June 27, 2017


New release: A Constant Heart: The War Diaries of Maud Russell 1938-1945 explores the wartime experiences of Maud Russell and her inner circle of friends, which included James Bond author Ian Fleming. From the press release: "The publication of Maud Russell’s diaries is of considerable importance. Few diaries covering the Second World War remain unpublished, even less weave together so many strands; politics, art, high society, wartime life on a country estate, the unfolding drama of the war itself – the last brought into even sharper focus by Maud’s struggle to help her Jewish relatives flee Nazi Germany. Together with her husband Gilbert, Maud’s principal home was Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire, described by John Julius Norwich in his foreword as ‘the most desirable house in England’, and which she later gave to the National Trust. The daughter of German immigrants, Maud was an outsider who owed her place in society to her wealth and marriage. To many she was an enigma, but the diaries reveal a woman of strong emotion with an immense appetite for life. The opening entries alone hint at the riches that lie ahead. There is a meeting in Paris with Matisse (who painted her), an anxious visit to Cologne, the commissioning of Rex Whistler to decorate the ‘big room’ at Mottisfont, and a deepening intimacy with Ian Fleming, almost certainly her lover – as in due course was the Russian mosaic artist Boris Anrep, whom she shared with his common-law wife. Yet despite Maud’s determination to forge a new life after Gilbert’s death in 1942, she was steadfast in her commitments, blessed with an unswerving sense of right and wrong, and loyal to her friends. And the list of those friends is to call the roll on British political and artistic life in the mid-twentieth century, many of whom are brought vividly to life in diaries which, until now, have remained private and unpublished." I visited Mottisfont Abbey last year with my friend and colleague Tom Cull from Artistic License Renewed. The rooms were a stunning time capsule to another era and one got the feeling that Maud and Ian might walk through the door at any moment. In fact, there was still a place setting for him at the table. I had a profound "if these walls could talk" sensation and my imagination was ignited with thoughts of historic visits and discussions about culture and the war effort. One could almost see the characters strolling the halls and grounds like ghosts. I was able to photograph many of the interiors and I tried to capture some clues of daily social life around the table, at the fireplaces, by the radio, card table, and ashtrays. You can even see one of Ian's cigarette cases next to a copy of Casino Royale on display. See my photographs below. A Constant Heart was published by Dovecote Press. More info at Ian Fleming Publications and Amazon. The book was edited by Maud's granddaughter Emily Russell, who was interviewed in April on Artistic License Renewed. Spy Vibers, have you heard my segments on the Cocktail Nation radio show? Episode #1 (Danger Man) and Episode #2 (The 10th Victim), Epsiode #3 (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) Episode #4 (Roger Moore/The Saint). Enjoy!

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