Book Review – “The Face OF Evil”

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Original Cover of “The Face Of Evil”

I was delighted to be sent a copy of the debut book from author Robert Giles, who has collaborated with former Norfolk Police Intelligence officer (Ret’d) and true crime/cold case author Chris Clark, on the subject of a groundbreaking book concerning the life and crimes of the reviled, late British serial killer Robert Black. Black is often overlooked in the annals of British crime, despite the revulsion of his crimes, and makes for a fascinating study, so any text concerning the case will always be found on the reading list of TTCE. The Face Of Evil is just so.

Through conversations with both the authors, I know exactly the hard work and research that has gone into creating the book. I also know that, through events of years past, the Robert Black case has a personal connection to Chris. So I eagerly anticipated its publication and Chris was good enough to send me a copy for review (and of course, my library).  And I wasn’t disappointed.

At 314 pages, it is the perfect reading size really. The pagination shows the depth of coverage of the subject, and this size does not daunt the reader. Also contained within are 8 pages of colour/black and white photographs that will impress the reader for the variation and uniqueness of them. As I have said before, I am always impressed with detail and will search out a book concerning a subject that I already have blanket coverage of on my shelves if it contains even one or two previously unknown details to myself.

Structured into two parts (the authors have written a part each) the first part chronicles Robert Black’s life and crimes, up to his arrest, trial and imprisonment. This recounting of Black’s life and crimes is quite simply phenomenal. As I have stated in several of my other book reviews on TTCE, I am greatly impressed with detail. The detail contained here is staggering, and the reader will be left in no doubt of the dedication, time and effort that Robert has put into researching and writing this book. It is the latest in only a handful of books concerning Black, and I am in no doubt that it deservedly should become the canonical one. Covered expertly.

It would not be for me to recount in full here the horrific crimes that Robert Black was imprisoned for. Not only do the authors of The Face Of Evil do this comprehensively and engagingly, but another area where the book stands out for me is the work that has gone in to examining Black’s possible culpability in many other unsolved murders of children, not just in the United Kingdom but throughout Europe also. Reader’s of Chris’s other works will recognise here the approach taken to researching these cold cases, and will find within strong, well-founded arguments suggesting Black’s culpability in the cases that he is widely suspected of. Some of these unsolved cases will be familiar names to the true crime reader, whilst others will be widely unknown (several I was unaware of before reading).

The only critical points with The Face Of Evil I found, and I must say these are slight and should in no way should reflect upon the authors at all, is that due to the amount of information contained within, I believe that the book may have benefited with an index. This would have benefited the reader (like myself) who is interested in researching further names and cases mentioned. There are also slight typeface errors and changes in font scattered at a few points throughout the book and a discrepancy between the actual and advertised book covers – but I should stress these lie at the foot of the publishers, not the authors.

This is a book I found fascinating, well written and very informative. For Chris, it is yet another literary success and for Robert, deservedly his first. A very worthwhile addition to any true crime shelf, and highly recommended.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

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RedHanded Podcast – Review

 

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It’s been some time since I reviewed a podcast for TTCE, and in the time since I last did, I’ve worked with a couple (you know who you are), chopped and changed a few that I listen to, got fed up of some, and become a fan of a few new that I have discovered. I’ll get around to them all in time, but the one I’m concentrating on at this moment is a UK-based true crime/paranormal one called RedHanded.

RedHanded is a relatively fledgling podcast, having only dropped episode 6 in its first series/season this week (01 Aug), and is run by two pleasant-sounding ladies named Hannah and Suruthi who deliver each episode naturally and confidently. It covers true crime – not just your grisly murders, but bizarre crimes also, as well as notable cases of the paranormal. And a bizarre case of the two of them trapped in a small cupboard (the mind boggles)………

I’ve come to RedHanded for several reasons really: Firstly, it’s a UK-based one covering (to date) solely UK cases. Regular readers of TTCE know that this is my forte also, so that’s a plus point to me. The UK has more than enough fascinating, recountable cases that stick in the mind if they are searched for, and I find that people are most interested with places they know can picture or identify with more so than somewhere the other side of the world from you. I certainly do. Secondly, and again this is impressive to me – is that the cases that are covered are not lazily chosen. A bit of work has gone into each episode here – this isn’t the West case told yet again, or Jack The Ripper version six million, where minimal effort has to go in. That’s boring and would be re-inventing the wheel – what new would they bring to the table? No, RedHanded’s cases mostly won’t be too familiar with the listener. Whilst I am no expert, I am very well read as a crime researcher and at least two of the cases, I was pleasantly surprised to be unfamiliar with. I found myself looking them up after listening – interest piqued, job done.

