Friday, 14 July 2017

Staying at Buxton

Old Hall Hotel
Last week when I was at the Buxton International Festival talking about The Durrells of Corfu, I came across the Old Hall Hotel, thought to be the oldest hotel in England.  The present building dates from 1573 and stands on the foundations of a yet earlier hall and was specially built with the sanction of Queen Elizabeth I to accommodate Mary Queen of Scots who was held here under house arrest from 1576 to 1578. 


Apparently Mary Queen of Scots liked Buxton and the Old Hall, sadly scratching with her diamond ring on her bedroom window pane, 'Perchance I shall visit thee no more - Farewell'.  

No mustard
Alas I stayed at the Palace Hotel which is not really a palace at all.  They served cheap bready sausages for breakfast and when I asked for mustard I was sharply told that 'We do not serve mustard at breakfast'.  

Also I overheard a man complaining that there was no avocado in his avocado salad to which the response was 'we replaced it with cucumber'.

Off with their heads.  

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Books in the Window at the London Library

As I left the London Library this afternoon I noticed that they had a window display of books recently written by some of their members, among them my own book The Quest for Mary Magdalene. The sun was shining brightly against the glass and the reflections made it difficult to photograph anything. There were about ten or twelve titles in all; here are few.

Erica Wagner's Brooklyn Bridge; she was born in
New York but lives in London now.

Andrew Marr and John Simpson are well known on
BBC news and current affairs programmes.

The Beverley Collection at Alnwick Castle by 
Claudia Wagner, John Boardman and Diana Scarisbrick 
details one of the finest gem collections still in 
private hands, the envy of Russia's 
Catherine the Great. 
And there is my Quest for Mary Magdalene.

The London Library has at least two and a half times
as many books as the ancient Library of Alexandria
is thought to have had.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Democracy in America

The London Library's copy of Democracy in America
by Alexis de Tocqueville, first edition 1835.  Half slave, half free.

After publishing Democracy in America in 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville visited London where he was asked if he had thought of doing such a book about England. Writing about America, he said, was easy; you had only to find the central point and everything is in view. But England is an ancient land full of contradictions and overlapping histories, and there was no one place from which it was possible to comprehend the whole.
In America all laws originate more or less from the same idea. The whole of society, so to say, is based on just one fact: everything follows from one underlying principle. One could compare America to a great forest cut through by a large number of roads which all end in the same place. Once you have found the central point, you can see the whole plan in one glance. But in England the roads cross, and you have to follow along each one of them to get a clear idea of the whole. 
                         - Alexis de Tocqueville
But America did have one great contradiction as the map facing the title page of Tocqueville's book shows; half of it relied on slavery, and its consequences remain unresolved to this day. 

Monday, 3 July 2017

Top Summer Read: The Durrells of Corfu

Vanessa Feltz, writing in The Mail on Sunday yesterday, picked The Durrells of Corfu as the top summer read and described it as 'absolutely riveting'.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The Times: Best Books of 2017 Featuring The Durrells of Corfu

Today The Times has announced its selection of the best books of 2017, among them The Durrells of Corfu.  All the non-fiction titles recommended by The Times are listed below.


Summer books: nonfiction
From history to memoir, Robbie Millen rounds up the best nonfiction of 2017


The Russian Revolution: A New History by Sean McMeekin 
Profile, 478pp; £25

The Time Traveller’s Guide to Restoration Britain by Ian Mortimer
Bodley Head, 464pp; £20

Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day by Peter Ackroyd 
Chatto, 262pp; £16.99

The Earth is Weeping: the Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West by Peter Cozzens
Atlantic, 576pp; £25


Jane Austen at Home: A Biography by Lucy Worsley
Hodder & Stoughton, 387pp; £25

M: Maxwell Knight, MI5’s Greatest Spymaster by Henry Hemming
Preface, 400pp; £20

The Durrells of Corfu by Michael Haag
Profile, 212pp; £8.99


Theft by Finding: Diaries Volume One by David Sedaris 
Little, Brown, 514pp; £20

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood 
Allen Lane, 336pp; £14.99


Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh 
Orion, 246pp; £16.99

Fragile Lives: A Heart Surgeon’s Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Tableby Stephen Westaby 
HarperCollins, 320pp; £14.99

True crime

Killers of the Flower Moon: Oil, Money, Murder and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann 
Simon & Schuster, 336pp; £20

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Macmillan, 322pp; £20


East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity by Philippe Sands
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 464pp; £20

The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray 
Bloomsbury, 352pp; £18.99

Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook and Amazon have Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy by Jonathan Taplin  
Macmillan, 320pp; £18.99

Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson
Macmillan, 297pp; £16.99


The Way of the Hare by Marianne Taylor
Bloomsbury, 272pp; £16.99


Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova
Granta, 379pp; £14.99


Ravilious and Co: the Pattern of Friendship by Andy Friend
Thames & Hudson, 336pp; £24.95