Provocations return this month with quite possibly their most stirring lineup yet. Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas and a panellist on BBC R4’s The Moral Maze, calls for us to toughen up, become more robust and make a virtue of the right to be offensive in 'I Find That Offensive!'; James Bloodworth disassembles the myth that meritocracy provides equal opportunities for all and explains why working-class kids still get working-class jobs in The Myth of Meritocracy; and in London Rules, GQ editor Dylan Jones declares that London, our glorious capital, is the greatest city on the planet.
- May 13, 2016 12:00
- Sam Jones
- May 06, 2016 15:00
- Sam Jones
By Matti Friedman
Pumpkinflowers is a haunting, honest tale of the lives of young Israeli soldiers stationed on an isolated hilltop – named ‘the Pumpkin’ – in Lebanon during the ’90s. ‘Flowers’ was the military term for casualties. This is a beautifully written story that needs to be read. You can take a look at the first four chapters here.
By John Plender
The critically acclaimed examination of the world’s predominant economic system returns in paperback. In this incisive, clear-sighted guide, award-winning Financial Times journalist John Plender explores the paradoxes and pitfalls inherent in this extraordinarily dynamic mechanism – and in our attitudes to it.
By Claire Fox
When you hear that now ubiquitous phrase ‘I find that offensive’, you know you’re being told to shut up. Claire Fox asks how we became so thin-skinned and urges us to toughen up, become more robust and make a virtue of the right to be offensive.
By Dylan Jones
Time and time again we hear how London was the best it’s ever been during the swinging ’60s, the punk ’70s or the Britpop ’90s. GQ editor Dylan Jones disagrees, and in London Rules he decrees that right now, our glorious capital is the greatest, most dynamic and diverse city in the world.
By Thom Brooks
Immigration is one of the most controversial issues facing Britain today. Politicians kick the subject from one election to the next with energetic but ineffectual promises to ‘crack down’, while newspaper editors plaster it across front pages. In Becoming British, Durham University Professor Thom Brooks expertly examines the immigration problems that modern UK citizenship was meant to solve, what the major challenges are today and how they can be met.
By Rob Johns and James Mitchell
For a decade now, the SNP has dominated the political narrative in Scotland. Since the dramatic end to the Scottish referendum campaign and its near clean sweep in the 2015 general election, the SNP has become one of the big stories in politics throughout the United Kingdom. Takeover is the incredible story of the SNP’s extraordinary rise.
By James Bloodworth
The best jobs in Britain today are overwhelmingly done by the children of the wealthy. Meanwhile, it is increasingly difficult for bright but poor kids to transcend their circumstances. In this incisive book, James Bloodworth argues that any genuine attempt to improve social mobility must start by reducing the gap between rich and poor.
By Mark Field MP
The Best of Times collects essays, columns and speeches from City of London MP Mark Field. Following on from Field’s acclaimed first book, Between the Crashes, The Best of Times charts the rise of anti-establishment sentiment, the possibility of Brexit and a growing antagonism towards the super-rich in the final years of coalition government. It also looks further afield at global shifts of power and conflict.
By Kenny MacAskill
Scotland’s former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill reveals the hard-fought search for justice following the bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1988. Describing the controversial release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, MacAskill explains the international dimensions involved and lays bare the commercial interests that ran in the background throughout the investigation and trial. Finally, he explains how and why it happened – and who was really responsible for one of the worst atrocities to have occurred on British soil.
- April 12, 2016 11:00
- Iain Dale
I mean, across the board it’s generally full of pleasant enough people who mean well but, it seems to me, are often damagingly risk-averse, hidebound by outmoded business practices (returns anyone?) and – whisper it – a general lack of ambition.
I travel a lot, so I spend a lot of time in bookshops, doing the kind of thing Managing Directors of publishing companies should do – like emailing my sales team and demanding to know why book x is not included in promotion y, and so on.
When I look at the new releases section, I’m afraid it leaves me cold. Old ideas continuously repackaged, once-winning formulas repeated to death, backlists mined until they’ve worn thin and a general nostalgia for a ‘better’ age; a pre-Amazon time of four-hour lunches, industry-sponsored jollies to foreign climes and ‘poet’s’ day* every Thursday and Friday. It’s all just so ‘meh’ – it bores me silly.
I read the trade press and all I seem to see are nicely-turned-out young men and women disguising a lack of imagination behind a barrage of buzzwords, setting out a vision of future publishing in the kind of language they think people working in proper industries might use. I’m afraid it makes me want to grab them, shake them and say, ‘It’s not just about the future, it’s about now. And above all, it’s about the books!’
