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Synopsis: I never meant to write a book about horse-racing. Nor – after “Today We Die A Little” – did I mean to write another book with a Czech hero. Then I came across the story of Lata Brandisová. It was simply too good to leave untold.

It’s set in what used to be Czechoslovakia. Its defining scene takes place in October 1937. Europe’s youngest, most idealistic democracy is on its knees. Millions are mourning the death of the nation’s founding father, the saintly Tomáš Masaryk. Across the border, the Third Reich is growing ever more menacing – and plotting to invade.

In the Czechoslovak heartlands, vast crowds have gathered to watch the threatened nation’s most prestigious sporting contest: the Grand Pardubice steeplechase. Arduous and absurdly dangerous, the race is considered the ultimate test of manhood and fighting spirit. The Nazis, as usual, have sent their paramilitary elite: SS and SA officers schooled to be Hitler’s most ruthless enforcers. Their mission: to crush and humiliate – yet again – the people they despise as “subhuman Slavs”. The local cavalry officers have no hope of stopping them.

But there is one other contestant: a middle-aged, silver-haired countess riding a little golden mare…

Genre

equine literature

Rated

n/r

Director's Bio

Richard Askwith is a Northamptonshire-based journalist and author whose passions include running, outdoor adventure and the traditions and ordinary people of the English countryside.

His most recent book, Unbreakable: the Countess, the Nazis in the World’s Most Dangerous Horse-race, tells the astonishing story of an unjustly forgotten female sporting icon, Lata Brandisová, and her struggles against gender prejudice and totalitarianism. Published in 2019, Unbreakable won Biography of the Year at the Telegraph Sports Book Awards, and was also long-listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award.

But Richard is probably best-known for his books about running. His cult book about fell-running, Feet in the Clouds (2004), won him the Best New Writer prize at the British Sports Publishing Awards and the Bill Rollinson Prize for Landscape and Tradition, as well as being shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award and for the Boardman-Tasker Prize.

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