28th Sept: Sir Max Hastings on ‘Vietnam’

VENUE CHANGE: Friday 28th September: Sir Max Hastings talks about his latest history book, ‘Vietnam’ at Herongate Club (please note this has moved from the Croft Hall)

From the best-selling author of All Hell Let Loose comes a masterful chronicle of one of the most devastating international conflicts of the 20th century and how its people were affected. Vietnam became the Western world’s most divisive modern conflict, precipitating a battlefield humiliation for France in 1954, then a vastly greater one for the United States in 1975. Max Hastings has spent the past three years interviewing scores of participants on both sides, as well as researching a multitude of American and Vietnamese documents and memoirs, to create an epic narrative of an epic struggle.

He portrays the set pieces of Dienbienphu, the Tet offensive, the air blitz of North Vietnam, and less familiar battles such as the bloodbath at Daido, where a US Marine battalion was almost wiped out, together with extraordinary recollections of Ho Chi Minh’s warriors. Here are the vivid realities of strife amid jungle and paddies that killed 2 million people. Many writers treat the war as a US tragedy, yet Hastings sees it as overwhelmingly that of the Vietnamese people, of whom forty died for every American.

US blunders and atrocities were matched by those committed by their enemies. While all the world has seen the image of a screaming, naked girl seared by napalm, it forgets countless eviscerations, beheadings and murders carried out by the communists. The people of both former Vietnams paid a bitter price for the Northerners’ victory in privation and oppression.

Here is testimony from Vietcong guerrillas, Southern paratroopers, Saigon bargirls and Hanoi students alongside that of infantrymen from South Dakota, Marines from North Carolina, Huey pilots from Arkansas. No past volume has blended a political and military narrative of the entire conflict with heart-stopping personal experiences, in the fashion that Max Hastings’ readers know so well. The author suggests that neither side deserved to win this struggle with so many lessons for the 21st century about the misuse of military might to confront intractable political and cultural challenges.

He marshals testimony from warlords and peasants, statesmen and soldiers, to create an extraordinary record. Three years in the making, this is one of the non-fiction publishing events of the year. Sir Max Hastings was 23 when he reported from this conflict. This is sure to be an excellent event.

Early booking is recommended. Tickets £8 from Hungerford Bookshop or on-line at ArtsForHungerford.com

7:30pm Herongate Club (please note change of venue)

Oct 4th: Ben MacIntyre on ‘The Spy & The Traitor’

Historian Ben Macintyre, author of Agent Zig-Zag and SAS Rogue Heroes, will be talking about his new book The Spy & the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War (published on 20th September).

A thrilling Cold War story about a KGB double agent, by one of Britain’s greatest historians. On a warm July evening in 1985, a middle-aged man stood on the pavement of a busy avenue in the heart of Moscow, holding a plastic carrier bag. In his grey suit and tie, he looked like any other Soviet citizen. The bag alone was mildly conspicuous, printed with the red logo of Safeway, the British supermarket.

The man was a spy. A senior KGB officer, for more than a decade he had supplied his British spymasters with a stream of priceless secrets from deep within the Soviet intelligence machine. No spy had done more to damage the KGB.

The Safeway bag was a signal: to activate his escape plan to be smuggled out of Soviet Russia. So began one of the boldest and most extraordinary episodes in the history of spying. Ben Macintyre reveals a tale of espionage, betrayal and raw courage that changed the course of the Cold War forever…

7:30pm Croft Hall, Hungerford. Tickets £8 (includes a glass of wine and £5 off the book on the night) from Hungerford Bookshop or on-line at ArtsForHungerford.com