This is a great little litfest – local to West London yet attracting a starry line-up including Max Hastings, Mary (Queen of Shops) Portas and senior stateman Vince Cable,. So I was honoured to be invited to join a panel for the launch session on Thursday evening this week in the stunning Palladian setting of Chiswick House. Well, in a tent actually, though a pretty splendid tent with chandeliers and posh flower arrangements.
My fellow-panelists were Sonia Purnell, author of a just-published biography of Clementine Churchill (First Lady, the Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill) and James MacManus who has cleverly woven the story of Roosevelt’s wartime aide Harry Hopkins into a engaging novel about love and cross-Atlantic politics in Blitz-worn London (Sleep in Peace Tonight). We were kept in check in the nicest possible way by our Chair, Diana Preston, author of A Higher Form of Killing, about 3 horrific episodes over a 6-week period in WW1 that changed the course and conduct of warfare forever.
It being almost precisely the 75th anniversary of the start of the London Blitz in September 1940, and as each of our books has the blitz at its heart, this was our subject. As we engaged with the attentive audience in the beautiful early autumn evening, we were all very much aware that, only streets away in Staveley Road on 8th September 1944, Chiswick itself had suffered the devastating results of the first V2 ballistic missile to hit the UK.
As someone in the audience said, how lucky we are to be here, now.