And that’s what dispels my gloom. The books. When I look at our forward list, lovingly laid out in the catalogue you now hold in your hands, the clouds break and I fall in love all over again. Alastair Campbell’s astonishing new diaries, David Laws’s insider account of the coalition government, political giant Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s extraordinary, epoch-spanning memoirs, and many, many more; these are the bulwarks I set against my disenchantment. These are what I got into publishing for in the first place.
Another thing I can never understand is the time it takes our competitors to publish a book. At Biteback, a part of our success lies in our ability to pick up a book and get it to the consumer in the shortest time possible. The clue is in the category name: surely it’s called current affairs for a reason? Now obviously this brings its own challenges but we are fortunate in that our partners in an increasingly reactive book trade know that we will deliver the support, in the form of publicity, to make our books highly visible.
Finally, there are no books without the people. The authors, of course, but also the team who produce the books. At Biteback, we are a finely-honed (well, sometimes) outfit of publishing guerrilla fighters. Every now and then, one of the big boys will come and poach a team member, and in every case that individual will go on to improve their new company. Really, I’m surprised my competitors never drop me a line and thank me!
Managing Director, Biteback Publishing
*P*** Off Early Today
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We proudly present our Spring/Summer 2016 catalogue! It's available to view online and download as a PDF. Alternatively, if you'd like to receive a physical copy, you can get in touch by sending us an email at email@example.com.
- April 06, 2016 14:00
- Sam Jones
By K. Harvey Proctor
Credible and True – words famously used by the police to describe the allegations of Harvey Proctor’s traducer during the Operation Midland investigation – is Proctor’s revealing memoir of his life both in and out of Parliament.
From the struggles and controversy surrounding his resignation in 1987 and numerous homophobic attacks since, to that fateful morning on 4 March 2015 when his home was raided by the Metropolitan Police in connection to Operation Midland, Credible and True is a frank and candid account in which Proctor details his experience as the victim of a ‘homosexual witch-hunt’ in the post-Savile world of ‘guilty until proven innocent’.
By Ann Treneman
The award-winning Times writer, best known for her incisive parliamentary sketches, has branched out – to graveyards.
Finding the Plot is a whirlwind tour of Britain’s most fascinating graves, from the real James Bond and the famous ‘M’ to Florence Nightingale and her pet baby owl, Athena. The writers, painters, poets, rakes and rogues, and the just plain mad all provide an intriguing insight into the British way of death.
Part travelogue, part biography and part social history, Finding the Plot is essential reading for everyone who isn’t dead yet.
By Ziauddin Sardar
Is Islam inherently violent and misogynistic? Why do young men and women go to join the Jihadi Caliphate? Does Islam need a reformation? Should we be frightened of Shariah? What part do Muhammad’s teachings play, or what part should they play, in our own times? Writer and critic Ziauddin Sardar seeks to answer a host of questions prominent in the discourse today.
As a practicing Muslim, Sardar is as terrified by the rise of Islamic Jihadi groups as anyone else. In this remarkable book, he urges all those who feel the same way to work together to preserve the sanity of our world.
By M. R. D. Foot
This brilliant book was the first to analyse the whole field of wartime resistance to the Nazis in Europe; to explain what resisters could and could not do and to assess, in outline, whether they achieved their aims.
By Nigel Hamilton
International bestselling historian Nigel Hamilton offers a definitive account of FDR’s masterful – and underappreciated – command of the Allied war effort. With the second volume – Commander in Chief: FDR’s Battle with Churchill, 1943 – coming in the summer, this intimate, sweeping look at a great president in one of history’s greatest conflicts is a must-read.
By Michael Smith
In this new addition to the Dialogue Espionage Classics series, bestselling author Michael Smith explores the life and work of Frank Foley, the British spy who risked arrest and worse to save over ten thousand people from the Holocaust, sheltering them in his own home and forging passports and visas for their escape.
Including the accounts of ‘living witnesses’ who had Foley to thank for their lives, Michael Smith’s work uncovered the remarkable truth that led to the recognition of Frank Foley as Righteous Among Nations, the highest honour the Jewish state can bestow upon a Gentile.