And the cases that are better known – for example, Bible John or the infamous 1985 White House Farm Massacre – are equally well researched and presented and are not just a rehashed recount of well documented facts, but with valid points of view and personal opinions thrown in also, ones that make the listener know that the hosts are interested. Nobody wants a robot reading off a sheet – a bit of feeling and an understanding and opinion goes a long way. I was also refreshed to see a paranormal angle in there as well – for it’s always been as equal a fascination and interest for me that (come on, who wouldn’t want to be Mulder or Scully?) – and it’s the very interesting case of the Enfield Poltergeist as well – hopefully, the first of many more.

It will also be apparent to the listener that the girls grow more confident with each episode – I know this is true of many podcast hosts (everybody starts somewhere and practice makes perfect). The episodes get longer, the content is delivered more clearly and relaxed, and it is also clear how much they enjoy what they do – which benefits everybody. Hannah and Suruthi are both very approachable and helpful, and are establishing themselves well in the true crime online community. I’m even pleased to say that RedHanded and TTCE have had discussions, and are searching for a suitable project to collaborate on together. Watch this space….

So, it may seem to the reader that I never seem to listen to a bad podcast, and I’m a bit of a sycophant. Well, I’ve listened to some shocking podcasts that I have consigned to the delete button, believe me. I won’t review any bad podcasts, that seems an unnecessary knock and even if i do think content is dull, I still respect the time it takes people to do these things. Instead, I focus on championing ones that are good. And I would have no qualms in raising any negative points I found – I am very fair as my other reviews will reflect, a good review has to have plus and minus points. But the simple fact is, I find no minus points with RedHanded. It’s become one of my must listens each week – and I invite the reader to see if they agree with me. Excellent work ladies, you should be very proud.

Find RedHanded at:

Player FM Link

itunes Link

Top Podcast Link

Twitter – @RedHandedthepod

Instagram – RedHanded the Podcast

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Book Review – “Catching A Serial Killer”

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TTCE was well aware of the existence of a book in the works written by former Wiltshire Police Detective Superintendent Stephen Fulcher following his work bringing to justice what must be one of the most evil, and more than likely, prolific serial killers that Britain has ever known, Christopher Halliwell. As the case is quite high profile and well-known (and sadly it should be added, arguably not for the correct reasons it should be), it was a book that was always on the list to read and review for TTCE, as it is a case that would pique the interest of any true crime reader. TTCE was well familiar with the case and the subsequent events of it, so was all too eager to read the book. Released last week, and read immediately upon its release, the review is as follows.

“Catching A Serial Killer” details the disappearance of and subsequent police investigation into the whereabouts of a missing 22 year old girl, Sian O’Callaghan, which made headline news within the UK in March 2011. Through determined efforts and a tireless, professional and dedicated enquiry, Sian’s killer, taxi driver Christopher Halliwell, was brought to justice. Halliwell is now serving a whole-life tariff for the murders of both Sian, and a second victim, Becky Godden-Edwards, whose murder Halliwell was convicted for in 2016.

There is much available online to read about Christopher Halliwell, the murder of Sian, and the discovery of Becky’s body. Yet equally, there is much available also to read about Steve Fulcher. It does not serve this review any to recount any of these details here, the book and the author does that well enough and covering the plot points here would ruin it for the reader.

TTCE found “Catching A Serial Killer” to be very chronologically written, very honest and personal, and to cover the enquiry start to finish. It was set at the pace of the enquiry, so the reader can place themselves there by the side of investigating officers – it helps appreciate the timeframe and the complexity of a fast paced missing person/suspected murder enquiry. Police jargon and acronyms are explained, and the author delves deep enough into the personal effects such an enquiry has upon those investigating that it really brings home what lies on the shoulders of investigating officers. Not many similar books off the top of the head have done this as well. It’s a fast read, and written so the reader feels the highs and lows of the investigation with Det Supt Fulcher and his team.

So, with successfully taking a multiple murderer off the streets, one would expect Steve Fulcher to be commended? Absolutely not – he was forced out of an unblemished police career by an IPCC as a result of his actions during the case. The most high-profile case of a career – and unfortunately, also the most costly. The events leading to this are all explained in a chronological order, and a very honest one for that matter – Steve is honest throughout, and explains thoroughly his actions and the reasons for doing so. Perhaps “enjoyed” is the wrong word to use for the reader to feel after reading a book such as this – after all, should any true crime text concerning the murder of young girls be enjoyed? – but TTCE thought it an overall fascinating and engaging book.

