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A Brief Guide to Stephen King

A Brief Guide to Stephen King

2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Stephen King’s first novel Carrie in April 1974. Rescued from the rubbish by his wife Tabitha, the novel launched the Maine schoolteacher on a prolific and extraordinarily successful career. His name has become synonymous with horror and suspense through over fifty works, including The Dark Tower, a retelling of Byron’s Childe Harold to the Dark Tower Came.

Simpson traces the writer’s life from his difficult childhood – his father went out to the shops and never came back – through his initial books under the pseudonym Richard Bachman to the success of Carrie, Salem’s Lot and The Shining in the 1970s, and beyond. He examines how King’s writing was affected by the accident that nearly killed him in 1999 and how his battles with alcohol and addiction to medication have been reflected in his stories. The guide will also take a look at the very many adaptation’s of King’s work in movies, on television and radio, and in comic books.
A Brief History of the Knights Templar

A Brief History of the Knights Templar

Much has been written about the Knights Templar in recent years. A leading specialist in the history of this legendary medieval order now writes a full account of the Knights of the Order of the Temple of Solomon, to give them their full title, bringing the latest findings to a general audience. Putting many of the myths finally to rest, Nicholson recounts a new history of these storm troopers of the papacy, founded during the crusades but who got so rich and influential that they challenged the power of kings.
A Brief Guide To OZ

A Brief Guide To OZ

What if Dorothy Gale wasn’t the only person who went to see the Wizard of Oz?

MGM’s landmark 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland, did not mark the beginning of adventures in Oz. Both before and since, dozens of tales have been told of the Marvellous Land of Oz, and its inhabitants such as the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger and Jack Pumpkinhead.

In this fascinating and wide-ranging book, Paul Simpson looks back at the Famous Forty – the original novels by L. Frank Baum and his successors which entranced generations of children with their wonderful world of munchkins, princesses and wicked witches. He examines the many ways in which the stories have been retold in movies – from the silent era to Disney’s recent blockbuster Oz the Great and Powerful – and on television, featuring everyone from Tom & Jerry to trades union leaders. On stage, Oz has come to life in the many revivals of The Wizard of Oz musical and the worldwide reign of Elphaba in the smash hit Wicked.
Celebrate the 75th anniversary of the world’s best-loved film and the whole magical world of Oz with its vampires, muppets, dragons, living statues and so much more.
A Brief Guide to Celtic Myths and Legends

A Brief Guide to Celtic Myths and Legends

A very readable guide which fills the gap between academic analysis and less critical retellings of the myths and legends.

Marytn Whittock provides an accessible overview while also assessing the current state of research regarding the origins and significance of the myths. Since all records of the myths first occur in the early medieval period, the focus is on the survival of pre-Christian mythology and the interactions of the early Christian writers with these myths.

A wide-ranging and enthralling introduction to Celtic mythology, from the Irish gods before gods, the Fomorians, to the children of Llyr, the sea deity; from the hunter-warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill, whose exploits are chronicled in the Fenian Cycle, to Cú Chulainn, the Hound of Ulster; and from the Welsh heroes of the Mabinogion to Arthur, King of Britain, though the mythical, Welsh version who predates the medieval legends.
A Brief Guide to C. S. Lewis

A Brief Guide to C. S. Lewis

November 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Clive Staples ‘Jack’ Lewis, when a memorial to him will be placed in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. Although perhaps best known as the author of the seven Chronicles of Narnia, published between 1949 and 1954, Lewis also wrote The Pilgrim’s Regress, a trilogy of science-fiction novels incorporating Christian themes, and a large number of non-fiction books about his faith, accessible to Christians and non-believers alike. In a survey of the greatest British writers since 1945, the Times newspaper ranked Lewis eleventh, ahead of Salman Rushdie, Anthony Burgess and Ian Fleming.

A Brief Guide to C. S. Lewis explores Lewis’s life, from his reconversion to Christianity under the influence of his friend J. R. R. Tolkien, which had such a profound influence on his writing – both fiction and non-fiction – to his marriage to American writer Joy Davidman Gresham and his battle with cancer. He died on 22 November 1963, a day before the first-ever episode of Dr Who, a TV series with many links to his Narnia stories was shown.

Although this Brief Guide ranges well beyond the world of Narnia to explore other aspects of Lewis’s life and his other writings, it does not do so – unusually among books on Lewis – from the point of view of Christian scholarship, thereby assuming much knowledge of theology on the part of readers. That Lewis wrote about the problems of praying is significant; the specific texts he discusses and dissects are likely to be of less significance to most readers.

The guide provides synopses of Lewis’s fiction, an overview of his other writings, a biography and a look at all the many different versions of his stories that have appeared. In doing so it draws on recent interviews by the author with some of the many talented people who have worked on these adaptations.
A Brief History of Circumnavigators

A Brief History of Circumnavigators

“Going round the world” is an idea that has excited people ever since it was realized that the earth was a sphere. The appeal has something to do with encompassing all the known environment and exploring the unknown, not only on the surface of the planet but within the spirit of the explorer. The story of circumnavigation is thus a long saga of human adventure, travel and discovery. Beginning with the fateful day in 1521 when Ferdinand Magellan was speared to death on Mactan and Juan de Elcano took up the challenge of bringing his surviving companions home, the story continues through four centuries crammed with astonishing exploits by men and women of many nations. Some of the names that feature are well-known, others less so.
A Brief Guide to Ghost Hunting

A Brief Guide to Ghost Hunting

There has been an upsurge in books, television programmes, films and websites exploring the reality or otherwise of the spirit world. Not since the founding of The Ghost Club in 1862 and the Society for Psychical Research in 1882 has ghost hunting been so popular. Television and the internet, in particular, have fueled this new level of interest, creating a modern media phenomenon that spans the globe. But while the demand for information is high, good information remains scarce.

