December 2021 Books Monthly Review of books and stories magazine - on the web since 1998...
  books monthly at Christmas
New Pen and Sword titles for November 2021


Welcome to the Pen and Sword page, on which you'll find a wide array of books on various social and historical subjects. Pen and Sword are the world's foremost historical and military publishers, and I hope to always have a large selection of their latest brilliant titles in Books Monthly.

2022 Yearbook of Astronomy

Published by Pen and Sword 31st October 2021

The Yearbook of Astronomy 2022 is the Diamond Jubilee edition of this iconic publication, the annual appearance of which has been eagerly anticipated by astronomers, both amateur and professional, ever since this invaluable book first appeared in 1962. As the preface to the 1962 edition informed its readers, the post-war years had seen a tremendous growth of interest in astronomy and space research. Doubtless fuelled by the dawn of the Space Age, the launch of Sputnik 1 in October 1957 marked a significant change in the course of history. This epoch-making event, coupled with the subsequent flights of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (April 1961) and American astronaut Alan Shepard (May 1961), served to engender a public interest in astronomy and space that has continued to grow and expand to this day. Maintaining its appealing style and presentation, the Yearbook of Astronomy 2022 contains comprehensive jargon-free monthly sky notes and an authoritative set of sky charts to enable backyard astronomers and sky gazers everywhere to plan their viewing of the year’s eclipses, comets, meteor showers and minor planets as well as detailing the phases of the Moon and visibility and locations of the planets throughout the year. To supplement all this is a variety of entertaining and informative articles, a feature for which the Yearbook of Astronomy is known. In the 2022 edition the reader is presented with articles covering a wide range of topics including A History of the Amateur Astronomical Society: 1962 to 2022; Expanding Cosmic Horizons; Frank Drake and His Equation; Remote Telescopes; Skies Over Ancient America and others. The Yearbook of Astronomy continues to be essential reading for anyone lured and fascinated by the magic of astronomy. It remains an inspiration to amateur and professional astronomers alike, and warrants a place on the bookshelf of all stargazers and watchers of the Universe.

Everything you need to guide you through the night skies in the coming year...

Paul Oldfield: Victoria Crosses on the Western Front

Published by Pen and Sword 1st September 2021

In the past, while visiting the First World War battlefields, the author often wondered where the various Victoria Cross actions took place. He resolved to find out. In 1988, in the midst of his army career, research for this book commenced and over the years numerous sources have been consulted. Victoria Crosses on the Western Front: Battles of the Scarpe & Drocourt- Queant Line, is designed for the battlefield visitor as much as the armchair reader. A thorough account of each VC action is set within the wider strategic and tactical context. Detailed sketch maps show the area today, together with the battle-lines and movements of the combatants. It will allow visitors to stand upon the spot, or very close to, where each VC was won. Photographs of the battle sites richly illustrate the accounts. There is also a comprehensive biography for each recipient, covering every aspect of their lives warts and all: parents and siblings, education, civilian employment, military career, wife and children, death and burial/commemoration. A host of other information, much of it published for the first time, reveals some fascinating characters, with numerous links to many famous people and events.

A fascinating account of these two specific battles during the last year of the Great War...

David Tremain: Agent Provocateur for Hitler or Churchill?

Published by Pen and Sword 1st September 2021

There have been many remarkable women who served British Intelligence during the Second World War. One whose dubious claim to have worked for them is a fascinating tale involving three marriages – the first, to a spurious White Russian prince; the second to a playboy-turned-criminal involved in a major jewellery robbery in the heart of London’s Mayfair in the late 1930s. After the war she became romantically involved with a well-known British Fascist, but finally married another notorious criminal whom she had met earlier during the war. The descriptions variously ascribed to her ranged from ‘remarkable’ and ‘quite ravishing’ to ‘…a woman whose loose living would make her an object of shame on any farm-yard’. Until now, very little has been recorded about Stella Lonsdale’s life. She doesn’t even merit a mention in the two official histories of MI5, even though she managed to tie them up in knots for years. This book will explore the role this strange woman may or may not have played in working for British Intelligence, the French Deuxième Bureau, or the Abwehr – German military intelligence – during the Second World War, using her MI5 files as a primary source.