The two negative points TTCE found with “Catching A Serial Killer” are as follows: there is a complete lack of photographs contained within the book, which is always of interest to any reader in the opinion of TTCE and indeed, has often helped sales and interest. Not necessarily crime scene photos – it is understandable that due to sensitivity and of course evidential value that these are not included. But pictures of places mentioned, vehicles etc would be of interest for example. It is also a book that would have benefited from an appendix at the back bullet pointing the timeline of events, for the reader to refer to as an overview. However, these are personal observations and it has to be said do not or should not diminish what is, as already stated, an excellent book.

As mentioned earlier, there is much to be read about Christopher Halliwell online, the majority of which is the possibility that he is responsible for many other murders as yet undiscovered. TTCE is in no doubt convinced that Halliwell is responsible for many more murders – but he maintains a “no comment” stance. There are fellow true crime enthusiasts that have compiled a list of possible Halliwell victims – some of these quite high-profile cases and names that would be familiar to a reader (a number of which are mentioned in the book), and it is hopefully refreshing to Steve Fulcher to read reviews like this and reinforce that there are people who support his actions and see past any decisions made by the IPCC, and who continue to work tirelessly even if on an amateur level. This book does not cover Halliwell’s life in any great detail, that is perhaps for a future book to do once the full extent of Halliwell’s offending is known – if of course, it ever is. Researching Halliwell’s life may take time, but there is markedly much more for us to learn about the life and exploits of Christopher Halliwell, so much so that, it could potentially fill volumes. TTCE sincerely hopes that this is the first book to do so.

TTCE was going to begin this review by saying that, in a non patronising, non condescending way, he pitied Steve Fulcher for his treatment at the hands of the IPCC. Reading the book changed that. Now, there is nothing short of admiration for him. Read the book and make up your own minds.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

UK True Crime Podcast – Meet the Host!

So a few weeks ago TTCE wrote a guest piece for the excellent podcast/blog site UK True Crime, which goes from strength to strength and currently sits in the top 5 across all categories in the UK Podcast Charts. As has been detailed on the review that can be found here , the host is a genial chap called Adam. I asked Adam to tell me the genesis of his podcast, and he was decent enough to share a guest piece back for TTCE, so it’s over to him…..

Hello, I’m Adam and I host the weekly UK True Crime Podcast.  The True Crime Enthusiast has produced some great content for me over the last few months so I was delighted to be asked to write a guest blog about producing a true crime podcast.  I hope you find this article of some interest.

This time last year I had never listened to a podcast.

Then in October 2016 I started a new job which involved a lot of travel.  One of my colleagues was into podcasts, showed me how they worked and straight away I loved them.  I have always enjoyed reading about true crime and so naturally checked out crime podcasts which gave me a chance to listen to lots of the great true crime podcasts from around the world.  The excellent ‘They Walk Among Us’ focussed on the UK but I wanted more.  As I searched for a weekly podcast about lesser known UK cases I guessed other people wanted the same so the obvious step was to start my own show.

When I talked in more detail with friends about how it would sound, it became clear to me that I wanted the listener experience to be like a conversation with a good friend.  Living in the UK, humour plays a big role in our daily lives and so I wanted to introduce some typical UK dry humour and sarcasm.  This is what I have tried to create with my podcast.

This podcast production lark is fine in theory, but where do you start?  Luckily, I stumbled upon some excellent US shows about podcasting which offer some fantastic free advice (if you are potentially interested in podcasting check out Daniel J.Lewis at www.theaudacitytopodcast.com and Dave Jackson at www.schoolofpodcasting.com).  With a basic understanding of what to do I bought a cheap microphone, realised there was free editing software available, slowly built and hosted a basic website on WordPress and paid £10 a month or so for audio hosting.  Then I was ready to conquer the world of podcasting, after all, just how difficult could it be?

This is where I should tell you that having released episode 31 of the podcast this week I am now a relaxed, podcasting expert with an easy manner and faultless delivery.  Of course, as those of you who listen to the show know only too well nothing could be further from the truth.  Every time I sit in front of the microphone it is like the first time as I feel nervous, worried that nobody will find the content interesting and wonder why I am putting myself through this.  Half a bottle of absinthe, a couple of deep breaths and I press record….

