes, it’s ...

“Ian Fleming & Georges Simenon. The World of Bond and Maigret” (published by ERIS gems)

Two best sellers chat and swap secrets

Writers Ian Fleming, an Englishman, 1908-1964, and Georges Simenon, a Belgian, 1903-1989, created two of the greatest characters in 20th-century fiction – licensed-to-kill Secret Service agent James Bond 007 and Parisian detective Chief Superintendent Jules Maigret. The two authors met for a conflab in ...