How did Britain so lose the plot that today there is not a single aircraft manufacturer of any significance in the country? What became of the great industry of de Havilland or Handley Page? And what was it like to be alive in that marvellous post-war moment when innovative new British aircraft made their debut, and pilots were the rock stars of the age?
James Hamilton-Paterson captures that season of glory in a compelling book that fuses his own memories of being a schoolboy plane spotter with a ruefully realistic history of British decline - its loss of self confidence and power. It is the story of great and charismatic machines and the men who flew them: heroes such as Bill Waterton, Neville Duke, John Derry and Bill Beaumont who took inconceivable risks, so that we could fly without a second thought.
They would have done, at least, if this were not an exercise. This extraordinary raid (which actually took place) opens James Hamilton-Paterson's remarkable novel about the lives of British pilots at the height of the Cold War, when aircrew had to be on call 24 hours a day to fly their nuclear-armed V-bombers to the Western USSR and devastate the lives of millions.
This is the story of Squadron-Leader Amos McKenna, a Vulcan pilot who is suffering from desires and frustrations that are tearing his marriage apart and making him question his ultimate loyalties. Relations with the American cousins are tense; the future of the RAF bomber fleet is in doubt. And there is a spy at RAF Wearsby, who is selling secrets to his Russian handlers in seedy East Anglian cafes.
A macabre Christmas banquet at which aircrew under intolerable pressures go crazy, with tragic consequences, and a dramatic and disastrous encounter with the Americans in the Libyan desert, are among the high points of a novel that surely conveys the beauty and danger of flying better than any other in recent English literature.
The romance of aviation had a remarkable grip on the public imagination, propaganda focusing on gallant air 'aces' who become national heroes. The reality was horribly different. Marked for Death debunks popular myth to explore the brutal truths of wartime aviation: of flimsy planes and unprotected pilots; of burning nineteen-year-olds falling screaming to their deaths; of pilots blinded by the entrails of their observers.
James Hamilton-Paterson also reveals how four years of war produced profound changes both in the aircraft themselves and in military attitudes and strategy. By 1918 it was widely accepted that domination of the air above the battlefield was crucial to military success, a realization that would change the nature of warfare forever.
'With splendid clarity and shrewd humour, James Hamilton evokes the visceral world of a great artist and a fascinating character.' MIKE LEIGH
J.M.W Turner exhibited his work proudly but was correspondingly reticent about his private life.
In 1799, aged 24, he became an Associate of the Royal Academy at the youngest possible age. While influential collectors competed to buy his paintings, Turner travelled widely, observing landscape and people, and collecting material for a cycle of images that would come to express the collective identity of Britain.
In this lucid blend of vibrant biography and acute art history, James Hamilton introduces Turner to a new generation of readers and paints a picture of a uniquely generous human being, a giant of the nineteenth century and a beacon for the twenty-first.
'A brilliant religious satire with elements of E.F. Benson and Evelyn Waugh... Few books since E.M. Forster's A Passage to India (whose formal perfection this novel shares) have conveyed more intensely the allure (and the revulsion) the East holds for Westerners.' New York Times
Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88) lived as if electricity shot through his sinews and crackled at his finger ends. He was a gentle and empathetic family man, but had a shockingly loose, libidinous manner and a volatility that could lead him to slash his paintings.
James Hamilton reveals the artist in his many contexts: the talented Suffolk lad, transported to the heights of fashion; the rake-on-the-make in London, learning his craft in the shadow of Hogarth; the society-portrait painter in Bath and London who earned huge sums by charming the right people into his studio. With fresh insights into original sources, Gainsborough: A Portrait transforms our understanding of this fascinating man, and enlightens the century that bore him.
With deeply ingrained feelings of inferiority and isolation, made steadily worse by setbacks and abuse, Harry spends his life battling mental illness from guilt, shame, and a lack of self-esteem. Manifesting early as childhood obesity, this burden follows him like a shadow his whole life. When he finally gets the answers he’s looking for, he realizes that unearthing the past does not necessarily resolve the present, it simply strengthens its foundations.
Harry’s story is a chronicle of helpful information about physical health in general and the numerous and dangerous consequences of obesity, and the ways and means to beat the disease once and for all. Luckily, sometimes the truth is all you need to change your life.
The Alhambra reveals in its structures and decoration the aptitudes and tastes, the likes and dislikes, of a civilization whose Eastern traces are India's Taj Mahal and the mosques of Samarkand. The plainness of the Alhambra's exterior has its roots in an even older ancestry in the East - Christian as well as Islamic.
Here, from historian Mark James Hamilton, is the dramatic story of the Alhambra and the men and women who called it home.
James Hamilton-Paterson, author of the bestselling Empire of the Clouds, has a knowledge of machines that is second to none and has the unique ability to write about engineering, motors and mechanics in an evocative and memorable way.