Although I have a prepared script in front of me, now I am a little more confident about my audience I am happy to deviate from it a lot of the time.  I add context with the music and news of the time, try to avoid sounding like a grumpy old man when I don’t know/like the music, talk about the Mighty Leeds United whenever possible and try to avoid giving my opinion, but often fail.  Instead, I try to ask questions and add a bit humour wherever possible, despite the seriousness of the content.  Based on some of the feedback there are plenty of people out there who would describe it as anything but humorous, well, not intentionally.  But the beauty of being an independent podcaster is that I am not a paid professional so I can just be me and over time more of my personality has come through in the show.  This is one of the reasons why poor reviews make me roll my eyes rather than feel peeved.  Constructive advice is, of course, always welcome.  But when I get the nasty, personal ones – and we all get them except for the really top shows such as ‘Casefile’ and ‘True Crime Garage’ which are beyond criticism, period – I can’t help wondering why people can’t just choose not to listen again and move on.  Life is too short to be unpleasant, right?  But then again, as listeners to true crime podcasts, we know there are some very strange people out there….

I almost always record cases new to me as I enjoy the discovery.   My favourite cases are when they have been recommended to me by listeners, or researched expertly by The True Crime Enthusiast (check out the two great podcast episodes he has written so far:  The Bogus Gasman and The Wedding Murders).  The starting point for research is usually google where I tend to begin by picking a random year and searching words such as “trial”, “court case” or similar.  I scroll through the results and if I see something of interest I will stick with it but usually I stumble upon another case which interests me more and I will go with that case instead.  I try to avoid being just a murder show and include a wide variety of crimes because, as one listener said to me just this morning, financial crime can ruin lives too.

Researching lesser known crimes can be tough as there is less information and I have had to give up a few times as I just can’t provide the background needed to offer any real insight.  However, this is rare and depending on the case there is almost always a whole selection of weird and wonderful sources of information from official court documents, newspaper reports, personal websites, sections of books, social media and a huge variety of blogs – some more speculative/gossipy with others being more factual.  Researching is certainly the most fun part for me and I can lose myself for hours in the information.  If I had unlimited time I would love to carry out more original research, but for an independent podcaster fitting this in around real life just isn’t practical at this time. 

Two final points:  Firstly, I love speaking with my listeners and always quickly reply to anyone who contacts me. After all, without such awesome, engaged listeners what is the point?   Secondly, and most importantly, the nature of true crime means it is a sensitive subject and this can never be forgotten.  At all times I try my best to show compassion for the victims, their friends and family and often the person committing the crimes and those close to them.

I would love to hear from you with any comments of my podcast or blog, which can be found at http://www.uktruecrime.com.  You can contact me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or by email at:  Adam@uktruecrime.com

Thanks very much Adam for that, and TTCE wishes you all continuing success.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Book Review – “Injured Parties: Solving The Murder Of Dr Helen Davidson”

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Recently I was in touch with crime author Monica Weller after reading an article about her in the national press about the project she had undertaken, writing a book about a 50 year old still unsolved murder. The case itself is not widely known in the annals of unsolved British crimes, it is not a cause celebre such as the Wallace case of the 1930’s, or the Hammersmith Nudes murders of the 1960’s. It is a brutal murder of a middle aged and widely respected general practitioner, Dr Helen Davidson, in woodland near her Buckinghamshire home in late 1966. The article caught my eye as Dr Davidson was battered to death and mutilated whilst out walking her dog, and it is a case that I was aware of and had given consideration to (and ultimately discounted) as being possibly connected with the series of Dog walker killings covered in the articles featured on TTCE a few months back. Nevertheless, it caught my interest and as any book about a relatively unknown UK murder will do this, I contacted Monica via Twitter and asked if I could have a copy for reading and review purposes. I found her very approachable and she readily agreed to this, with a copy being sent to me extremely promptly.

“Injured Parties: Solving The Murder Of Dr Helen Davidson” tells the story of the brutal murder of General Practitioner Dr Helen Davidson, on 09 November 1966 whilst she was out walking her dog in Hodgemoor Woods, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire. It was a very brutal and seemingly motiveless crime, and one that as mentioned above remains unsolved to date. As it is an obscure historical case, and not readily a crime that comes to the front of an enthusiasts mind, I found it refreshing to pick up a book the subject of which piques your interest, yet tells a story the reader will ultimately be unfamiliar with. It is never the intention of TTCE to give away the entire plot points and structure of a book within the review; nor is it the intention to give anything but a fair and unbiased review. The former will not occur here, whilst the latter will.

Monica has, at what must be great personal monetary and time consuming expense, thoroughly researched all angles of what is an obscure case, and it shows in the wealth of detail featured in the book. I have to admit that I was very impressed with the amount of research that has gone into writing “Injured Parties”, and to me, I can think of only a handful of books that are equalled in the amount of detail concerning the subject (true crime books written by Gordon Burn spring to mind). This extends to two things that always impress me with a true crime book (and ensure them a permanent place in my extensive library); a varied range of photographs concerning aspects, places, and people mentioned in the book; and an excellent and assorted Appendix containing reproductions of press cuttings concerning aspects mentioned within, letters to and from the author to persons mentioned within the text, and what impressed me most, a reproduced pathologists report in full. I cannot fault any of this at all, it is an excellent addition.

