What the books are about

Duel in the Snows: The ...

In December 1903 a British army marched over the Himalayas to counter a non-existent Russian threat and was confronted by a medieval Tibetan army ordered to stop it by non-violent means. It was a clash between the mightiest political power in the world and the weakest. Leading the mission was the charismatic Francis Younghusband. Commanding the army escort was an officer determined to do things by the book: General James Macdonald. The result was conflict at every level. Drawing on diaries, letters and unpublished first-hand accounts, Charles Allen reveals not only the true character of one of Britain’s great imperial heroes but also the calamitous outcome for the Tibetan people of Britain’s last attempt at empire-building.

In Search of Zarathustra...

In Search of Zarathustra is a quest to trace the influence of the prophet the Greeks called Zoroaster and considered the greatest religious legislator of the ancient world. Long before the first Hebrew temple, the birth of Christ or the mission of Muhammad, Zarathustra had taught of a single universal god, of the battle between Good and Evil, of the Devil, Heaven and Hell, and of an eventual end to the world. Over several decades, Paul Kriwaczek, an award-winning television producer, has cast his eye across Europe and Central Asia, from Hadrian’s Wall to the Oxus river, from the Pyrenees to the Hindu Kush. Passing via Nietzsche’s interpretation of Zarathustra for a post-religious age, the Cathars of 13th-century France, the Bulgars of 9th-century Balkans, and the prophet Mani’s revision of Zarathustra’s message in the later Persian empire, Paul Kriwaczek then explores the religion of Mithras — before going back past Alexander the Great’s destruction of the Persian Empire, and the era of the great Persian kings Cyrus and Darius in the 6th century BC, to the beginning of the first pre-Christian millennium.

Touching the void

Joe Simpson and his partner, Simon Yates, tackled the unclimbed West Face of the remote 21,000 ft Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. In June 1985 they achieved the summit before disaster struck. In “Touching the Void” they tell their story.

The Carpet Wars

A personal odyssey through war, friendship and craftsmanship along the old Silk Route, this is a travel book that illuminates the contemporary story of south west Asia. In 1990, Christopher Kremmer arrived in Afghanistan to interview the doomed communist president, Dr Najibullah as rampaging factions of mujahideen massed on the outskirts of Kabul. He found himself intrigued by the politics and culture of the land, and his book provides revealing, often first-hand portraits of warlords such as Ahmad Shah Masood, “the Lion of Panjsher”, of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and of Pakistan’s President, General Pervez Musharraf. The real stories of the lands of the ancient Silk Route, however, are accessed through Kremmer’s obsession with the carpets of the region. Initiated into the wonders of the craft through the stunning classic design and pomegranate dyes of the filpai or Elephant’s Foot in Dr Najibullah’s office, Kremmer is hooked, and thus tells the tales of his lasting friendships with nomads on portable handlooms to managers of mechanised production units to the merchants in the souks and bazaars.

Where the Mountain...

Climbers who court danger in the world’s highest places risk far more than just their own skins. When tragedy strikes, what happens to the people who love them? Why would anyone choose to invest in a future with a high-altitude climber? What is life like in the shadow of the mountain? Such questions have long been taboo within the international world of mountaineering. Now Maria Coffey breaks this silence. She recounts climbers’ stories of near-death experiences, and gives a voice to the families and loved ones of Chris Bonington, Ed Viesturs, Anatoli Boukreev and Alex Lowe, amongst many other famous names.