Ann Bronte

tenantBritish novelist and poet Anne Brontë sadly passed away on 28 May 1849 at the age of 29 Due to the effects of pulmonary tuberculosis. Born 17 January 1820, she was The daughter of a poor Irish clergyman in the Church of England, Anne Brontë was the youngest member of the Brontë literary family and lived most of her life with her family at the parish of Haworth on the Yorkshire moors. For a couple of years she went to a boarding school. At the age of 19 she left Haworth and worked as a governess between 1839 and 1845. After leaving her teaching position, she fulfilled her literary ambitions. She wrote a volume of poetry with her sisters (Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, 1846) and two novels. Agnes Grey, based upon her experiences as a governess, was published in 1847. Her second and last novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which is considered to be one of the first sustained feminist novels, appeared in 1848. Mainly because the re-publication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was prevented by Charlotte Brontë after Anne’s death on 28 May 1849, she is less known than her sisters Charlotte, author of four novels including Jane Eyre, and Emily, author of Wuthering Heights. However her novels, have also become classics of English literature and have also been adapted for television and film multiple times.

Anne Brontë’s debut novel Agnes Grey is largely based on Anne Brontë’s own experiences as a governess for five years. Like her sister Charlotte’s novel Jane Eyre. It follows Agnes Grey, the daughter of a minister, whose family comes to financial ruin. Desperate to earn money to care for herself, she takes one of the few jobs allowed to respectable women in the early Victorian era, as a governess to the children of the wealthy. As a governess, she works in several bourgeois families including the Bloomfields and the Murrays The novel addresses what the precarious position of governess entailed and the trouble that affects a young woman who must try to rein in unruly, spoiled children for a living, and about the ability of wealth and status to destroy social values. The novel also deals with issues of oppression and abuse of women and governesses, isolation, ideas of empathy and the fair treatment of animals. After her father’s death Agnes opens a small school with her mother and finds happiness with a man who loves her for herself. By the end of the novel they have three children, Edward, Agnes and Mary.

Anne Brontë’s second and final novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, is considered to be one of the first sustained feminist novels and was an instant phenomenal success. The novel is framed as a letter from Gilbert Markham to his friend and brother-in-law about the events leading to his meeting his wife. It concerns A mysterious young widow named Mrs. Helen Graham who arrives at, an Elizabethan mansion named Wildfell Hall, which has been empty for many years, with her young son and servant. She lives there under an assumed name, Helen Graham in strict seclusion, and becomes a source of curiosity for the small community, gradually the reticent Mrs Graham and her young son Arthur are drawn into the social circles of the village. Initially, Gilbert Markham casually courts Eliza Millward, despite his mother’s belief that he can do better. His interest in Eliza wanes as he comes to know Mrs. Graham. In retribution, Eliza spreads (and perhaps creates) scandalous rumours about Helen.

very soon Helen finds herself the victim of local slander. Refusing to believe anything scandalous about her, Gilbert Markham, a young farmer, discovers her dark secrets. about her marriage to Arthur Huntingdon. a handsome, witty chap who is also spoilt, selfish, and self-indulgent, whom she marries blinded by love and resolves to reform with gentle persuasion and good example. Upon the birth of their child, Huntingdon becomes increasingly jealous of their son (also called Arthur) and his claims on Helen’s attentions and affections. Meanwhile Huntingdon’s dissolute friends lead him astray by frequently engage in drunken revels at the family’s home, Grassdale, oppressing those of finer character. Both men and women are portrayed as degraded, The novel deals with her husband’s physical and moral decline through alcohol and the world of debauchery and cruelty. Not surprisingly Helen decides she’s had enough and flee’s with her son, eventually arriving at Wildfell Hall….

Ian Fleming

casino185_339854aEnglish author, journalist and Naval Intelligence Officer Ian Fleming was born 28 May 1908 in Mayfair . He is best known for creating the fictional spy James Bond and the series of twelve novels and nine short stories about the character. Fleming was from a wealthy family, connected to the merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co. and his father was MP for Henley from 1910 until his death on the Western Front in 1917. In 1914 Fleming was sent to Durnford School, a preparatory school on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. The school was near to the estate of a family called Bond, who could trace their ancestry back to an Elizabethan spy called John Bond and whose motto was Non Sufficit Orbis—The World Is Not Enough. From 1921 Fleming followed his brother Peter to Eton College. Although not one of the academic stars of the school, he excelled at athletics and was Victor Ludorum.He left Eton a term early for a crammer course to gain entry to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Fleming spent less than a year at Sandhurst, leaving in 1927 without gaining a commission. He then went to a small private school, the Tennerhof, in Kitzbühel, Austria, run by a former British spy, and his American wife, the novelist Phyllis Bottome.