David Tremain tells the fascinating tale of Stella Lonsdale, who may have been the most entrenched of spies during WW2.

Charmaine Yabsley: Make Your Own Beauty Products

Published by Pen and Sword 20th September 2021

Make Your Own Beauty Products is your must-have guide to living a natural and organic lifestyle – both inside and out. Whether it’s growing your own herbs to cook and use in your beauty products, to making your very own beauty treatments and makeup, this is the perfect accompaniment to a more natural you. Containing more than 50 recipes for cleansers, toners, face masks, hair care and body treatments, you’ll find something to suit you and your skin care needs. Whether you’re looking to treat dry skin, problematic skin or just want to have your very own spa day, Make Your Own Beauty Products will show you how to be the most naturally, beautiful you.

I Having looked through this book I think you would have to have a serious amount of money behind you in order to be able to start out as a manufacturer of beauty products, even if they were only for your own use...

Monica Weber-Butler

Published by Pen and Sword 30th September 2021

This book will show you how to create silver jewellery using everyday tools, easy to obtain materials and following simple step-by-step instructions. You will explore the amazing possibilities that the combination of silver metal clay and traditional silversmithing techniques has to offer, and will learn basic aspects of design in order to develop your own unique style. You will be able to create silver pieces which capture and celebrate nature by the inclusion of botanical details, or create graceful pieces with echoes from history; you can create contemporary pieces or add a touch of whimsy to your designs. Whether you favour traditional or modern designs, when you make your own silver jewellery, the possibilities are endless. The book is full of easy to follow projects, with photographs, detailed instructions and inspiring examples. Working with silver has never been so easy!

Essential reading for anyone who wants to get involved in crafting silver jewellery...

Dilip Sarkar ed.: The 'Real' Spitfire Pilot

Published by Pen and Sword 30th May 2021

Flight Lieutenant David Moore Crook DFC's original Spitfire Pilot ranks among the finest first-hand accounts published during the Second World War, particularly for a Battle of Britain airman. It rightly remains a sought-after classic. A Spitfire pilot during the epic aerial battles of the summer of 1940, 'DMC' became a decorated ace. However, he did not survive the war: his Spitfire inexplicably crashed into the sea off the Scottish coast on 18 December 1944. A married man and father, he remains missing. First published under wartime conditions in 1942, Spitfire Pilot was not heavily censored - unlike Squadron Leader Brian Lane DFC's similar first-hand account Spitfire! The Experiences of a Fighter Pilot, published the same year. DMC's book was based on his entries in two Stationary Office lined notebooks, hastily scribbled between sorties, and using his pilot's flying log book for reference. In 1990, the renowned Battle of Britain historian Dilip Sarkar traced DMC's widow, Dorothy, who enthusiastically supported the idea of re-publishing Spitfire Pilot. She duly uncovered bound copies of DMC's original manuscript, which she passed to Dilip. The Real Spitfire Pilot is, therefore, DMC's original, completely uncensored and unedited words, shared here for the first time. It provides a totally authentic window on the past, providing a unique glimpse at the lives - and deaths - of real Spitfire pilots in our Finest Hour. With an introduction and conclusion by Dilip Sarkar, and illustrated with previously unseen photographs, this is destined to become another classic.

Dilip Sarkar has taken Flight Lieutenant Crook's original manuscript and turned it into something readable...

Kristen McQuinn: The Two Isabellas of King John

Published by Pen and Sword 1st September 2021

King John of England was married to two women: Isabella of Gloucester and Isabelle of Angoulême. The two women were central to shaping John and his reign, each in her own way moulding the king and each other over the course of their lives. Little is known about Isabella of Gloucester and she has largely become a historical footnote; Isabelle of Angoulême has a reputation as a witch and a poisoner. However, both were products of their time, victims and pawns of the powerful men whose voices overwrote the experiences of women. By examining these two very different women through a modern feminist lens, The Two Isabellas of King John offers a new interpretation of this unpopular king, as well as further insight into the lives of his two wives. Kristen McQuinn examines two of England’s most important yet little understood queen-consorts. Taking a feminist light, McQuinn brightly shines it on both England’s least well-known consort, Isabella of Gloucester, the king's first wife, and one of its least popular, Isabelle of Angoulême, his child bride.

