I Just Didn't Know That.
Revd Neville Barker Cryer, Lewis Masonic, £9.99
Many of us take for granted things we see and do in our everyday life, and if we knew more about a particular environment we would be fascinated by what was revealed.
The same goes for Freemasons. Why are there meeting places called Lodges, what is the origin of Lodge furniture, when did they start wearing regalia, and why do they say certain words during the ceremonies?
Answers to these and many other questions are provided by the Reverend Neville Barker Cryer, a noted Masonic writer, in a series of lectures reproduced in his book.
He examines the origins of the Lodge room, and then takes the reader for a walk around the Lodge, explaining different: objects, also recalling the history of how the present regalia came about.
He also takes a fresh look at the three degrees of Craft Masonry, opening the eyes of the reader to the interesting background to these intriguing ceremonies.
The book would make an excellent gift to the newly-raised Master Mason or the outgoing Master. Whether in the Craft for years, or relatively new to Masonry, this book will be a real eye-opener.
Nelson. Love and Fame
Edgar Vincent, Yale, £25
Of all Britain's military and naval leaders, few have achieved the fame of Horatio Nelson. It is little wonder that he has been subject to so many biographies, the most recent of which have been critical of a man whose naval successes were all too often overshadowed by his infamous private life.
Vincent attempts to redress the balance, but his account is by no means a hagiography. Indeed this is a very readable account of one of Britain's most heroic historical figures.
His accounts of Nelson's naval battles and campaigns are superbly detailed, and he provides an excellent analysis of the two main driving forces in Nelson's life - his pursuit of love and fame.
His relationship with Lady Hamilton provoked as much outrage as his bravery provoked admiration. Vincent's account of Nelson's private life makes fascinating reading, from the moment they met to her death in Calais in 1815, when she had become a penniless alcoholic.
The book is full of excellent stories and anecdotes, while providing an excellent critique of arguably the most famous Admiral in British naval history.
Author of the Quarter
Thank you for agreeing an interview with MQ. What prompted you to write Enigma: the battle for The code? Many years ago I saw Derek Jacobi playing the part of Alan Turing in Hugh Whitemore's brilliant play 'Breaking The Code'. From that moment, I read anything I could about how the code was broken.
Robert Harris' novel 'Enigma' showed that people are still hungry to know more about the codebreaking. Fortunately, Ralph Erskine, one of the experts on the naval Enigma, took me under his wing. Thanks to him and his contacts I was able to find lots of new material. It was just a coincidence that my family used to own Bletchley Park, the house in Buckinghamshire where the codebreaking was carried out.
What is your current project? It is a book about Dunkirk and the battles in France and Belgium in 1940.
If you hadn't been an author, what profession would you have gone into? I used to be a lawyer and a journalist. I would probably have carried on being a journalist if I had not started writing books.
When writing a book, have you got a preferred place of work and a favoured writing routine? I very much enjoy looking up the declassified documents and rare books in the ultra modern Public Record Office and British Library. For my current book I have also had the luxury of working through accounts written by Dunkirk veterans in the Imperial War Museum's beautiful archives department, a converted chapel at the top of the Museum's building. I tend to do all my research, and then I do the writing working at all hours in a relatively short period.
What do you do to relax?
If you are a writer and at the same time have young children, there is not much time to relax. However, I try to walk for an hour around Hampstead Heath each day or to swim for an hour in the summer. If I take time to do that I find I can actually work efficiently for longer than if I just worked all day.
What are you reading at the moment?
I spend most of my time reading books on Dunkirk. That includes Atonement, the novel by Ian McEwan which includes fascinating passages about Dunkirk. At present I am reading a brilliant novel 'The History of the Kelly Gang' by Peter Carey.
Who is your favourite author? When it comes to non-fiction it has to be Alistair Horne, who wrote the classic book '1940 - To Lose a Battle'. He combines descriptions of the fighting with an almost poetic picture of life in France during the period leading up to the fighting. My favourite novelists are Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, James Joyce and Graham Greene.
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