His language skills developed well and from the Tennerhof he studied briefly at Munich University and the University of Geneva. Foreign Office, but failed the examinations. In October 1931 he was eventually given a position as a sub-editor and journalist for the Reuters news service. in October 1933 moved into the banking world with a position at financiers Cull & Co. He was not a good banker and, in October 1935, became a stockbroker with Rowe and Pitman, headquartered on Bishopsgate, London. From 1929 onwards Fleming Also collected a library of over one thousand books of what Fleming described as “books that made things happen.”These books represented “milestones in modern science, technology and Western civilization.” He concentrated on science and technology, had a copy of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species but also owned other significant works ranging from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf to Baden Powell’s Scouting for Boys.Second World WarDuring the Second World War Fleming was recruited by the Director of Naval Intelligence of the Royal Navy to become his personal assistant with the codename “17F”. On 29 September 1939 a document comparing deception of an enemy in wartime with fly fishing was published which contained a number of schemes to be considered for use against the Axis powers, in order to lure U-boats and German surface ships towards minefields. Number 28 on the list was an idea to use a corpse, carrying misleading papers, which the enemy could find: this suggestion formed the basis of Operation Mincemeat, the successful 1943 deception plan to cover the intended invasion of Italy from North Africa. On 12 September 1940 Fleming wrote a memo instigating a plan named Operation Ruthless, aimed at obtaining details of the Enigma codes used by the German Navy. The memo suggested “obtaining” a German bomber, putting ina German-speaking crew, all dressed in Luftwaffe uniforms, and crashing the plane into the English channel. When the Germans would come to rescue the crew, they would be attacked and the boat, including its Enigma machine, would be brought back to England. Fleming also worked on intelligence co-operation between London and Washington.In May 1941 Fleming went to the United States and assisted in writing a blueprint for the Office of the Coordinator of Information, the department which turned into the Office of Strategic Services and eventually became the CIA. In 1941-42 Fleming was put in charge of Operation Golden Eye, a plan to maintain an intelligence framework in Spain in the event of a German takeover of the territory. The plan, drawn up by Fleming, involved maintaining communication with Gibraltar and launching sabotage operations against the Nazis.

russia185_339850aIn 1942 Fleming formed a unit of commandos, known as No. 30 Commando, or 30 Assault Unit (30AU), a group of specialist intelligence troops. 30 AU’s job was to be near the front line of an advance—sometimes in front of it— to seize enemy documents from HQs previously targeted.Fleming selected targets and directed operations from the rear, The unit was filled with men from other commando units and trained in unarmed combat, safe-cracking and lock-picking at the Special Operations Executive (SOE) facilities. Prior to the Normandy landings, most of 30AU’s operations were in the Mediterranean. Because of their successes in Sicily and Italy, 30AU became greatly trusted by naval intelligence. In March 1944, Fleming oversaw the distribution of intelligence through to Royal Navy units in preparation for Operation Overlord and he subsequently followed the unit into Germany after they located the German naval archives from 1870, archived in Tambach Castle. ntelligence fact-finding trip to the Far East on behalf of the Director of Naval Intelligence.Much of the trip was spent identifying opportunities for 30AU in the Pacific.In August 1944, following the success of 30AU, it was decided to establish a “Target Force”, which became known as T-Force. The official memorandum, held at The National Archives in London described their primary role as: “T-Force = Target Force, to guard and secure documents, persons, equipment, with combat and Intelligence personnel, after capture of large towns, ports etc. in liberated and enemy territory.”It was responsible for securing targets of interest to the British military. These included nuclear laboratories, gas research centres and individual rocket scientists. The unit’s most notable coup was during the advance on the German port of Kiel, where it captured the research centre for German engines used for the V-2 rocket, Messerschmitt Me 163 fighters and high speed U-boats. Fleming was to use elements of the activities of T-Force, particularly in his 1955 Bond novel Moonraker.In 1942 Fleming attended an Anglo-American intelligence summit in Jamaica and Fleming decided to live on the island a friend helped him find a plot of land in Saint Mary Parish and, in 1945, Fleming had a house built there, which he named Goldeneye. The name of the house and estate where he wrote his novels has many possible sources. Ian Fleming himself cited both his wartime Operation Golden Eye, but also the 1941 novel, Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers. n May 1945, he joined The Sunday Times and became Foreign Manager.

