Fair Stood The Wind For France by H.E. Bates

War story. Love story. Great story. It is 1942 and John Franklin is piloting his Wellington bomber over France, home to England after a successful mission. He is forced to crash land in the black. In the movie* this will happen after a hail of flak, or perhaps a German night fighter attack, complete with explosions, blood, swearing and…

White Heat by Dominic Sandbrook

All set to take another trip in Dominic Sandbrook’s wonderful time machine? White Heat takes us back to 1964-70 via 794 pages of small print where there is something of interest in virtually every paragraph: politics, yes, but also high street fashion, furniture design, art and town planning. Prominent flashpoints in Vietnam, Northern Ireland and Rhodesia are covered extensively along with Twiggy,…

Me Cheeta by James Lever

Nice idea, well executed. A seventy-something former actor sits in the warmth of Palm Springs and looks back over his years in Hollywood, dishing the dirt on various figures of the ‘Golden Age’: nothing unusual about that. The twist here is that the actor is none other than Cheeta, the chimpanzee who co-starred in Johnny…

Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a pilot in the early days of the air mail service, when it involved negotiating biplanes over unforgiving landscapes with rudimentary instrumentation and communications, and minimal chance of survival if things went wrong. In the 1920s he flew in South America, the setting for Night Flight. Fabien, piloting the Patagonia mail-plane, takes orders…

Ashes To Ashes by Peter Roebuck / Clean Sweep by Peter West

It’s September. Mists and mellow fruitfulness are beckoning. So here, to tide us over, are two Peters – Roebuck and West – on cricket: specifically, on the England team’s visit to Australia in 1986-87. England won everything, despite Martin Johnson of The Independent famously writing that there were only three things wrong with them: they couldn’t…