I have always thought that King John made a better fist of ruling England than King Richard, whose obsession with the Crusades kept him away from his country for far too long, and in fact even resulted in his death in France, I believe. Kristen McQuinn doesn't exactly come down on the side of John but she does present a formidable account of his life with his two wives, Isabella of Gloucester and Isabelle of Angouleme. Fascinating!

Beverley Adams: The Rebel Suffragette

Published by Pen and Sword 23rd September 2021

The suffragette movement swept the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Led by the Pankhursts, the focus of the movement was in London with demonstrations and rallies taking place across the capital. But this was a nationwide movement with a strong northern influence with Edith Rigby being an ardent supporter. Edith was a controversial figure, not only was she was the first woman to own and ride a bicycle in her home town but she was founder of a school for girls and young women. Edith followed the example of Emmeline Pankhurst and her supporters and founded the Preston branch of the Women's Social and Political Union. She was found guilty of arson and an attempted bomb attack in Liverpool following which she was incarcerated and endured hunger strike forming part of the ‘Cat and Mouse system with the government. During a political rally with Winston Churchill Edith threw a black pudding at a MP. There are many tales to tell in the life of Edith Rigby, she was charismatic, passionate, ruthless and thoroughly unpredictable. She was someone who rejected the accepted notion of what a woman of her class should be the way she dressed and the way she ran her household but she was independent in mind and spirit and always had courage in her own convictions. As a suffragette, she was just as effective and brave as the Pankhurst women. This is the story of a life of a lesser known suffragette. This is Edith's story.

I One of my favourite sitcoms, Up The Women, makes a number of interesting and valid points about the suffragette movement, and Beverley's book does pretty much the same, centering on the life of Edith Rigby. This is one of the most interesting books about the suffragette movement I have ever read, llively and fascinating.

Sarah-Beth Watkins: Charles II's Favourite Mistress - Pretty, Witty, Nell Gwyn

Published by Pen and Sword 23rd September 2021

Nell Gwyn, the most infamous mistress of Charles II, was a commoner raised from the dingy back alleys of London to the stage and into a king’s arms. Hers was a true rags to riches story that saw a young girl rise from selling oranges to capturing the heart of a king. The Restoration period was one of change. After the troubled years of the English Civil War, it was time for pleasure, debauchery and entertainment with the ‘Merry Monarch’ restored to the throne. Nell was one of the first actresses on stage; a loveable comedienne who wowed audiences with her wit and charm. She fell in love with Charles Hart (one of the leading actors of the time), had a torrid affair with Lord Buckhurst and ultimately ended up in the king’s bed. She stayed on the stage for six years, but she stayed in the king’s heart for seventeen – his only mistress who was faithful to him. Set against the backdrop of Restoration London, this book charts Nell’s life and that of her family and friends – from her drunken mother and troublesome sister to the most notorious wits of the age John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester and George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. Nell had a generous heart and a mischievous spirit, and was friends with people from all walks of life. The only woman she really detested was another of the king’s mistresses, Louise de Kerouaille, known as the French Spy. This highly entertaining book will tell the story of Nell’s life – the good and the bad – and show why Nell truly embodies the spirit of the Restoration.

An I suspect that Sarah-Beth Watkins has little sympathy for the republic under Cromwell, who strikes me as a figure much like Barack Obama in as much as he found it difficult getting his reforms through parliament. That aside, Sarah-Beth's biography of the absolutely fascinating persona of Nell Gwyn is absolutely first class and paints a beautifully detailed picture of Restoration England at the same time. Magnificent.

