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The Red Earl by Selena Hastings

Bloomsbury Continuum
The Red Earl by Selena Hastings

In The Red Earl Selina Hastings tells the extraordinary story of her father, Jack Hastings, 16th Earl of Huntingdon. In 1925, Hastings infuriated his ultra-conservative parents by turning his back on centuries of tradition to make a scandalous run-away marriage. With his beautiful Italian wife he then left England for the other side of the world, further enraging his family by determining on a career as a painter.

The couple settled first in Australia, then on the island of Moorea in the South Pacific. Here, they led an idyllic existence until a bizarre accident forced them to leave the tropics forever. En route back to England, they stopped for a year in California, where Hastings continued to paint while enjoying a glamorous social life with actors such as Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks.

While in San Francisco, Hastings met the great Mexican artist Diego Rivera, and persuaded him to take him on as an assistant. For the next nearly four years he lived at close quarters with Rivera and with his wife, Frida Kahlo, first in San Francisco, then Detroit, and finally Mexico City. When eventually Hastings returned home it was to be faced with fighting on all fronts: in Spain during the Civil War; in England with his parents; and lastly with his wife, determined to keep him locked into a marriage from which by now he was desperate to escape.

This enthralling story, superbly well written, not only gives a new perspective on two of the 20th-century's greatest artists, Rivera and Kahlo, but also reveals in fascinating detail the private life of an aristocratic family of 100 years ago.

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When the Facts Change: Essays 1995-2010 by Tony Judt

Penguin Press
When the Facts Change: Essays 1995-2010 by Tony Judt

In an age in which the lack of independent public intellectuals has often been sorely lamented, the historian Tony Judt played a rare and valuable role, bringing together history and current events, Europe and America, what was and what is with what should be. In When the Facts Change, Tony Judt’s widow and fellow historian Jennifer Homans has assembled an essential collection of the most important and influential pieces written in the last fifteen years of Judt’s life, the years in which he found his voice in the public sphere. Included are seminal essays on the full range of Judt’s concerns, including Europe as an idea and in reality, before 1989 and thereafter; Israel, the Holocaust and the Jews; American hyperpower and the world after 9/11; and issues of social inclusion and social justice in an age of increasing inequality.

Judt was at once most at home and in a state of what he called internal exile from his native England, from Europe, and from America, and he finally settled in New York—between them all. He was a historian of the twentieth century acutely aware of the dangers of ethnic exceptionalism, and if he was shaped by anything, it was the Jewish past and his own secularism. His essays on Israel ignited a firestorm debate for their forthright criticisms of Israeli government polices relating to the Palestinians and the occupied territories. Those crucial pieces are published here in book form for the first time, including an essay, never previously published, called “What Is to Be Done?” These pieces are suffused with a deep compassion for the Israeli dilemma, a compassion that instilled in Judt a sense of responsibility to speak out and try to find a better path, away from what he saw as a road to ruin.

To read When the Facts Change is to miss Tony Judt’s voice terribly, but to cherish it for what it was, and still is: a wise, human, deeply informed view on our most pressing concerns, delivered in good faith.

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Munich Airport by Greg Baxter

Grand Central Publishing
Munich Airport by Greg Baxter

An American living in London receives a phone call from a German policewoman telling him the nearly inconceivable news that his sister, Miriam, has been found dead in her Berlin apartment-from starvation. Three weeks later the man, his father, and an American consular official named Trish find themselves in the bizarre surroundings of a fogbound Munich Airport, where Miriam's coffin is set to be loaded onto a commercial jet and returned to America.

Greg Baxter's bold, mesmeric novel tells the story of these three people over the course of three weeks, as they wait for Miriam's body to be released, grieve over her incomprehensible death, and try to possess a share of her suffering--and her yearning and grace.

With prose that is tense, precise, and at times highly lyrical, Munich Airportis a novel for our time, a work of richness, gravity, and even dark humor.

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Hell and Good Company by Richard Rhodes

Simon & Schuster
Hell and Good Company by Richard Rhodes

The Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) inspired and haunted an extraordinary number of exceptional artists and writers, including Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Martha Gellhorn, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, and John Dos Passos. The idealism of the cause—defending democracy from fascism at a time when Europe was darkening toward another world war—and the brutality of the conflict drew from them some of their best work: Guernica, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Homage to Catalonia, The Spanish Earth.

The war spurred breakthroughs in military and medical technology as well. New aircraft, new weapons, new tactics and strategy all emerged in the intense Spanish conflict. Indiscriminate destruction raining from the sky became a dreaded reality for the first time. Progress also arose from the horror: the doctors and nurses who volunteered to serve with the Spanish defenders devised major advances in battlefield surgery and front-line blood transfusion. In those ways, and in many others, the Spanish Civil War served as a test bed for World War II, and for the entire twentieth century.

From the life of John James Audubon to the invention of the atomic bomb, readers have long relied on Richard Rhodes to explain, distil, and dramatize crucial moments in history. Now, he takes us into battlefields and bomb shelters, into the studios of artists, into the crowded wards of war hospitals, and into the hearts and minds of a rich cast of characters to show how the ideological, aesthetic, and technological developments that emerged in Spain changed the world forever.

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