A Brief Guide to Ghost Hunting leads us through the process of ghost hunting, from initially weighing the first report, to choosing equipment, and investigating and identifying the phenomena, with an analysis of the best places to go looking, methods of contacting the spirit world, how to explain paranormal activity and, crucially, how to survive the encounter.

However, it is also a book about ghost hunting itself, drawing on 130 years of research in the cavernous archives of the Society for Psychical Research and even older history to find the earliest ghost stories. A Ghost Hunting Survey makes use of interviews with those billing themselves as ghost hunters to find out their views, motivations and experiences.

New and original research makes use of statistics to map the nebulous world of apparitions while a Preliminary Survey of Hauntings offers an analysis of 923 reported phenomena from 263 locations across the UK.

This is, as far as possible, an objective presentation of ghosts and ghost hunting. It is no wonder that mainstream science largely refuses to deal with the subject: it is too complicated. Without trying to convince you of any viewpoint, this book is intended to help you understand more.
A Brief History of the Hundred Years War

A Brief History of the Hundred Years War

For over a hundred years England repeatedly invaded France on the pretext that her kings had a right to the French throne. France was a large, unwieldy kingdom, England was small and poor, but for the most part she dominated the war, sacking towns and castles and winning battles – including such glorious victories as Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt, but then the English run of success began to fail, and in four short years she lost Normandy and finally her last stronghold in Guyenne. The protagonists of the Hundred Year War are among the most colourful in European history: for the English, Edward III, the Black Prince and Henry V, later immortalized by Shakespeare; for the French, the splendid but inept John II, who died a prisoner in London, Charles V, who very nearly overcame England and the enigmatic Charles VII, who did at last drive the English out.
A Brief History of the House of Windsor

A Brief History of the House of Windsor

The British monarchy may be over a thousand years old, but the House of Windsor dates only from 1917, when, in the middle of the First World War that was to see the demise of the major thrones of continental Europe, it rebranded itself from the distinctly Germanic Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the homely and familiar Windsor.

By redefining its loyalties to identify with its people and country rather than the princes, kings and emperors of Europe to whom it was related by birth and marriage, it set the monarchy on the path of adaptation, making itself relevant and allowing it to survive.

Since then, the fine line trodden by the House of Windsor between ancient and modern, grandeur and thrift, splendour and informality, remoteness and accessibility, and influence and neutrality has left it more secure and its appeal more universal today than ever.
A Brief History of the Roman Empire

A Brief History of the Roman Empire

In this lively and very readable history of the Roman Empire from its establishment in 27 BC to the barbarian incursions and the fall of Rome in AD 476, Kershaw draws on a range of evidence, from Juvenal’s Satires to recent archaeological finds.

He examines extraordinary personalities such as Caligula and Nero and seismic events such as the conquest of Britain and the establishment of a ‘New Rome’ at Constantinople and the split into eastern and western empires.

Along the way we encounter gladiators and charioteers, senators and slaves, fascinating women, bizarre sexual practices and grotesque acts of brutality, often seen through eyes of some of the world’s greatest writers. He concludes with a brief look at how Rome lives on in the contemporary world, in politics, architecture, art and literature.
A Brief History of Painting

A Brief History of Painting

The urge to create pictures of our world has been with us ever since early man daubed a fingerful of pigment on a rock, or used primitive colours to create exquisite images of the beasts he hunted – images so breathtakingly powerful they have never been surpassed, however sophisticated we have become. This book tells the story of what painting has meant to us, and how its role has changed over the centuries. In the crisp, unstuffy commentary on each of 150 landmark works, Christie’s art expert Roy Bolton leads us through the development of painting until our own age, where painting as a painterly craft has been overtaken by a proliferation of new forms introduced by contemporary art.


To the question, ‘Is the death of painting upon us?’ the introductory chapter by Matthew Collings, the multi-award-winning TV art presenter, art historian and cultural critic, gives an inspiring answer: ‘Painting justifies itself. Rather than pathetically struggling to keep up with the new freak-show culture of videos and installations, painting will only be worth having if it reconnects with its own inner life, where the old and the new are the same.’


Roy Bolton’s selection takes us from the Ancient World, via the Italian Renaissance, Rococo and Classicism to Impressionism, Modernism and the Contemporary World. Each painting, with its context and artist, is explained in terms designed to encourage us to judge art for ourselves. Written with authority and full of original and helpful insights, this is a history of art for our times.


‘While I find it interesting to think about all sorts of art, I prefer painting to any of it. Painting is soulful, important, serious and humane.’ Matthew Collings


‘We need to de-mystify art by stripping it down to its bare essentials, then rebuilding it ourselves, using our own minds and eyes, without all the pompous clutter.’ Roy Bolton

A Brief Guide to Jeeves and Wooster

A Brief Guide to Jeeves and Wooster

A comprehensive guide to P. G. Wodehouse’s two best-loved comic characters, Bertram Wilbeforce Wooster and his valet (‘Reggie’) Jeeves, Bertie’s friends and relatives and their world of sunshine, country houses and champagne.

Although the stories may seem quintessentially English, they were for the most part written in the United States by a man who spent more than half his adult life there, eventually becoming a citizen in 1955. The first stories involving the two characters are even set in New York, while those that aren’t are set in an England that has never existed, contrived to appeal to an American audience. Cawthorne offers fascinating insights into Wodehouse’s world, his life – on Long Island and elsewhere – the wonderful short stories and novels and the many adaptations for stage and screen.
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