Sydney Thorne: Mary Ward - First Sister of Feminism

Published by Pen and Sword 23rd September 2021

Almost exactly 400 years ago, an English woman completed an astonishing walk to Rome. An English Catholic, Mary Ward had already defied the authorities in England. In 1621 she walked across Europe to ask the Pope to allow her to set up schools for girls. 'There is no such difference between men and women that women may not do great things,' she said. But Mary’s vision of equality between men and women angered the Catholic Church and the Pope threw her into prison. This is a story just waiting to be told! The story shines a refreshingly new light on the popular Tudor/Stuart era. Mary’s uncles are the Gunpowder Plotters. Her sponsors are Archdukes, Prince-Archbishops and the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. In Rome she spars with Pope Urban VIII and the Roman Inquisition, just as they are also dealing with Galileo. As the story sweeps from Yorkshire to Rome, from Vienna and Munich to Prague and back to England, we see Mary dodging pirates in the Channel, witch hunts in Germany and the plague in Italy. We see travellers crossing the Alps, and prisoners writing letters in invisible lemon juice to smuggle them past their gaolers. The settings range from the resplendent courts in Brussels and Munich to the siege of York in the English Civil War. The reader is immersed in seventeenth-century life.

I This is the amazing story of a lady who changed the course of history - her forays into battle against the Catholic church whilst so much of the Inquisition was centering on staggeringly famous historical figures are amazing, and, as the blurb says, this was a story just waiting to be told. Mary's lineage is quite incredible, and the story is told with verve and excitement. Thoroughly enjoyable account of a remarkable lady's life.

Terry John: The Civil War in Wales

Published by Pen and Sword 29th September 2021

The Civil Wars of the seventeenth century had a devastating effect upon Wales and the Marches, stripping the country of its human resources and ruining whole communities. This book explores the years of conflict between 1642 and 1649, detailing the campaigns, sieges and battles which took place in every corner of the country, presenting information from a wide variety of sources to paint a wide-ranging picture of the nation at a significant turning point in its history.

Terry John's book fills in an enormous number of gaps in our knowledge about the civil wars that dominated the first half of the seventeenth century.

Graeme Rushton: A Guide to Metal Detecting

Published by Pen and Sword 30th September 2021

The aim of this book is to provide detailed information, practical help, handy hints and tips in regards to all aspects of Metal Detecting. By offering advice and guidance this book aims to make the hobby of using a metal detector fun, interesting and interactive to anyone who wishes to have a go! It will give the reader an insight into following best practice and how to enjoy the hobby in a responsible way, everything will be covered from choosing the right detector \x26 equipment to gaining permission to search land, understanding the law and of course giving the necessary information to make sure that people enjoy their hobby to its maximum potential. From beaches to farmland we want you to be able to feel confident enough to search these types of environments and make interesting discoveries without feeling out of your depth. Information will be passed over regarding potential discoveries of treasure and the law surrounding such finds and also the identification of coins and artefacts that the reader may come across in their adventures. After reading this book, you will be able to enjoy this magical and captivating past-time and have the confidence to unearth some fascinating and historical discoveries.

With metal detectoring very much in the news following amazing finds from Anglo-Saxon Britain, Graeme's book could not have come at a better time!

