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April 2023 Hardback book reviews

Simon Evans reviews the latest hardbacks

The_Tour_hardback_bookThe Tour, by Simon Wilde

Time was when international cricketers would only embark on one overseas tour a year, but that was often enough, entailing months away from home, sometimes on the other side of the world, enduring basic living conditions and frequently hostile crowds.

Cricket is now an all-year-round affair, with one international tour sometimes dove-tailing into another, and that’s without the demands of the lucrative T20 circuit. In this entertaining study of the English cricket team overseas from 1877 to 2023, The Times cricket correspondent Simon Wilde details how tours are now more akin to business trips than the voyages into the unknown that they were in the late 19th century. It’s full of insightful commentary on the controversies that have dogged England tours, from Bodyline to David Gower’s career-ending flight in a Tiger Moth, as well as entertaining anecdotes revealing the lighter side of England tours across the decades.

Published by Simon & Schuster Price £25 Pages 592 ISBN 9781471198489


But_have_you_read_the_bookBut Have You Read the Book? by Kristen Lopez

Book adaptations have been a rich source of material from the earliest days of cinema, but the silver screen versions sometimes bear little or no relation to their source material. In this latest addition to the Turner Classic Films series of movie-themed books Kristen Lopez looks at 52 of the more high-profile adaptations, pointing out how the film versions draw on the original books, and, equally importantly, how they differ. Films covered range from the original Frankenstein and the landmark In Cold Blood to Blade Runner and the recent adaptation of Little Women. The text is knowledgeable and engaging, perfect for a night or two in with the streaming service of your choice.

Published by Running Press Price £16.99 Pages 244 ISBN 9780762480975


Imagining_Englands_pastImagining England’s Past, by Susan Owens

Artists across the centuries have drawn inspiration from our national heritage and shared culture and used it to constantly reinvent the idea of what it is to be English. In this fascinating book, former V&A curator Susan Owens looks back across the centuries, from Arthurian legend and William Morris up to the Space Age fascination with Edwardian and Victorian fashion, the English folk song revival and Steampunk, to examine how the past “has been – and remains – one of English culture’s most invigorating sources of inspiration, a self-renewing treasure trove to be dipped into again and again.”

It is refreshing, for once, to find a historian who believes the past should be a cause of pride rather than shame, for Susan Owens believes we should not be afraid to draw upon our shared heritage, “not in the sense of falsifying history but of widening its scope and enriching its texture.”

Published by Thames & Hudson Price £25 Pages 301 ISBN 978-0500024331


The_Warlock_EffectThe Warlock Effect, by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman

Magic and espionage have much in common – subterfuge, misdirection, deception – and both come together to glorious effect in this first novel from the creators of the hit play and film Ghost Stories. Jeremy Dyson was the non-performing member of The League of Gentlemen, while Nyman is an actor, writer and magician, who has worked with Derren Brown on several TV specials and live shows.

It’s a creative marriage made in heaven, Dyson’s dark humour and talent as a story-teller wedded to Nyman’s in-depth knowledge of magical tricks-of-the-trade and narrative misdirection.

Anyone familiar with Ghost Stories will know that nothing appears to be as it seems with this pair, and so it proves in this beguiling story of a magician who escapes the Nazis, becomes a star of radio and variety in the Fifties – and a denizen of sleazy Soho – only to find himself whisked behind the Iron Curtain in search of the Russians’ secret magical weapon, the mysterious Funhouse. I won’t say more for fear of giving the game away, but suffice to say it’s a brilliant read. Expect the unexpected.

Published by Hodder & Stoughton Price £20 Pages 350 ISBN 978-1529364774


I_will_find_you_hardback_book_front_coverI Will Find You, by Harlan Coben

When you open up a Harlan Coben thriller for the first time you know you are in safe hands for he is the master of the twisty suspense yarn, with many books adapted for TV and film all over the world, including Stay Close, Hold Tight and Safe. This new novel focuses on David Burroughs, serving an indefinite jail spell for the murder of his infant son, a crime he is convinced he did not commit. He can, however, remember nothing of that terrible night or how the evidence that dammed him came to be found.

Then, out of the blue, David has a visit from his estranged sister-in-law with startling evidence that his son may still be alive. Determined to find his son David breaks out of jail, but the truth about that dreadful night is much stranger than he could ever have imagined. It’s a great read, one you’ll find hard to put down up to and beyond the shocking denouement.

Published by Century Price £20 Pages 415 ISBN 978-1529135503


Pink_floyd_the_dark_side_of_the_moon bookPink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon Official 50th Anniversary Book, curated by Jill Furmanovsky, art directed by Aubrey Powell

When The Dark Side of the Moon was released, in March 1973, no one, least of all Pink Floyd themselves, could have conceived that it would become one of the best-selling albums of all time, with close on 50 million copies sold worldwide. It was certainly a departure for a band who, up to that point, had a reputation as being the last of the ‘underground’ groups, renowned for a repertoire that combined experimental, extended instrumentals and trippy, surreal pop songs. For The Dark Side of the Moon the flowery imagery was stripped back to essentials, as was the music. Tighter, shorter, less ornamental, Dark Side could almost be said to have anticipated the punk revolution of 1976 so different was it to so much that was around at the time. It was still a concept album of course – all the rage in 1973 – but the subject matter, madness and its various manifestations, was very different to the airy-fairy journeys to the centre of the earth and beyond that were de rigueur in the early Seventies.

This handsome, LP-sized book is a photographic record of the tours of 1972-75 during which the album was formed and developed, including revealing back-stage moments and in-concert shots as well as a fascinating section detailing the evolution of the ‘spectrum’ album cover that for once earns the soubriquet ‘iconic’. There’s also an early concert review, which gives an insight into how Floyd were regarded at the time, finished album artwork and the pyramid poster that was included with early vinyl editions and adorned many a Sixth Form common room wall.

Published by Thames & Hudson Price £45 Pages 160 ISBN 9780500025987


our_king_front_cover_hardback_bookOur King, by Robert Jobson

With the Coronation just weeks away, this timely biography provides a rounded and revealing portrait of King Charles III, and the challenges that will face him in the years ahead.

His love of the environment and nature is well-known, and as his mother lay dying on that fateful day in September Charles ventured out into the forest foraging mushrooms to calm his mind in readiness for the ordeal ahead. Less well-known, perhaps, is his passion for the music of Leonard Cohen and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books, although, at least in the case of the latter, the story of a young boy growing up in a peculiar, cloistered community, the parallels with his own upbringing are not hard to see.

Jobson is very good on recent history, especially the days surrounding the death of Queen Elizabeth and, but there is little that is new about King Charles’ life up to that point – who would have thought, for instance, that Charles and Diana were regarded as incompatible by close friends?

But there is plenty of gossip to keep royal watchers happy and Jobson has some pertinent observations to make about the possible course of the new King’s reign. For one thing, from the day he became King there has been a sense of urgency about Charles III’s reign, “the sense that this is a man on a mission; a man in a race against time.” Proclamations about diversity, slavery reparations and net zero may play well with a younger wokearati but will only create anxiety among those who have a more traditional view of royalty. One thing is for sure, the next few years are not going to be dull.

Published by Bonnier Price £22 Pages 298 ISBN ‎9781789467048









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