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The Winding Stair

From Morley Boy to Westminster Knight

by Sir Rodney Brooke

“Few, if any, public servants can match Sir Rodney Brooke’s 60-year record … six decades of unbroken service across local government, the NHS, education, utilities and beyond surely give him a unique perspective…” – The Guardian

Sir Rodney Brooke has had an eventful life at the sharp end – thanks to a career that led him from 15-year-old school-leaver in Yorkshire to the corridors of power at Westminster… and all points in between. In The Winding Stair, his sparkling collection of memoirs, he takes readers through its highs and lows – beginning as a reporter on his hometown Morley Observer newspaper and ending with a CBE, knighthood and honours from five more countries. In so doing, he reveals hitherto unknown details behind six decades’ worth of controversial headline moments and colourful personalities.

As a former chief executive of West Yorkshire County Council, he shares fascinating background into the mysterious death of Helen Smith in Jeddah; the Bradford City fire, in which 56 people were killed; and the handling of the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.

As Emergency Controller in the event of nuclear war, he was told to shelter in a Pennine underground lair – and restore order as Geiger counters said to emerge. Read how Halifax invented the guillotine; why dogs could bark at night in Otley but not Ossett; how the law told householders in Huddersfield to whiten their doorsteps before 8.00am or be fined five shillings; and why the press camped on his Ilkley lawn after he resigned over the notorious ‘Homes for Votes’ episode – when Dame Shirley Porter was surcharged £42.5m.

Accounts of how he organised the final reading of the Riot Act and interviewed a talking dog with Mrs Thatcher’s press spokesman, Sir Bernard Ingham, are found among tales of Princess Diana’s underwear in Roundhay Park, Princess Margaret and the cakes at Leeds/Bradford airport, sex and the Poll Tax, the murky Dolphin Square scandals and how Trafalgar Square very nearly became Nelson Mandela Square. For anyone interested in current affairs and the reality behind politics, The Winding Stair – From Morley Boy to Westminster Knight is not to be missed.

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RICHIE – Who Cares?

Lost Childhood and a Boy’s Journey for Justice

by Richie Barlow – with Becky Bond

Foreword by Niall Paterson, of Sky News

Richie Barlow recently celebrated his 40th birthday, a landmark date he never thought he would reach. Many were the times – when struggling to survive a desperate childhood and adolescence – that he clinged to a dream of simply making it to 22.

Abandoned by his abusive mother and stepfather and placed in an inadequate care system, he was sold into child prostitution and criminality while the state apparatus knowingly failed him. But for the love and hope shared by surrogate parents Pauline and Anna, Richie would have become just another tragic statistic.

Yet released back into the world with few coping strategies, he was determined to make his mark and have his mistreatment at the hands of the local authority recognised in order to bring about the change necessary so others would not have to experience the sort of tribulations, tragedy and sorrow he had.

Now in a loving relationship, married to Ben, a new family around him and an award-winning dog walking business, Richie’s story is one of immense determination and inner strength against the longest odds. It is about hope, reclaiming the past and gaining justice. Harrowing yet uplifting, it is a must read.

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Ultimate Survivor: The Making of a Madman

PAPERBACK

by Martin Edwards

For Martin Edwards – Royal Marine, Special Forces survivor, soldier of fortune, thwarter of terrorists and much much more besides – life has been one big world of trouble.

The product of cruel parents in Rhyl, this born rebel’s escape was a long time coming. But once it was engineered, the road that opened up took him from North Wales to the high seas to Disney World Florida (thrown out, naturally), to undercover work in Northern Ireland and, ultimately, counter-insurgency in the likes of Abu Dhabi, Uganda and Otterton, a previously peaceful village in Devon!

Brutally beaten as a child – and attempting suicide at the age of twelve – he somehow retired as a multi-millionaire, but not before carving an equally remarkable trail through locations as diverse as deepest Dartmoor, Bogside, Kampala and the City of London, in the company of a colourful cast of characters.

Featuring a lively array of mind-boggling adventures, the majority laced with dark humour, Ultimate Survivor tells a story like no other. It is an X-rated tale of warship sieges, sexual abuse, hair-raising IRA ambushes, a death-defying run-in with notorious Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness, military coups, encounters with celebrity and a job as bodyguard to Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia. You are unlikely to have read a memoir quite like this one.

All profits from the sale of this book will be donated to charities supporting military mental health and vulnerable children

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Seasons of Change – Busking Britain

By Tom Kitching

Tom Kitching is one of England’s leading traditional fiddle players.

He has worked as a solo performer, band member, dance caller, violin teacher, and street busker. That last element – the busking – was an afterthought, something to be phased out as he built a career in music.

But the busking bug wouldn’t go away. Beyond the music and the collecting hat, perhaps fiddling through the streets of England could be a key to finding out who the English really are, how they view themselves and how they deal with change. Is there anything that ties together people across England’s many cultural divides, from neat Cotswold villages hugging village greens to former mining villages huddled beside abandoned pits, from multicultural city to Anglo-Saxon market town?

Armed with a violin, a Northern sensibility and a love of life in all its troubling richness, Tom took an 18-month journey through England to find out.

This isn’t really a book about busking, though. It’s about people, place, and that elusive beast – Englishness. On Tom’s street-level odyssey, the lines between friend and stranger blur, informality reigns, and chance encounters make a mockery of careful planning.

As the seasons change and the tally of busking towns grows, the complex mosaic called England confronts its fly-on-the-wall observer with the challenge – define me if you dare.

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The Dazzling Lady Docker

Britain’s Forgotten Reality Superstar

by Tim Hogarth

In the north of England there was a put-down for women who had ideas above their station: “Who do you think you are? Lady Docker?”

Through Britain’s post-War years, scarcely a day went by when Norah Docker and husband Sir Bernard didn’t dominate the newspapers. The Dazzling Dockers, as they became known, were on everyone’s lips. Rubbing shoulders with royalty and the era’s Hollywood stars, the pair caught the imagination of a public hungry for frivolity.

They were the pioneering reality superstars of their age, controversial standard-bearers for our own celebrity-obsessed 21st century. Yet of the two, there is no doubt whose star shone brightest. Born over a butcher’s shop in Derby, Norah Docker went on to enjoy a level of fame second only to a young Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Brash but always fun, Sir Bernard was her third millionaire catch in a row.

Antiques expert Tim Hogarth, star of ITV’s Dickinson’s Real Deal and Secret Dealers, re-tells a tale once familiar but now almost totally forgotten featuring excessive spending, posh furs, diamonds, gold-plated Daimlers and terrible behaviour, such as when Norah got the couple banned by Prince Rainier of Monaco and saw the jewel that inspired the Pink Panther films stolen, thereby becoming involved with the London underworld. The Dockers sailed the Med on their own superyacht, owned castles and country estates.

It couldn’t last, of course, and didn’t, but what waves this working class girl made en route from rags to riches and back again. From the Bright Young Things of London’s Roaring Twenties to their equivalents in the Swinging Sixties, the adventures of Lady Norah Docker are a dazzling treat.

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