Stephen Wynn: The Aftermath of Dunkirk

Published by Pen and Sword 13th October 2011

Operation Dynamo, the successful evacuation of Belgian, British, Dutch, French and Polish troops from the beaches at Dunkirk between 27 May and 4 June 1940, was not only a pivotal moment of the war, but one that changed its final outcome. There has been much debate in the years since the end of the war concerning the "Hitler Halt" order, which was given to German Panzer units waiting patiently on the outskirts of Dunkirk to be allowed to finish the job they had started. Many theories have been put forward as to the reasons behind this, but the consequence was that it allowed Britain to remain in the war. A total of 338,226, British and Allied troops were rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk, aboard a total of 861 vessels, of which 243 were sunk. For those left behind, official figures record that up to 80,000 French and British troops were captured, whilst during the time of the actual evacuation, somewhere in the region of 16,000 French and 1,000 British soldiers were killed. Equipment wise British forces left behind somewhere in the region of 90,000 rifles, 11,000 machine guns, huge supplies of ammunition, 880 field guns, 310 large calibre artillery pieces, 500 anti-aircraft guns, 850 anti-tank guns, 700 tanks, 45,000 cars and lorries, and 20,000 motor cycles - enough equipment to arm nearly ten divisions of soldiers. It is known that two atrocities took place during the Battle of Dunkirk: the Massacre at Le Paradis, and another at Wormhoudt, carried out by Waffen- SS soldiers, against British and French troops who had already surrendered. Although the Battle of Dunkirk must ultimately go down tactically as a German victory, the rescue of so many of its men, ensured that like a phoenix, Britain rose from the ashes of defeat to gain a great and lasting victory.

Pen and Sword's latest volume in their iconic Images of War series tells the story of what happened in the hours and days following the evacuation of Dunkirk. Amazing images!

Tony Matthews: How The World Allowed Hitler to Proceed with the Holocaust

Published by Pen and Sword 13th October 2011

In July 1938 the United States, Great Britain and thirty other countries participated in a vital conference at Évian-les-Bains, France, to discuss the persecution and possible emigration of the European Jews, specifically those caught under the anvil of Nazi atrocities. However, most of those nations rejected the pleas then being made by the Jewish communities, thus condemning them to the Holocaust.

There is no doubt that the Évian conference was a critical turning point in world history. The disastrous outcome of the conference set the stage for the murder of six million people. Today we live in a world defined by turmoil with a disturbing rise of authoritarian governments and ultra right-wing nationalism. The plight of refugees is once more powerfully affecting public attitudes towards those most in need. Now, on the 76th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Second World War, it’s time to reflect on the past to ensure we never again make the same mistakes.

Tragedy at Évian also shines a spotlight on some of the astonishing and courageous stories of heroic efforts of individuals and private organisations who, despite the decisions made at Évian, worked under extremely dangerous conditions, frequently giving their own lives to assist in the rescue of the Jewish people.

The title of this book says it all. That the holocaust could have been prevented is undenbiable and faily obvious. Tony Matthews puts it all into context in a way that will provoke thought and disquiet.

Richard van Emden: Boy Soldiers of the Great War

Published by Pen and Sword 19th October 2021

After the outbreak of the Great War, boys as young as twelve were caught up in a national wave of patriotism and, in huge numbers, volunteered to serve their country. The press, recruiting offices and the Government all contributed to the enlistment of hundreds of thousands of under-age soldiers in both Britain and the Empire. On joining up, these lads falsified their ages, often aided by parents who believed their sons' obvious youth would make overseas service unlikely. These boys frequently enlisted together, training for a year or more in the same battalions before they were sent abroad. Others joined up but were soon sent to units already fighting overseas and short of men: these lads might undergo as little as eight weeks' training. Boys served in the bloodiest battles of the war, fighting at Ypres, the Somme and on Gallipoli. Many broke down under the strain and were returned home once parents supplied birth certificates proving their youth. Other lads fought on bravely and were even awarded medals for gallantry: Jack Pouchot won the Distinguished Conduct Medal aged just fifteen. Others became highly efficient officers, such as Acting Captain Philip Lister and Second Lieutenant Reginald Battersby, both of whom were commissioned at fifteen and fought in France. In this, the final update of his ground-breaking book, Richard van Emden reveals new hitherto unknown stories and adds many more unseen images. He also proves that far more boys enlisted in the British Army under-age than originally estimated, providing compelling evidence that as many as 400,000 served.

erMy own wife's grandfather lied about his age and joined the Rifle Brigade at the age of fifteen. Such acts of courage were commonplace as these amazing young men took up the call to arms, believing they were old enough to serve their country. Richard van Emden, one of our very best WW1 authors, takes up their stories and puts them into perspective.

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 24th year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at and I'll let you know where to send it.



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