Born Vera Welch in 1917 in the East End of London she began singing in Working Men’s Clubs from just seven years old. In World War II she became the iconic figure that captured the imagination of the public and soldiers alike and was known as the ‘Forces’ sweetheart’. Some sunny day: my autobiography is her story of her life and her war. On 13th September 2009, Dame Vera became the oldest living artist to make No. 1 in the UK album chart, at the age of 92. Her collection, ‘We’ll meet again: the very best of Vera Lynn’ overtook the re-mastered Beatles’ album of songs.
Halfway to Hollywood: diaries 1980-1988 by Michael Palin covers the 1980s, a time when the Pythons began their separate careers. Writing and acting in films and television then took much of his time and energy, culminating in the smash hit A Fish Called Wanda. His own role, the hapless, Ken won him a BAFTA. Moving into television journeys for the BBC was yet another success for him.
One of the first celebrity chefs, Keith Floyd communicated his love of food to millions of viewers. Making a wonderful dish and having a good time was his mission! Along the way he inspired a generation of men to get into the kitchen. His personal life was colourful, making and losing fortunes and marrying four times. His book Stirred but not shaken: the autobiography was completed just before he died.
Read the lives of these people and others including Somerset Maugham, Alan Clark, James Lees-Milne, Evelyn Waugh, Elsie Locke and C.K Stead in this month’s Recent Biography Picks.