If I had to pick anything negative concerning the book, it is that in the opinion of TTCE that this is a book that may reach its widest audience with a reader who lives in the locality of the places mentioned within. I know for myself reading about a subject set in a place that I can visualise and know personally will always hold great appeal, and I can imagine this occurring with “Injured Parties”, because of the obscurity of the subject. It is hard to imagine a crime reader who lives in Los Angeles, for example, savouring detail upon detail of a historical murder in rural Buckinghamshire. I can also imagine some readers finding parts of the book repetitive and long winded (for example the chapter concerning Helen Davidson’s early life), but equally can imagine those who savour detail -such as myself – commending this. Yet this is only TTCE’s opinion, and one that I would hope to see proved wrong by “Hidden Parties” becoming as much as a success as the hard work that has clearly been put into writing it deserves.

It is for the reader themselves to make up their own mind as to the validity of the theories presented within “Injured Parties: Solving The Murder Of Dr Helen Davidson” – I enjoyed it and respect and commend the research, although perhaps the natural investigative nature within me would still need more convincing to agree with what the title denotes. Nevertheless, as with everything opinions differ from reader to reader, and TTCE recommends the best way is to reserve judgement before reading this well- researched book. It will stay on my shelf for sure.

For further info:

WordPress – Monica Weller

Facebook – Injured Parties

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Podcast Review -UK True Crime

So for my second podcast review, the focus this time is UK True Crime. This was actually the first podcast I started listening to (I came late to the world of podcasts) but it’s fair to say I was pretty much impressed from the off. When I ventured into listening to podcasts, I started pretty much the only way you can: Choose what you enjoy, and search for that! Now, as readers to my blog will know, I am a true crime buff – and I focus solely on cases from the UK. So it stands to reason that you can guess what I would search for – and I found UK True Crime.

Quite a fledgling podcast (its been running since November 2016), UK True Crime is hosted every Tuesday by a very cheery sounding bloke called Adam. Each episode is of varying length and focuses on a single case a week, with cases covering not just grisly murder of the week, but also other topics such as fraud schemes and police corruption. This helps it stand out from a murder of the week podcast. Not that I have anything against those of course, but diversity is always good. Each episode is presented in a very personable, down to earth manner, and cases are very well researched and factually correct.

Where I’ve been impressed is in the choice of cases Adam chooses for each episode. I know myself that my interest lies predominantly in the more obscure, forgotten and unknown cases, and I class myself as very well read on British crime. So it was very refreshing to look back through the list of episodes and there be only one or two names I was familiar with (and again, these are not your Wests, your Sutcliffe’s etc). I listened, I enjoyed, and i have to commend Adam for his choices of cases to cover. Not only are they interesting, but the more obscure take that much more research (I know, believe me) and this to me shows a real dedication and enthusiasm for the subject. It also helps in his pleasant delivery, and I like the personal touch – I’d prefer to listen to someone a bit colourful and with opinion than a machine spewing facts and stats.

Not content with just a pretty awesome podcast, UK True Crime has an informative blog available too. The posts in this, although few, raise good talking points and invite discussion, such as “Can True Crime Ever Be Glamorous?”. There is also an interesting feature on the failings of the UK system concerning young offenders here too (the first part in a series i believe). Well worth a read, and definitely worth a sign up to the newsletter.

I’ve got nothing bad whatsoever to say about UK True Crime – as readers will know i am honest and unbiased in any reviews i give, and i am unabashed if i may be mistaken for being sycophantic here. I’m not – it just really is this good. In fact, i was so impressed with what i have listened to and read that i made contact with Adam. I find him very approachable and happy to work with others interested in the field, of which i have been more than happy to do so. Watch this space…..

The UK True Crime podcast is available on the usual platforms (itunes etc), but links to the Blog, the newsletter and all podcast episodes can be found by following the link below.

