Airey neave

The sheer tedium of life at Colditz

They say each generation needs its own biographies of Cleopatra, Joan of Arc and Napoleon, not just when more evidence is unearthed but because the lens through which we view character and motive changes. The same is true for the great set pieces of history. According to Ben Macintyre, the story of Colditz and its second world war POWs with their ‘moustaches firmly set on stiff upper lips, defying the Nazis by tunnelling out of a grim Gothic castle on a German hilltop’ has been unchanged and unchallenged for more than 70 years. In his latest page-turner, Macintyre includes the stories of those heroes who were not straight, white, moustachioed

Dark days for Britain: London, Burning, by Anthony Quinn, reviewed

Not long ago, a group of psychologists analysing data about national happiness discovered that the British were at their unhappiest in 1978. Reading Anthony Quinn’s enjoyable novel set in that year and early 1979, it’s not difficult to see why. In case you’ve forgotten, strikes were spreading like wildfire. The National Front were reaching a peak of popularity. Most alarming of all, the Provisional IRA were expanding their bomb attacks on mainland Britain. There were compensations. Kate Bush’s whiny lament ‘Wuthering Heights’ was released in 1978, and there was a new Pinter at the National Theatre (Betrayal). Punk rock was going commercial. One of the characters in London, Burning turns