During the war Fleming had mentioned to friends that he wanted to write a spy novel, but it was not until 1952 that he began to write his first novel, Casino Royale. He started writing his book at his Jamaican home Goldeneye, on 17 February 1952. On 13 April 1953 Casino Royale was released in the UK in hardcover, Three print runs were needed, all of which sold out. The novel centred on the exploits of James Bond, an intelligence officer in the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6. Bond was also known by his code number, 007, and was a Royal Naval Reserve commander. Bond was a composite based on all the secret agents and commando types Fleming came across during his time in the Naval Intelligence Division during World War II. Between 1953 and 1966, two years after his death, twelve Bond novels and two short-story collections were published, with the last two books—The Man with the Golden Gun, Octopussy and The Living Daylights—published posthumously.Much of the background to the stories came from Fleming’s previous work in the Naval Intelligence Division or to events he knew of from the Cold War. me from Fleming’s previous work in the Naval Intelligence Division or to events he knew of from the Cold War. The plot of From Russia, with Love uses a fictional Soviet Spektor decoding machine as a lure to trap Bond; the Spektor had its roots in the German World War II Enigma machine.

imageMany of the names used in the Bond works are from people Fleming knew: the primary villain of The Man with the Golden Gun, Scaramanga was named after a fellow schoolboy at Eton, with whom Fleming fought; Goldfinger, from the eponymous novel, was named after British architect Erno Goldfinger, whose work Fleming abhorred;Sir Hugo Drax, the protagonist from Moonraker, was named after an acquaintance of Fleming’s, Admiral Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax (What a splendid name “Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett”) and one of the homosexual villains from Diamonds Are Forever, ‘Boofy’ Kidd, was named after one of Fleming’s close friends. the first five books —Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds Are Forever and From Russia,with Love proved to be wildly successful. In 1958 Dr. No was published and the next book Fleming produced was a collection of short stories, For Your Eyes Only. Fleming followed up the book by novelizing a film script that he had worked on with others, the resulting novel being Thunderball. In April 1961, he also began working on a children’s novel, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, which was published in October 1964. Fleming’s creation has also appeared in film twenty-four times with seven actors playing the role of Bond, the film rights to his James Bond novels and short stories were sold in 1962 to Harry Saltzman who along with Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli co-produced Dr. No, which was released in 1962.

Fleming was a heavy smoker and heavy drinker throughout his adult life and suffered from heart disease. In 1961 he suffered a heart attack; three years later, at the age of 56, Fleming was already an ill man, suffering from the disease In January 1964 Fleming went to Goldeneye to write The Man with the Golden Gun. Sadly Five months after returning from Jamaica, on the morning of 12 August 1964, Fleming died of a heart attack and was buried in the churchyard of Sevenhampton village, near Swindon, and Fleming’s last two books—The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy and The Living Daylights—were published posthumously. During his lifetime Fleming sold thirty million books; double that number were sold in the two years following his death and The Bond books are among the biggest-selling series of fictional books of all time, having sold over 100 million copies worldwide andIn observance of what would have been Fleming’s 100th birthday in 2008, Ian Fleming Publications commissioned Sebastian Faulks to write a new Bond novel entitled Devil May Care. The book, released in May 2008, was credited to Fleming also wrote the children’s story Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang and two works of non-fiction.Fleming was ranked fourteenth in a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945″. The Eon Productions series of Bond films, started in 1963 with Dr. No, continued after Fleming’s death. As well as two non-Eon produced films, there have been twenty-two Eon films, with the twenty-third, Skyfall, announced in November 2011.A further five continuation authors have also produced Bond novels including “Sebastian Faulks, writing as Ian Fleming”, who was followed by American thriller author Jeffery Deaver, whose novel, Carte Blanche, was published in May 2011 and William Boyd has written the latest novel “Solo” which was released Autumn 2013 and has recently been released in paperback.

Gladys Knight

Best known as the “Empress of Soul” American singer. Songwriter,Gladys Knight was born 28th May 1944. She is best known for the hits she recorded during the 1960s and 1970s, for both the Motown and Buddah Records labels, with her group Gladys Knight & the Pips, the most famous incarnation of which also included her brother Merald “Bubba” Knight and her cousins Edward Patten and William Guest. Knight has won a total of seven Grammy awards (four as a solo artist, and three with The Pips).Gladys Knight & the Pips joined the Motown roster in 1966, and scored several hit singles, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, (recorded first by Marvin Gaye but released a year later), “Friendship Train” (1969), “If I Were Your Woman” (1970), “I Don’t Want To Do Wrong” (1971), the Grammy Award winning “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” (1972), and “Daddy Could Swear (I Declare)” (1973).

Gladys Knight & the Pips joined the Motown roster in 1966, and, although regarded as a second-string act, scored several hit singles, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, (recorded first by Marvin Gaye but released a year later), “Friendship Train” (1969), “If I Were Your Woman” (1970), “I Don’t Want To Do Wrong” (1971), the Grammy Award winning “Neither One of Us (Want to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” (1972), and “Daddy Could Swear (I Declare)” (1973). In their early Motown career Gladys Knight and the Pips toured as the opening act for Diana Ross and The Supremes. Gladys Knight stated in her memoirs that Ross kicked her off the tour because the audience’s reception to Knight’s soulful performance overshadowed her. Berry Gordy later told Gladys that she was giving his act a hard time.The act left Motown for a better deal with Buddah Records in 1973, and achieved full-fledged success that year with hits such as the Grammy-winning “Midnight Train to Georgia” , I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” and “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happeed to Me”. In the summer of 1974, Knight and the Pips recorded the soundtrack to the successful film Claudine with producer Curtis Mayfield.

The act was particularly successful in Europe, and especially the United Kingdom. However, a number of the Buddah singles became hits in the UK long after their success in the US. For example, “Midnight Train to Georgia” hit the UK pop charts Top 5 in the summer of 1976, a full three years after its success in the U.S.During this period of greater recognition, Knight made her motion picture acting debut in the film Pipe Dreams, a romantic drama set in Alaska. The film failed at the box-office, but Knight did receive aGolden Globe Best New Actress nomination.Knight and the Pips continued to have hits until the late 1970s, when they were forced to record separately due to legal issues, resulting in Knight’s first solo LP recordings–Miss Gladys Knight(1978) on Buddah and Gladys Knight (1979) on Columbia Records. Having divorced James Newman II in 1973, Knight married Barry Hankerson (future uncle of R&B singer Aaliyah), then Detroit mayor Coleman Young’s executive aide. Knight and Hankerson remained married for four years, during which time they had a son, Shanga Ali. Upon their divorce, Hankerson and Knight were embroiled in a heated custody battle over Shanga Ali.In the early 1980s, Johnny Mathis invited Gladys to record two duets – “When A Child Is Born” (previously a hit for Mathis) and “The Lord’s Prayer”.

Signing with Columbia Records in 1980 and restored to its familiar quartet form, Gladys Knight & the Pips began releasing new material. The act enlisted former Motown producers Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson for their first two LPs–About Love (1980) and Touch (1981). During this period, Knight kicked a gambling addiction to the game baccarat.While still with The Pips, Knight joined with Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John on the 1986 AIDS benefit single, “That’s What Friends Are For” which won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. In 1989, Gladys Knight recorded the title track for the James Bond movie Licence to Kill, a top 10 hit both in the UK, reaching #6, and Germany.In 1987, Knight decided to pursue a solo career, and she and the Pips recorded their final LP together, All Our Love (1987), for MCA Records. Its lead single, “Love Overboard”, was a successful hit and won a third Grammy for the act as well. After a successful 1988 tour, the Pips retired and Knight began her solo career. Gladys Knight & the Pips were inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Knight’s third solo LP, Good Woman, was released by MCA in 1991. It rose to #1 on the R&B album chart and featured the #2 R&B hit “Men”. The album also featured “Superwoman”, written by Babyface and featuring Dionne Warwick and Patti LaBelle. Knight and LaBelle would collaborate the same year on “I Don’t Do Duets”, a duet with Patti LaBelle from LaBelle’s album Burnin’.Her fourth solo LP, Just for You, went gold and was nominated for the 1995 Grammy Award for Best R&B Album. In 1992 Vernon Ray Blue II, choir master of the year asked Gladys to record his first single “He Lifted Me”Knight joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1997. She had occasionally teased LDS Church president, the lateGordon B. Hinckley, that his flock needs to inject some “pep” into their music. Knight created and now directs the Mormon-themed choir Saints Unified Voices. SUV has released a Grammy Award-winning CD titled One Voice, and occasionally performs at LDS church firesides.In 2005, a duet between Knight and Ray Charles of “You Were There” was released on Charles’ duets album Genius & Friends.In 2008, a duet between Knight and Johnny Mathis was released on Mathis’ album A Night to Remember. Knight is ranked number eighteen on VH1 network’s list of the 100 Greatest Women of Rock.In the spring of 2008, Knight appeared alongside Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle and Diana Ross at the ‘Divas with Heart’ concert in aid of cardiac research, at New York’s Radio City Hall.In 2008 Gladys, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller performed on American Idol to raise money for charity. In March 2010,Randy Jackson mentioned on a new episode of the same show that he is back in the studio with Gladys Knight working on a new album.In 2009 Knight sang “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” and “The Lord’s Prayer” at the funeral service for Michael Jackson.On December 21, 2010, Knight released the single “Settle” on iTunes and Amazon. In September 2011, a new, updated recording of I (Who Have Nothing) was released on iTunes and Amazon.

Kylie Minogue

KyliePA251006_243x400Australian singer, recording artist, songwriter and actress Kylie Ann Minogue, OBE was born 28 May 1968), often known simply asKylie . After beginning her career as a child actress on Australian television, she achieved recognition through her role in the television soap opera Neighbours, before commencing her career as a recording artist in 1987.Minogue has achieved worldwide record sales of more than 68 million, and has received notable music awards, including multiple ARIA and Brit Awards and a Grammy Award. She has mounted several successful and critically acclaimed concert world tours and received a Mo Award for “Australian Entertainer of the Year” for her live performances. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2008 “for services to music”. In the same year she was appointed by the French Government as a Chevalier (knight) of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the junior grade of France’s highest cultural honour, for her contribution to the enrichment of French culture. In 2011 her hit single “I Should Be So Lucky” was added to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia’s Sounds of Australia registry. The same year, Minogue was awarded an honorary Doctor of Health Science (D.H.Sc.) degree by Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom of for her work in raising awareness for breast cancer. In November 2011, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ARIA Music Awards, Minogue was inducted by theAustralian Recording Industry Association into the ARIA Hall of Fame.Her first single, “The Loco-Motion”, spent seven weeks at number one on the Australian singles chart and became the highest-selling single of the decade. This led to a contract with songwriters and producers Stock, Aitken & Waterman.( I met Pete Waterman down at the Severn Valley Railway a few years ago, however I Digress). Her debut album, Kylie (1988), and the single “I Should Be So Lucky”, both performed well on international charts, particularly in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Initially presented as a “girl next door”, Minogue attempted to convey a more mature style in her music and public image. Her singles were well received, but after four albums her sales were declining, and she left Stock, Aitken & Waterman in 1992 to establish herself as an independent performer. Her next single, “Confide in Me”, reached number one in Australia and was a hit in several European countries in 1994, and a duet with Nick Cave, “Where the Wild Roses Grow”, brought Minogue a greater degree of artistic credibility. Drawing inspiration from a range of musical styles and artists, Minogue took creative control over the songwriting for her next album, Impossible Princess (1997). Minogue returned to prominence in 2000 with the single “Spinning Around” and the dance-oriented album Light Years, and she performed during the closing ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Her music videos showed a more sexually provocative and flirtatious personality and several hit singles followed. “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” reached number one in more than 40 countries, and the album Fever (2001) was a hit in many countries, including the US, a market in which Minogue had previously received little recognition. In 2005, in the middle of a concert tour, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, forcing her to cancel the tour. After treatment, she resumed her career in 2006 with the Showgirl: The Homecoming Tour. In 2009, she embarked upon her For You, For Me tour, her first concert tour of the US and Canada.