UK True Crime

It takes time, effort and dedication to make this work, and Adam clearly puts in an abundance here. The hard work here deserves to be successful. I sincerely hope that it is. Check it out – I’m sure you will agree.

https://podfanatic.com/podcast/uk-true-crime

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/uk-true-crime-podcast-weekly

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/uk-true-crime/id1182818802?mt=2

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

 

Podcast Review – S’laughter: True Crime Podcast

I didn’t realise just how many true crime podcasts there are out there online, and if like me you can be a bit of an insomniac (I am a shift worker so my body clock can be destroyed sometimes) then listening to podcasts can wind you down like a good un. People listen to them on commutes, driving, and for myself, they help me to go off to sleep nicely. I listen to quite a few but for my first podcast review  I’ve chosen one that doesn’t really do that for me. It doesn’t help me go to sleep, because it’s pretty entertaining!!

S’laughter: True Crime Podcast is hosted by two twenty something (sounding) ladies, Lucy and Emma, and each week they bring forward at least a pair of cases concerned with true crime. Usually murder, but they also delve into high profile crimes such as the Shannon Matthews kidnapping, or the Cambridge Rapist (which was covered on TTCE a few weeks ago). A fair few of the cases mentioned will be household names to a true crime buff (for example, Dennis Nilsen, John George Haigh and Ruth Ellis are just some of the famous crimes that have been covered), but countering this you will find cases that are often overlooked but equally as interesting, such as Trevor Hardy and Patrick Mackay, both of whom have been covered also. Each episode is varying in length, but never so long it feels like a marathon or so short it feels like the observation round in the Krypton Factor (showing my age there now).

Apart from the choice of content, S’laughter also stands out for me in the delivery of it. Lucy and Emma obviously research each case well, but present it in such a way that its not boring whatsoever, you aren’t bombarded with facts and stats and that’s it! These two will often go off on tangents and take the piss about different things – which is entertaining to the listener, before rescuing the gist of their tale and getting back on track. It comes across like being in the room listening to two of your mates having a laugh whilst talking about a grisly murder, meaning it’s not monotonous and appeals to a dark kind of sense of humour (which i have-I can imagine this pair are a right laugh when out on the lash). It has explicit language (which to be fair it does carry a warning) – but if you are really listening because you are interested in grisly murders then the odd “Fuck” shouldn’t offend!

Another very good plus point i have to make about it is a nice feature of each week, the Slash and Dash Minisode. This will be a true crime recap featuring a case from the city where the S’laughter podcast has been most successful that week. Lovely way to give something back i thought, and one i thought shows dedication.

I really can’t praise S’laughter enough – it keeps me listening each episode, and considering that it only started at the end of October 2016, these two have built up something that they should be and undoubtedly very proud of, and that deserves to be successful. If it’s straight laced delivery of stats and facts you want, read by someone like Ken Barlow – don’t bother because that ain’t happening here. If you want a good true crime case presented down to earth and one thats funny with it, then get yourselves onto it and check them out for yourself. It’s available on a variety of platforms, and the usual social media platforms if you search:

 

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/slaughter-true-crime-podcast

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Book Review -Dennis Nilsen: Conversations with Britain’s Most Evil Serial Killer

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The crimes of Dennis Nilsen have always been a fascination to me, and many pages and several books have been written about them in the 33 years since Nilsen’s conviction and subsequent life imprisonment for the murders of 13 young men in London, from 1978 to 1983. Indeed, information about the details of Nilsen’s crimes is so widely available, almost public knowledge, that it would serve no purpose to recount them here. I am quite versed in the Nilsen case, having read many articles concerning it over the years. I also own what I considered for several years to be the two definitive books authored about the case, namely “Killing For Company” by Brian Masters, and “House Of Horrors” by John Lisners. Both are excellent reads – if somewhat sensationalised – and are highly recommended.

But, as any readers of my previous reviews will know, I am always impressed by a book upon a certain case if either I learn new details from it; or it is written from a different viewpoint, regardless if I have read one book upon the subject, or ten. I approached Dennis Nilsen: Conversations With Britain’s Most Evil Serial Killer with interest because this book is written with arguably more insight and from a more knowledgeable source than any other: Nilsen himself. What is often touched upon, but perhaps not in too great detail, is how prolific a writer Nilsen himself is. Over the course of his incarceration, Nilsen has completed countless volumes of self- reflective writing and has corresponded with numerous pen pals, academics, journalists and authors.

This book then, is written using the author’s first hand access to Nilsen’s own controversial (and subsequently Home Office banned) self penned autobiography, History Of A Drowning Boy. (Allegedly, the author, Russ Coffey, is one of only 4 people to have done so)The author, Russ Coffey, spent a decade corresponding with Nilsen, researching and writing this book and has developed what is arguably one of the best accounts a journalist has ever constructed with a subject.

