After the success and popularity of the Clapham Book Festival’s panel session last year about spies and spying, either real or fictional, ( see Espionage ) we decided to run a similar session this year focussing particularly on WWII and the immediate post-war period.
So this year’s panel of three successful biographers includes Clapham residents Henry Hemming and Simon Berthon.
Henry Hemming’s latest book is an acclaimed biography of Maxwell Knight, the British spymaster ‘M’, often thought to be the inspiration for ‘M’ in Ian Fleming’s James Bond books. Knight became a legendary spymaster despite an almost total lack of qualifications. He was a jazz aficionado and expert on primates, but what set him apart from his peers was a mercurial ability to transform almost anyone into a fearless secret agent. He was also the first in MI5 to grasp the potential of training female agents. Listed as a Book of the Year in The Times, The Sunday Times and the Daily Mail. The Guardian said ‘This is a terrific book, well researched and superbly written.’.
Simon Berthon’s non-fiction books include Warlords: In The Heart of Conflict 1939-1945, a study of Churchill, Hitler, Roosevelt and Stalin and the relationships between them. ‘Fascinating insights into the minds of these titans’ the Daily Mail, ‘It reads like a thriller but it is also a scholarly, impeccably researched piece of work … superlative’ Tribune. Simon has recently begun to bring his knowledge to fiction-writing, with the popular Woman of State in 2017 and his first thriller A Secret Worth Killing For which will be published in May 2018.
They are joined by Clare Mulley. An award-winning biographer, whose latest book The Women Who Flew for Hitler, is described, by The Spectator as ‘A serious double biography of two of the most remarkable women in then history of aviation… well researched, beautifully written, and gives a perspective on the war that even seasoned students will find refreshing’. Nazi Germany’s only two female test-pilots, Hanna Reitsch and Melitta von Stauffenberg, who ended their lives on opposite sides of history. ‘Vividly drawn…a thrilling story’ Daily Telegraph. Clare has also written about Eglantine Jebb, the controversial founder of international Save the Children in The Woman Who Saved the Children and a biography of Krystyna Starbek, aka Christina Granville, Britain’s secret agent in WWII in The Spy Who Loved. ‘As thrilling as any fiction… Clare Mulley has made a fine and soberly thrilling addition to the literature of the undercover war… this book, massively researched and excitingly told, brings an extraordinary heroine back to life’, Daily Mail.
They will be discussing the defence of the realm, secrets, international espionage and writing, both fiction and non-fiction, about WWII and later. Why not come and join them at the Clapham Book Festival?
Walls Have Ears is at 5 pm in the Omnibus Theatre £10 per ticket (£8 concessions) on 12th May.
A version of this blog first appeared on http://www.thestorybazaar.com on 2nd April 2018.