By Martin Stanley
The UK civil service employs 400,000 people across the country. Every year, over 20,000 students and graduates apply to enter the civil service through its fast stream competition alone. For those seeking a career in the profession, Martin Stanley’s comprehensive guide is a must-read, offering invaluable advice about how to most effectively carry out civil service duties, and how to respond to ethical and technical issues pertinent to the job.
By Helen Jones
A frank and light-hearted insight into the mysterious engine room of Parliament, where the unseen, unsung heroes of the system bear the weight of the government on their shoulders.
From the mind-numbing tedium of debates to the dark arts of dealing with rebellious or disaffected members of their ‘flock’, former whip Helen Jones reveals how they really get business done – and what they say about their colleagues behind the closed door of the Whips’ Office.
- April 04, 2016 10:00
- Sam Jones
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
30 November 1874–24 January 1965
St Martin’s Church, Bladon, Oxfordshire OX20 1RS
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The thing that hits you first about Sir Winston Churchill’s grave is the size. As a man he was large; as a historical figure, a giant, and surely the man who personified the fight against Hitler. And yet his grave is not grand or particularly imposing: a raised slab, only slightly over-sized, that is shared
with his wife Clementine, surrounded by identically sized graves of his family in the quiet churchyard of St Martin’s in the village of Bladon in Oxfordshire. He could have been buried in the grounds of nearby Blenheim Palace, his family home. He could have been buried at Westminster Abbey. Or, for that matter, anywhere he wanted.
But he chose Bladon. Anyone can come see him here – and they do. Wear and tear by the constant visitors means the stone has had to be replaced twice. When I came, on a bitterly cold day, there was a small basket of white roses, sent for Clementine. ‘On this 1st April, your birthday,’ said the card, signed ‘Mary’. As a grave, this is one where history looms large, and indeed threatens to overwhelm, but the thing that surprises is this small human touch – a bouquet sent, mostly likely by their daughter, Lady Soames, so many years on (Clementine died in 1977).
He was buried on 30 January 1965. He had lain in state in the ancient stone magnificence of Westminster Hall, endless queues passing by. He had been carried through the streets by gun carriage to a monumental funeral at St Paul’s. Big Ben was silenced. The guns at the Tower boomed. Afterwards, the coffin, transferred to a barge, sailed up the Thames and as he passed the London docks, all the cranes dipped towards him, bowing to the old warrior. Then he went by train to Hanborough railway station and, finally, by hearse to Bladon.
The church has produced a little booklet about the death and funeral, much of which was gleaned from letters at the time from Mrs Bishop of Beehive Cottage, which adjoins the churchyard, to her sister. Again, it was a joy to find something so personal.
On 24 January, Mrs Bishop wrote:
We have just heard that the old warrior has given up at last. What a fight he has made! Mr H. from Church Cottage ran over in tears to tell me. He is now tolling the bell – every twenty seconds or so. I expect the same is happening all over England. It is very touching on this lovely morning.
On 30 January, she recounted: ‘It is a glorious morning, bitterly cold but no wind and the sun is coming out. I have icicles 8 to 10 inches long in the garden. The village is navy blue! Never have I seen so many police, men and women (900) compressed into such a small place.’ People started to queue, she said, in the morning. By the time the (private) funeral was over and they could start to file past, it was four and a half hours from end to graveside. ‘The police have put flood lights over the grave so that the queue can carry on after dark … which they did until midnight.’
On Sunday 31 January: ‘The queues restarted at 7 a.m. and continued all day ’til long after dark. The police estimate the numbers at 70,000 during the weekend.’
More than a month later, on 10 February, she adds: ‘There is a constant stream of visitors all the time. Lorry and van drivers pull up in the main road and pop up for a moment, business men and travellers, many old folk, school parties and even one or two groups of “mods and rockers” have been in, very quiet and orderly.’
The booklet stops soon after but the visitors who come to see the grave with the word CHURCHILL on the side never have. During the funeral, a poem was read by Richard Dimbleby, his voice breaking. It is included in the booklet and I recount it here for I think it goes some way to explaining why so many of us want to visit him still:
Drop English earth on him beneath
Do our sons, and their sons bequeath his glories
And our pride and grief
For Lionheart that lies below
That feared not toil nor tears nor foe.
Let the oak stand tho tempests blow
So Churchill sleeps, yet surely wakes
Old Warrior where the morning breaks
On sunlit uplands.
But the heart aches
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With ninety-nine other ‘dead interesting’ burial sites, Ann Treneman’s Finding the Plot is published 5 April and is available in paperback (£10.99) and eBook (£6.99).