Coffey has written a well-structured book, commencing with good accounts of Nilsen’s early life, and his careers serving both in the Army and Metropolitan Police. The author goes on to echo what has become the canonical Nilsen story, namely his bizarre (and morbid)sexual fantasies, his relationship with alcohol, his one night stands, and ultimately towards the end of the book, his crimes. This is followed by Nilsen’s arrest and trial. Nothing ground breakingly new here one might say, although these accounts have all been very well researched and written.  Impressive is the detail here contained in these accounts that stems from the author’s research – I read within the book several anecdotes about Nilsen’s life that were previously unknown to me, which I always find refreshing. Coffey has also painstakingly traced several people featured in the Nilsen story – these range from friends and acquaintances, to old colleagues, to members of the victim’s families – all of which their accounts and words add colour to the Nilsen story. Excellent plus points.

What impressed me most with Dennis Nilsen: Conversations With Britain’s Most Evil Serial Killer was how much of the book focuses (in good detail and as a flowing narrative) on a chronological account of Nilsen’s life in prison. Several chapters are devoted to this, and I found this refreshing, as the side of Nilsen’s incarceration over the past 33 years is often only skimmed over – with any writing on the subject instead focusing predominantly upon his murders. Where the accounts differ from other books about the Nilsen case is that these benefit from being written with the hindsight of Nilsen’s own years of self- reflection to provide a commentary upon them.  Again, this contains several anecdotes that have not been published in other writing about Nilsen.

Overall, it makes for chilling yet fascinating reading. The research and written accounts deserve much credit, the reproduction of Nilsen’s own words is fascinating and insightful, and the photographs contained inside are varied, with some that will not be familiar to students of the Nilsen case. With the benefit of having access to Nilsen’s own writing (and “autobiography”), Coffey skilfully invites the reader to attempt to understand Nilsen’s psyche. I found it a fascinating book, and one that I could highly recommend both to those familiar with the Nilsen case, and novice students of it. In my opinion, it has become THE recommended book about the crimes of Dennis Nilsen.

 

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Book Review – Night Stalker

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Not to be confused with the infamous Los Angeles serial killer Richard Ramirez (who was known by the same moniker), John Mcshane’s book Night Stalker details the hunt for hunt for one of Britain’s most prolific sex attackers, “Minstead Man”, or “The Night Stalker”. In a period spanning 17 years, Minstead Man, in the course of being an extremely active burglar, also raped, molested and indecently assaulted a large number of elderly women, and on two occasions men, over a reign of terror that spanned 17 years. The police hunt for the offender to put an end to his terrifying crime spree came to be the largest and longest running hunt for a serial rapist ever undertaken by the Metropolitan Police, and was codenamed “Operation Minstead”. It was 2009 before a suspect was arrested and charged, and eventually Delroy Grant, a 52 year old father of 8, was found guilty in a court of law and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 27 years set.

Because it was such a long running case, I was familiar with it and kept up an interest over the years that the Minstead Rapist was active. It was appealed widely in the national press and on television over the years, and I think the sensationalism of the press helped fuel an interest. Gerontophilia is an extremely undocumented and very taboo paraphilia, and conjures up such images of disgust and horror that a morbid fascination is easy in this case. Isn’t the interest in and fascination gleaned from reading about the facts of cases and pondering just what makes people commit the worst kinds of crimes known to humankind why any reader of true crime does so?  Personally, it certainly is with myself, so when I found a book about Delroy Grant available, I was eager and interested to read it.

As with any of my previous reviews, I try to be unbiased, fair and constructively critical in a book review. I find it easier to review using the simplistic system of positives with the book, and then negatives with the book. It is 289 pages in length and has been written by respected journalist John Mcshane, Associate Editor of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror.

Positively, the book is well written and describes in attentive detail several of the assaults and rapes committed by Grant. It gives due respect to the victims, it does not reprint in too graphic detail the assaults but gives enough colour and paints enough of a picture so that the reader can visualise and attempt to empathise with the scene and the fear that each victim must have faced. It covers the hunt for, the eventual arrest of Delroy Grant, and then moves on to his trial. Large parts of the transcript of Grant’s trial are featured throughout this section, which will be of interest to the reader. (Verbatim script is always something that appeals to me).

