Painter of Silence, By Georgina Harding

Romanian friends reunited against the elegant sweep of class, love and history

Doctor Peter Lowe: Historian of the Asia-Pacific

Peter Lowe was a distinguished international historian of the 20th century Asia-Pacific, the author of six major books covering half a century of developments in East Asia and Britain's reactions to them. He combed the archives of many countries, focusing on the period from 1911 when Britain – and the British Empire – were forces to be reckoned with, to the 1960s, when Britain had to limit her overseas interests. His careful scholarship over four decades was firmly founded on an admirable attention to primary sources.

The Moment, By Douglas Kennedy

The past is a foreign country in more ways than one for the protagonists of Douglas Kennedy's novel. Largely set in Cold War Berlin, this hard-hitting love story tears down the dividing walls between past and present, showing how the course of history can turn in an instant. An author of consistently engaging and clever bestsellers, Kennedy has ranged from Stateside dramas to noirish thrillers. The Moment pulls together both strains in his fiction, marrying romantic tragedy with Le Carré-style espionage.

How the Hippies Saved Physics, By David Kaiser

Quantum non-locality? Far out, man

Made up: Meryl Streep (Margaret Thatcher) and Jim Broadbent (Sir Denis) in 'The Iron Lady'

Meryl Streep gets Bafta nomination for 'The Iron Lady'

Meryl Streep has continued her awards run while silent film The Artist and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy have been showered with nominations at this year's Baftas.

Leopold Hawelka: Proprietor whose café played its part in the Cold War

Leopold Hawelka, owner of the legendary Viennese café that bore his name, was born the son of a Bohemian shoemaker in the village of Kautendorf in Austria's wine region. Moving with his family to Vienna in 1925, he was lucky to get an apprenticeship as a waiter, a respected profession, at one of the capital's best restaurants. In 1936 he married Josefine Danzberger, a butcher's daughter, who was also employed in the catering trade. Determined to succeed in business, they leased the modest Café Alt Wien.

Daniel Howden: Decades of interference – and not a single success

If Britain or Nato were ever to contemplate a military intervention in Somalia, it would be incredible. And any hopes that even a lesser role in the country would be successful must be met with scepticism. Not because there aren't already foreign influences in the Horn of Africa nation – at the latest count there are five armies there – but because in all the decades of outside interference there hasn't been a single success.

Harry Morgan: Actor best known as Colonel Potter in 'M*A*S*H'

The weasel-faced American actor Harry Morgan first came to the attention of audiences worldwide when he played Jack Webb's final sidekick, Officer Bill Gannon, in the gritty crime series Dragnet, which drew its storylines from cases actually investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department. The character was businesslike on duty but presented light relief at other times, sometimes seen displaying his questionable gourmet talents – such as making a garlic-nut-butter sandwich – and trying to persuade his boss, Sergeant Joe Friday (Webb), to give up his perpetual bachelorhood.

Lyle, right, goes on the attack against Muhammad Ali during their 1975 world title fight in Las Vegas

Ron Lyle: Boxer who took on Ali and Foreman

Ron Lyle was an élite member of the fighting brotherhood of American heavyweights from the 1970s that included Muhammad Ali, Ken Norton, George Foreman, Jerry Quarry, Joe Frazier and Earnie Shavers. Lyle, however, was the most fearsome of the gifted sluggers, with two known murders on his arrest sheet, a signed death certificate from a prison stabbing and a brutal reputation. He was also, as his brilliant biographer Candace Toft has written, a "soft-spoken and gentle man".

Gary Player (right) says golf brings people together. It seems Ian Woosnam is in agreement, even if the majority of people would beg to differ

Red Plenty: Inside the Fifties' Soviet Dream, By Francis Spufford

Dreamers of the world, united

Colonel Albert Bachmann: Swiss spymaster whose paranoid fantasies embarrassed his government

Colonel Albert Bachmann was Switzerland's colourful but controversial spymaster, who single-handedly made his country's intelligence service a laughing stock. Through his fantasies and paranoia he brought humiliation upon the Swiss government when he was exposed. Loyalists regarded him as a fearless visionary; others agreed with the intelligence agent who dismissed his former boss as "a glorified Boy Scout who saw evil everywhere and believed that he alone possessed the absolute truth about national defence."

Bobby Fischer Against The World (12A)

The life of US chess superstar Bobby Fischer divides quite neatly into three acts: Fame, then Obscurity, then Notoriety.

Leading article: Presidents past

US Independence Day was marked in London with the unveiling of a 10ft bronze statue of the late US President, Ronald Reagan, outside the US embassy. To which there is only one rational response: why? At least it was not funded by the British taxpayer. On the other hand, if the project had depended on British money, there might well have been no statue at all. The only home-grown contribution was Westminster Council's decision to waive a rule that requires someone to have been dead for 10 years before qualifying for a public statue. Which prompts thoughts about who might justifiably qualify for such a dispensation. How about Mikhail Gorbachev – the man who really ended the Cold War?

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