Friday, July 23, 2010

Lakeland Book of the Year 2010

The winner has been announced for the Lakeland Book of the Year 2010 - Cumbria's answer to the Booker Prize...

We are very pleased to say that Hercules and the Farmer's Wife by Chris Wadsworth has won the title!

Chris also won the category prize for the Bookends prize for Arts and Literature.

Friday, July 2, 2010

'I Owe My Survival to my Captor'

The remarkable story of a Japanese POW camp prisoner.

Last month, in an article for the Daily Express, John Baxter, former Royal Engineers corporal, wrote of the unlikely friendship between himself and Japanese guard Hyato Hirano which was forged whilst John was held as a Prisoner of War in Indonesia. He touchingly details how Hirano showed John and his fellow PoWs kindness and generosity despite his position as their captor.

This article illustrates but one chapter of John Baxter's fascinating story. The full story is in Missing, Believed Killed, Baxter's full account of his experience written without a hint of bitterness as, by his own admission he has 'no resentment towards the Japanese', despite his maltreatment.

His story begins in 1942 when John was captured by the Japanese in Indonesia. For the next 3 years he was held as their prisoner, during which time he was starved and beaten and contracted malaria, diphtheria, for which he received no treatment. At one point he was given a fifty-fifty chance of surviving and moved to an isolation cell where he was kept awake at night by the sound of coffins being made for fellow prisoners who had not been so 'lucky'. He spent the last two years of the war working in the hard labour mines in Kyushu, from where he witnessed the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki 40 miles away, and felt the scorching wind from the blast. Remarkably, John Baxter survived these experiences and made it back to Britain- a journey which was an adventure in itself. In February 2009 he celebrated his 90th birthday. Having written up his diaries from this time, he now decided to tell his story. It is a story not just of survival but of ingenuity, resourcefulness and quiet heroism.

John's fascinating account of one man's attempts to sabotage the Japanese war effort is illustrated with contemporary photographs and artefacts from his time in the camps. This touching book will appeal to WW2 historians and the general reader.

For the full Daily Express article please visit, and to purchase please go to

A Nice Review for Miss Savidge

"As tales of triumph over adversity go, May Savidge's story surely beats much of the competition. Rather than let her 500-year-old home be demolished to make way for a road, she moves it, brick by brick, tile by tile, 100 miles to Norfolk, where she single-handedly rebuilds it. Aged 60 when the rebuilding starts, her work is left to be completed by niece Christine Adams, who devotes years of her own life to carrying out her remarkable aunt's wishes as well as sifting through May's own archive of letters, diaries, calendars, notes, theatre programmes, dresses, photographs- indeed, virtually everything that ever came into her possession. This is a story of stoicism, heartbreak, suffering and great loss, but in which the indomitable Miss Savidge's determination not to lose her most beloved possession shines brightly and her note-to-self to 'Write funny story of furniture in attic' is fulfilled."

Jill Morris, Your Family History

Bowie: The Man Who Sold the World

"Bowie: A Biography shows us how the man has transcended his nihilistic the story continues, it's obvious to the reader that Bowie has attained a certain artistic dignity and a vision of something profound." Larry Cordola, Vintage Rock Book Review

David Bowie. One of the most protean figures inrock music, he remains a source of perennial fascination to his considerable fanbase, even when he's lying low. What is the state of his health? Is he working on a new album? Will he tour again?

The story of his life, from south London beginnings, is one of amazing and tireless self re-invention. From the sixties musical outsider to the androgynous, white-faced waif of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, the techno-composer in Berlin and subsquently the raucous racket-making aberration of his Tin Machine phase. This is alongside becoming a distinguished film actor in such porductions as The Man Who Fell to Earth and Mr Lawrence.

One thing is for sure: this succession of alter egos has always been symptomatic of a restless musical creativity and an endless quest for innovation. His astonishing run of canonical albums, from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust through Young Americans and Low to Scary Monsters, and countless classic tracks span psychedelia, glam-rock, 'plastic soul', electronic and industrial influences to disco, pop and even heavy metal.

It is fifteen years since the last comprehensive biography, and now Marc Spitz has talked to those who know or have worked with Bowie to produce an even-handed, thoroughly researched and quirkily readable portrait of anenigmatic and elusive individual, for whoese recent musical silence we are all the poorer.

A must have for Bowie fans, this book is long enough tocover every aspect of his life, but certainly not on oversize product of obsession, this is a readable quirky, assiduous book. Marc Spitz is the author ofa book about the US West Coast punk scene. He writes for all the major music magazines and lives in New York.

David Bowie: A Biography is available at

Thursday, July 1, 2010

All his shows ARE great

"If Grade had appeared in fiction, he'd be dismissed as a cliche. Fortunately, he existed, and this entertaining book is a worthy monument." Louis Barfe, The Independent

In his review for Spectator Business Dominic Prince not only proclaims that "Chester tells the Lew Grade story well, the detail is good and he deals with the old man's demise generously", but also reveals that he believes Lewis Chester's account of Grade's life to be better than the account that Prince himself co-authored with Quentin Falk!

Lew Grade was the last of the old-time media moguls, who shaped, and inmany ways revolutionised, post-war Britain's popular culture for over fifty years. From humble, Jewish immigrant beginnings in the East End of London, Lew Grade became world Charleston champion (and could dance it well into his eighties), then, along with brothers Bernard and Leslie, a top show business promoter and theatre proprietor, eventually booking Hollywood's biggest names, from Shirley Maclaine to Sammy Davis Jr. The birth of commercial television saw him win a franchise with ATV, where he presented long-running hits like Sunday Night at the London Palladium and the bizarre crossbow-firing game show The Golden Shot, which brought the nation together in front of the television, and epic mini-series like Jesus of Nazareth. But posterity will probably thank him for bringing Thunderbirds and The Muppets to British screens.

For media students he is a pioneering figure in the history of commercial television; for the rest of us he is the larger-than-life impresario who brought the best of Hollywood to our theatres and gave show business a razzle-dazzle it has never lost.

Lewis Chester was a member of the celebrated Sunday Times Insight Team of investigative journalists . His last book was Troublemaker.

All My Shows are Great: The Life of Lew Grade can be purchased at

Exciting releases this month

The story of Britain's ultimate steam locomotives...

Andrew Roden, author of Mallard and The Flying Scotsman completes his successful trilogy for Aurum with a book about the finest and most powerful steam locomotive ever built in Britain.

Designed by the great William Stanier, the class began life in the Thirties as the 'Princess Coronation' class. The Duchesses were the flagships of the West Coast mainline for the LMS, designed to compete with the famous streamlined 'Pacific' class locomotives on the East Coast. Andrew Roden has talked to surviving drivers and firemen, and hose involved in the subsequent preservation of Duchess of Hamilton and Duchess of Sutherland, to tell the story of one of Britain's finest engineering achievements, including the restoration of Duchess of Hamilton to its original streamlined form.

Andrew Roden is the editor of the International Rail Journal. He lives in Cornwall.

Why Can't the Government do Anything Properly?

Richard Bacon and Christopher Hope's illuminating book is an immensely topical look at examples of the bureaucratic incompetence and bungling that affect us all.

Any single mother locking horns wih the Child Support Agency for maintenance from their father; any farmer nearly bankrupted waiting for rural support payments; any parent despairing at the black hole into which their child's SATS results have disappeared- all will testify to the endless delay, bureaucratic paralysis, computer breakdowns and blithering incompetence that characterise the government's dealings with us. And anyone who reads the newspapers might infer similar problems from similar fiascos concerning foreign prisoners, dentists' contracts, data transfer losses and tax credits- not to mention the looming introduction of ID cards: a litany of cock-ups commemorated with a string of exasperated reports from the long-suffering Commons Public Accounts Committee charged with conducting the sorry inquest.

Richard Bacon, as an MP for South Norfolk and a member of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, has direct constitency experience of all the problems he surveys. In a lively style he and his co-author, the Whitehall Editor of the Daily Telegraph, tackle the questions that the country are posing. Why is the government nowadays incapable of organising even the proverbial social event in a brewery? Why does it waste vast amounts of money in the process? If big companies can commission IT systems that work, why can't the civil service?

In this lively, shocking book Bacon and Hope look at ten notorious government fiascos, and the considerable effort that went into creating them.

"A great book about a great band. Chris Campion's recounting of the Police saga is well researched and often very funny." Stephen Davis, author of Hammer of the Gods

Ambition brought The Police together. It also tore them apart- but not before they became thebiggest band in the world and the first supergroup of the Eighties. In Walking on the Moon Chris Campion tells the full, uncensored story of their spectacular rise. Written with a fan's eye for detail, this no-holds-barred account follows the band from their early struggle to make a mark in the volatile late '70s punk scene, through their emergence- masterminded with the help of legendary manager Miles Copeland III- as an international rock phenomenon.

The Police have sold more than 50 million albums worldwide and are ranked at 70 in the Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Yet, although Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland have all released memoirs, until now there has never been a comprehensive and unbiased biography of The Police. Walking on the Moon features for the first time the arduous touring and recording schedule that saw the band crack America, the unorthodox business strategies that catapulted them to the top, and the bouts of infighting that caused their early demise. Campion details the shock 2007 reunion that saw them re-emerge as a global touring spectacle after a 20-year hiatus from the music industry and explores how the band members' conflicting personalities and the chaotic personal life of frontman Sting informed some of their biggest hits.

Much more than simply an entertaining romp, the book offers insightful critical analysis of the broader factors that enabled The Police's success, and reveals a band struggling to balance commercial ambition with a desire for artistic credibility. This is an epic tale of Eighties rock and the role played within it by one of the biggest names in music. A perfect gift for any fans of The Police from the former contributing editor to Dazed and Confused and Vice magazines. Chris Campion has also written for the Observer, the Daily Telegraph and Bizarre.

All of the above titles are released this month and are available on

A Mobile Fortune: The Life and Times of Denis O'Brien

'Denis O'Brien's unique position at the crossroads of business, media nd politics makes Siobhan Creaton's searching study of his career essential reading for anyone interested in the workings of power' Finan O'Toole

He is the Irish telecomes tycoon with business interess from Ireland to the Caribbean; a billionaire powerful enough to have graced the cover of Forbes magazine; an indefatigable entrepreneur who invests where others fear to tread, bringing his bright red Digicel brand to some of the world's poorest and most dangerous nations.

In building his business empire- from Esat Telecom to Digicel- Denis O'Brien has smashed the hegemony of state-run networks and the cosy alliances of governments and traditional suppliers- even audaciously snatching the sponsorship of West Indies cricket. As notable for his low-profile philanthropy as for his high-profile joust with, among others, Sir Anthony O'Reilly, he is equally capable of forensically monitoring every last taxi fare and throwing hundreds of millions into a takeover bid for the Independent News and Media group. But his huge wealth and commercial dominance have not been achieved without controversy: a long-running Tribunal in Ireland is still investigating the circumstances surrounding the first mobile phone licence he won in 1996 amid allegations of political corruption.

Now Siobhan Creaton, formerly the experience finance correspondent of the Irish Times and author of Aurum's acclaimed and constantly-selling book on Ryanair, has spoken to those who know and have dealt with O'Brien to produce the first comprehensive biography of this fascinating, contradictory and immensely influential man. Siobhan Creaton lives in Dublin.

Out now in Hardback: SHADOWPLAYERS- The Rise and Fall of Factory Records

The definitive, authentic story has never been told- until now.

"Definitive and comprehensive, this is the actual story of Factory Records" Peter Saville

"Shadowplayers offers a meticulously researched year-by-year account of the label's beginnings, its triumphs and eventual dissolution. Nice brings an encyclopaedic zeal to his recollections of such fleeting musical oddities as Crawling Chaos, Swamp Children, Biting Tongues and The Wendys, alongside Factory's more famous players" Fiona Sturges, The Independent

"Familiar Manchester music saga retold in epic detail" **** Q Magazine

"An immaculately researched history of a label born in 1978 with Joy Division and whose later peaks...are as interesting as the famous, financially induced troughs" Ben East, Metro Scotland

In 1978, a 'Factory for Sale' sign gave Alan Erasmus and Tony Wilson a name for their fledgling Manchester club night. This proved to be the launch of one of the most signigicant musical and cultural legacies of the late twentieth century. The club's electrifying live scene soon translated to vinyl, and Factory Records went on to become the most innovative and celebrated record label of the next thirty years. Always breaking new ground, Factory introduced the listening public to bands such as Joy Division, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, A Certain Ratio, Section 25, The Durutti Column and later New Order, James and Happy Mondays - yet its founders' avowed ambition was not chart success but 'a laboratory experiment in popular culture'. In the years since, the label and its troubled folly, The Hacienda, have become both a legend and a cautionary tale.

Shadowplayers is the most complete, authoritative and thoroughly researched account of how a group of provincial anarchists and entrepreneurs saw off bankers, journalists and gun-toting gangsters to create the most influential, acclaimed and adored music of modern times.

This is the definitive study of the label and would make a treasured possession or gift.

Shadowplayers can be purchased at

Out Now: National Trail Guides

Revised and updated editions of the National Trail Guides are now available. These guides are the official guidebooks to the fifteen National Trails in England and Wales and are published in association with Natural England, the official body charged with developing and maintaining the trails. The guides' connection with Natural England, whose purpose is to protect and improve England's natural environment, mean that the guides include background information on local history, wildlife, archaeology and landscape.

There are beautiful full colour photographs throughout, as well as 1:25 000 Ordnance Survey mapping marked with points of interest along the route shown alongside the text to give detailed illustrations of the route in question. If this does not suffice, the guides' comprehensive 'Useful Information' sections provide further places of reference, such as useful websites, as well as details of public transport, local facilities, local organisations and information for cyclists and horse riders if necessary.

The guides are suited to walkers, cyclists and horse-riders, whether you are a long-distance walker or a weekend stroller, there are optional shorter walks if you do not want to tackle the larger parts of the trails. All feature stunning views, famous landmarks, and interesting information about some of England's most beautiful trails.

The wide variety of guides are available to purchase at . Please also visit for more information about the full variety of English trails.
No National Trail explorer should leave home without one!

All you need is one book...

South Downs Way: 100 Miles of walking or riding over the chalk downlands.

The 100 miles of the South Downs Way are a particularly attractive National Trail- for the walker, the horse rider or mountain biker. Following the spacious chalk downland that sweeps from the pleasant south coast seaside town of Eastbourne to the ancient cathedral city of Winchester, it offers fabulous views, a magnificent sense of solitude, and at the same time, easy transport connections and plenty of sights to see, from the pretty Sussex village of Alfriston to Cissbury Ring iron age fort, not to mention the sudden colourful flash of a hang glider serenly soaring above Devil's Dyke.

For the long-distance walker or cyclist, the horse-rider or the weekend stroller, this official guide offers everything you need in one volume. Whichever category you fit into you'll find valuable information, be it details of horsebox parking, vets, saddlers and farriers for horse riders or cycle repair shops along the way. The guide also offers circular routes off the Trail for shorter walks or rides, as well as details of pubs and refreshments along the way.

South Downs Way can be purchased at For information about upcoming events and walks along South Downs Way go to which will also provide you with images of the route to inspire you for your next trip!

Out now: The Capital Ring

The Capital Ring. 78 miles of green corridor encircling inner London. Not only is it a wondrous window on the green and tranquil flipside of a buzzing capital city; it also affords a fascinating vision of a metropolis constantly transforming itself- above all with the mesmerising views of the 2012 Olympic Park from the Ring's quiet riverside progress through east London.

This comprehensive guide provides up-to-date information on one of Transport for London's officially designated walking routes, taking in the capital's parks, woodlands, towpaths, river banks and historic cemeteries, including information on public transport, accommodation and places of interest. It visits famous landmarks such as the Thames Barrier, Eltham Palace and Highgate Woods- but also encounters lesser known treasures like the Parkland Walk, Abney Park Cemetery and the windmill on Wimbledon Common.
The guide, which divides the route into 15 sections, each starting and finishing at a public transport point, is packed with a vast amount of information which will guide walkers to the many and varied treasures that lie along the Ring's route. Complete with specially prepared 1:16666 Ordnance Survey maps and key sites numbered in the text and on maps for easy identification, the guide is useful for experienced walkers or those wishing to take in the sites casually.

Colin Saunders is a member of the London Walking Forum, which first conceived the idea of the two London orbital routes (The London Loop, the second, outer, route is also the subject of one of Aurum's Recreational Path Guides) and developed the Capital Ring in collaboration with the London boroughs through which it runs.

Start planning your trip now, go to to buy the book and then head to to organise events or group walks. Other useful links can also be found in the book's Useful Information section.