What I found much more negative was the fact that the book tends to be very repetitive. It does a good job of explaining some of Grant’s offences, but considering it was first published in 2011 (some 2 years after Grant had been convicted and imprisoned), it does not echo a substantial period of research in the writing. There are just 7 scant pages dedicated to Grant’s childhood, upbringing, family history and early adulthood. As I have said in countless reviews, I applaud detail and research, and the areas in which this book has that in abundance can be gleaned from any press reports about the case. The descriptions of the offences are fine, but any psychological profile of the offender is sketched over in favour of long winded writing about the trial.And throughout the section detailing the trial, large parts of the descriptions of the offences from the start of the book are repeated here. Although this may appeal to some readers of true crime, personally I would have preferred a lot more of the book covering Grant’s early life and other crimes, in an attempt to identify a possible trigger that created the Gerontophile in him. I would also rather have read a detailed account of both the geographical and psychological profiles of the Minstead Rapist, and although of course reading about any defence against such clear cut evidence professing Grant’s guilt would be fascinating, I felt that too much was devoted to the trial. It could have easily been halved and still left the reader as much in the know. Also especially disappointing was the lack of accompanying photographs concerning the case – it just seems lazy and to have been omitted in favour of getting the book out by a deadline in my opinion. A manhunt, the biggest of its kind, brings with it lots of images, photofits, public appeals, crime scene photographs etc – all of which would have been fascinating to see.

Overall, Night Stalker is a book I can recommend a true crime reader to read, but I feel they will agree with my sentiment that it will never become a classic. This is a shame, it seems that a unique and prime opportunity to research and document one of the most unique and prolific criminals in British criminal history has been squandered here. For those interested, the psychological profiling of the Minstead Rapist is much better covered in the book accompanying the Channel 4 TV Series “The Real Cracker”.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Book Review – Unsolved Murders In South Yorkshire

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TTCE has just finished reading the second book in his collection by author Scott C Lomax, and has decided to review it for the latest TTCE blog book review. Firstly, some bio about Scott. The blurb on the back of the book describes 34 year old Scott as being a feature writer on the subject of true crime for the past 16 years. He is already a successful published author and activist, releasing books on the subjects of high profile murder cases such as the Jill Dando murder, and the infamous White House Farm murders of 1985. Concerning the Dando murder, he was a leading campaigner for the release of wrongfully convicted Barry George. Being a lifelong Derbyshire resident, Scott has authored two previous books concerning unsolved murders around that area, both of which TTCE has read, and which will be reviewed for The True Crime Enthusiast at a future date.

So, Unsolved Murders In South Yorkshire is a pretty self- explanatory title. Having previously read Scott’s books on unsolved murders, I had good expectations from this one. It did not disappoint. Scott has taken 10 cases of unsolved murder from around the county, the majority of which are unfamiliar cases, ranging from the mid nineteenth century to the latter years of the twentieth century. Although a relatively short book in pagination (146pp), the amount of detail more than makes up for this, and TTCE is sure that any reader would be left satisfied. Scott has discovered, analysed and chronicled some truly fascinating cases, and the amount of research that has gone into each individual case is remarkable. In the majority of these, the research must have been very time consuming and painstaking – but this just serves to highlight Scott’s passion for what he writes about.

The reader of Unsolved Murders In South Yorkshire will learn of obscure unsolved cases such as the Victorian shooting of George Firth in 1851, and the mysterious death of draper Florence Hargreaves in 1926. There are also presented two unsolved murders from the 1960’s; those of Lily Stephenson in 1962 and Anne Dunwell in 1964, and several cases from the mid 1970’s to early 1980’s. Each case is presented in a chronicological and logical order, with the amount of detail described in each case extremely impresive. In TTCE’s view, this was a massive selling point for me on this book. It is always enjoyable learning about a new case, especially unsolved ones where the possibility still exists of an offender being brought to justice many years after the event. It helps if a text is well written, informative and captivating, and personally it is the added detail that makes for this. There isn’t a chapter here that hasn’t been meticulously researched and doesn’t satisfy any of the above criteria. The way each chapter is written leaves the reader of the impression that Scott has gathered this research, down to the finest detail, and then added it into the narrative in its entirety. This impressed TTCE greatly, as i firmly believe you can never have too much detail. Indeed, it is what i strive to express in my own articles.

Another feature i was left impressed with are the photographs provided with each chapter. Where possible, press releases, original location photographs and identikit pictures relating to the case in question have been reproduced. If any have been unable to be added, perhaps unable to be obtained, then the author has added his own photographs of crime scenes. Whilst present day pictures may differ from years gone by, this again is interesting because it at least still gives the reader an image to match the mental picture that the reader gains of locations mentioned throughout the book. This again shows the dedication and passion Scott has to his writing.

TTCE thoroughly recommends Unsolved Murders In South Yorkshire, and recommends a visit to Scott’s own website here: Scott Lomax  He is very personable and will quite happily answer any correspondence, as TTCE can testify to. As always, the reader has to make up their own mind – however, I’m sure the reader will not be disappointed.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast