Review: ‘Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots’, by Katheryn Burtinshaw and Dr John Burt

Published by: Pen & SwordLunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots

Publication Date: 3rd April 2017

I.S.B.N.: 9781473879034

Price: £15.99

Click cover for link to publishers page.

As ever, I was sent this book in return for an honest review. Thanks to Alex and Pen & Sword for sending me the book.








In the first half of the nineteenth-century treatment of the mentally ill in Britain and Ireland underwent radical change. No longer manacled, chained and treated like wild animals, patient care was defined in law and medical understanding, and treatment of insanity developed.

Focussing on selected cases, this new study enables the reader to understand how progressively advancing attitudes and expectations affected decisions, leading to better legislation and medical practice throughout the century. Specific mental health conditions are discussed in detail and the treatments patients received are analysed in an expert way. A clear view of why institutional asylums were established, their ethos for the treatment of patients, and how they were run as palaces rather than prisons giving moral therapy to those affected becomes apparent. The changing ways in which patients were treated, and altered societal views to the incarceration of the mentally ill, are explored. The book is thoroughly illustrated and contains images of patients and asylum staff never previously published, as well as first-hand accounts of life in a nineteenth-century asylum from a patients perspective.

Written for genealogists as well as historians, this book contains clear information concerning access to asylum records and other relevant primary sources and how to interpret their contents in a meaningful way.

Continue reading

18th April Prompt: Dull and overcast

Last one for today. The next five prompts are location based, so that should spark something at least on a couple of days. I’ll have to see how it goes. I’m happy this evening. I will have money in the bank tomorrow and my shopping turns up at lunch time. Right now I’m hungry though so I’m going to write this little story up, have a cream cracker or two and a load of water and go to bed. There will be food in my cupboards and freezer tomorrow. I can manage another 12 hours or so.

Bus Stop on Winter Street, Sheffield (C) Terry Robinson :: Geograph ...

The weather suited Derek’s mood as he left yet another interview. The sixth in seven days with no job in sight, it was beginning to get him down. It looked like rain too. He slouched past the cafe where he’d applied to serve coffee to pensioners but couldn’t himself afford to go in for a cuppa, and the music shop that had wanted someone to sell records to spotty teenagers and their parents reliving their youth. Across the road was the office block where he’d gone for two interviews, with different companies, for call centre jobs. He’d heard nothing from any of them and used all his JSA paying for bus fares to get to the interviews.

The bus left as he reached the stop.

Derek sighed. “I give up.” He settled against the bus shelter to wait for the next bus. It was only an hour. His stomach rumbled. Ignoring his hunger, he closed his eyes, nodding slightly.

“‘Ere mate, you got a light?”

A Man in torn jeans and a leather jacket, zipped up to his chin, stood in front of Derek.

“Sorry, I don’t smoke any more.”

“You look like you could do with one.”

“Dicky ticker, Doctor says it’d kill me if I didn’t give up the fags.”

“That’s rough.”


The man settled on the protrusion the council called a bench inside the bus shelter. He looked Derek up and down, “You been to court?”

“Interview.” Derek turned away from the road to face his companion.

“Yeah, the coppers like it when you dress up to visit them.” He indicated Derek’s suit with his still unlit cigarette.

“A job interview.”

“Nice. Sorry about presuming, don’t see many people in suits unless they’re going to court. Where’s the job?”

“Butler’s Carpets. I won’t get it though.”

“Have you tried the Co-Op?”

“Yes, and the record shop, and Molly’s Cafe. I’ve even tried the call centres. I’ve never worked in an office in my life, but I’m getting desperate.”

“That’s shit, man. It took me five years to find a job, but I finally got one. Something will come up eventually.”

“Where do you work?”

“Smyth and Waller, the solicitors on the high street.”

“I know it, they did my Will last year. What are you, the go-fer?”

“Nah, solicitor. Took me years to get a decent job.”

“Huh.” Derek was surprised, but pushed on to cover his mistake, “Day off?”

“Yep.  Going to a concert tonight. We really could do with a train station in this town.”

“I’d settle for a bus that ran slightly more regularly than hourly.”

“That too.”

They stood in silence for a few minutes, watching the road for a bus.

Derek’s phone rang, jolting him out of the trance he’d managed to fall into.

“Derek, this is John, at Butler’s. How are you?”

“Waiting for my bus home.”

“Do you have time to come back? We’d like to discuss your pay package and start date.”

The bus was in sight, it had just turned from the high street on to the road. Derek quickly weighed up his choices.

“I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

There was another bus later. He rang off and put his phone away. The bus pulled up. Derek let the man behind him go in front and turned back the way he’d come.

“See, told you something would come up.”

17th April Prompt: Warm and Sunny

This one is actually complete, and is another of my little Peninsula War inspired pieces.

Foro de Historia Militar el Gran Capitán • Ver Tema - Pinturas y ...

“Pass the water.” Private Samuel Jones reached back to the man behind him on the wall.

“We’re out.” Corporal Jock McIntire tipped the bottle up. A slow dribble slipped out, splashing into the dusty bricks on the top of the wall.

“Water!” The shout rang out up and down the line.

A drummer boy ran across the yard from the farmhouse carrying two bottles.

“That’s the last of them Corporal. Captain Walker says to get more.” The Captain was in the farmhouse, cutting limbs off wounded soldiers and doing his best to patch everyone up. He needed the water as badly as the men out on the walls.

“How can it be the last?”

The boy shrugged, “There’s none left in the stores and the well is dry.”

Samuel nudged the Corporal, “What about the stream corp?”

A brook ran around the farmhouse, a hundred yards away across open ground. Beyond the stream a screen of stunted shrubs hid the enemy snipers. Every once in a while one would pop up and fire off a round before disappearing.

The boy looked over the wall, judging the ground. It would be dangerous.

“It’s too far.”

“A small lad like you won’t be noticed, besides, I wasn’t thinking of trying here.” Samuel smacked the boy on the shoulder.

“You can use the back gate. If we don’t get water soon it won’t just be the Surgeon struggling.”

The drummer boy looked around the walls. The men were exhausted, hiding from the sun in whatever shade they could find. Sweat soaked their red woollen coats, staining it a darker, blood red shade. Their faces were covered in dust and powder burns.

He nodded. He’d go.

Jock let the boy out of the back gate, a bucket in each hand. Behind them, the sound of muskets firing hid his exit. Jock stood by the gate and watched as the drummer boy, ducked and ran across the open ground.

The banks of the stream were steeper than he’d expected. The drummer boy threw the buckets on to the stream bed. The buckets clanged against each other. The boy looked around, hoping he hadn’t attracted any attention, and slid down the banks to join them. The water was shallow, a muddy trickle. He lay the first bucket on it’s side; the stream barely covered the lip.

The boy sat on his heels holding the bucket in place as it slowly filled. When it was half full he tipped the collected water into the second bucket. The first went back to it’s position on the stream bed. The sun glinted on the little stream of water and the boy started to doze in the warmth.

Water escaping from the bucket and flowing over his shoes woke him when the water found a hole. The bucket held as much as it could; he tipped some into the second bucket and set the first up again.

Water spilt over his foot as he tipped it, but the stream started to fill it again.

“Almost there.” The drummer boy sighed to himself. A noise on the enemy bank distracted him.

He scrambled up the bank until he could look over the lip, eyes hidden by the long grass.

The enemy! A whole company of them!

He slid back down, couching in the stream with his buckets of water. He looked upstream. The banks became higher and steeper. He looked downstream. The banks lowered but the streamed turned and flowed past the enemy snipers. He looked up. The bank loomed over him, seeming a vertical cliff.

A head appeared.

“Come on boy. No time for playing in the water.”

Jock reached forward.

“Pass me the buckets, then I’ll get you up.”

The drummer boy inched forward, carefully lifting the buckets, one at a time up to the corporal. Jock’s head disappeared. The drummer boy looked up, Jock had stood up. He grabbed the buckets and sprinted for the gate.

The drummer boy heard the gate clang shut.

He stood, paralysed, leaning against the earth of the river bank.

The corporal had left him.

He sat down by the stream, back against the earth. He pulled his knees up, wrapping his arms around his legs and resting his head on his knees. If he made himself small, if he hid, the enemy might not find him here.

“Psst. Boy. Come on.”

The drummer boy looked up, twisting his neck around. The corporal was back. He heaved a sigh of relief and stood, reaching up to Jock.

“Grab hold and I’ll lift you.”

They linked hands. Jock tried to wriggle back, lifting the boy as he went. The boy’s hands slipped through Jocks. He fell back into the stream.

“You need to climb, I can’t lift you like this.”

The drummer boy nodded and looked round for a hand hold. A tree root protruded from the bank, about half way  up. It wasn’t very big but it would give him something to grab on to.

The drummer boy grabbed the root and pulled, scrabbling for purchase with his feet.

“Come on. Come on.” Jock muttered as he watched the boy struggle up the bank. Eventually he got a purchase with his feet and pushed. Jock grabbed the boy under the armpits as he appeared over the edge of the bank.

The drummer boy gripped Jock’s shoulders and pushed on the root with his feet, propelling himself over the stream bank and on top of the corporal.

As they rolled upright the first shots fired behind them.


Jock pushed the boy to his feet and followed quickly. Shots pocked the ground around them kicking up dirt in little fountains. As they got closer to the gate, more shots were fired and slithers of flint and fountains of brick dust erupted around the gate. Samuel waited, door half open. From a window above the door two men returned fire.

The boy slid in through the door Corporal Mcintire just behind. Samuel slammed the gate shut and barred it. He waved them out of the way as a dresser was shoved against the door.

The buckets of water stood by the back door into the farmhouse. Samuel walked over,

“Have a cup of water, you earnt it.”

16th April Prompt: Early morning mists

I don’t know where this came from, I used to have a bit of an obsession with the Peninsula War, so probably that influenced this story nugget.

An Incident in the Peninsular War Napoleon Entering a City - Robert ...

The men appeared out of the mist, early summer sun colouring it blood red. Like their jackets. The sun glinted on fixed bayonets and shako badges, the colours lost somewhere above them.

The red coated men marched in line towards us. How many were there hiding in the mist? We heard their orders shouted from one end to the other. Above us all, on the ridge that hemmed in the valley and herded the mists that sat over us, was their General. He sat on his horse, beneath a tree, surrounded by his commanders. They watched us, and their men. I don’t know what they saw that we didn’t, but it made me nervous.

We waited for orders. I looked round for my commander. Would they send in the cuirassiers first? Those heavy horsemen would chop the British to shreds. Even the river wouldn’t slow their charge. They’d have no time to form square, and if they did? My gunners would have slaughtered them where they stood.

The enemy marched towards us, crossing the shallow river that ran through the centre of the valley. That was foolish, there river was a good defensive line. This close I could see them clearly, their flags finally out of the mist.

They weren’t interested in taking a position and defending it. They came on.

Finally, a runner arrived, with orders.



15th April Prompt: Hurricane

There’s a weather theme with the current crop of prompts. I was going to write something else entirely, but then I realised I was thinking of tornadoes not hurricanes and had a rewrite. So this is only a part of a story. I do sketch out at the end where it goes though, I just haven’t written the rest of it yet.

Description Shutters Locked in Preparation for Gustav New Orleans.jpg

“Don’t mess with those.” Florence snapped at her niece, Jenna.

“They’re only shutters.”

“They’re hurricane shutters, and very hard to find here. Don’t mess with them. I need your dad to put them up for me.”

Jenna rolled her eyes at her great aunt but stepped away from the pile of wrapped, wooden shutters.

“We don’t have hurricanes here, Auntie Flo.”

“There have been.” Florence shoved a coffee table across the carpet, positioning it in the centre of the room. She bent to check for scratches.

“No, there aren’t ever any hurricanes. Hurricanes happen in hot, wet places; we did it at school.”

“They taught you wrong then, or your teachers aren’t very old. There was a hurricane just before I left to live in the Caribbean.”

“Auntie that was thirty years ago. And a freak too. You’ve lived abroad for too long.” Jenna’s dad, Sean, laughed as he walked into the living room of the sheltered housing complex bungalow Florence had rented when she returned from her years in the Caribbean. Sean was carrying a box of hardback books, acquired in the months Florence had stayed with his family since her return.

“Where do you want these, auntie?”

“On the kitchen table. No, not there. There. And don’t scuff the table.”

Sean shifted the box a few inches, turning back to his daughter and aunt when he was finished.

“It’s survived thirty years in the Caribbean, a long trip back and six months in storage, I’m sure it’ll cope with a box of books.”

“You don’t know that it hasn’t been damaged.”

Sean sighed. It was going to be one of those days.

The story continues with a house warming, and Sean being nagged into putting up the hurricane shutters. During the party a freak storm blows up and the shutters come in handy after all.

Uni Writers – I’m sharing because they’re good

Part of the MA involves an assignment making and publishing a booklet. The poor souls on the full-time course have been panicking and stressing their way through the last couple of months to produce their assignment booklets, most of which are now for sale, or free to read. Because I like them, I’m sharing links to their work. I will be updating this post as people let me have more information but for now here are the links.

That Skirt’s a Whore, by Helen J. Reynolds (Free Read) YA

Crows on a Wire, by T. F. R. Hancock (Available as an ebook or print book from Lulu) Crime fiction

Red Invasion, by Liam Berry (Workprint edition of a graphic novel, available from Lulu as ebook or print book) Sci-fi

The Other Side of Happily Ever After, by Samantha Yates (ebook)

Novel Extract: ‘Addicted To Death’, by Matthew Redford

Addicted to DeathFor your reading pleasure, an extract from ‘Addicted To Death’ by Matthew Redford, today’s guest in the Author Spotlight.










Benedict and Darcy Blacktail, two eggs, have been brutally murdered, bludgeoned to death by an assailant with a large metal spoon. Detective Inspector Willie Wortel, carrot and the leading Food Sapiens detective, is talking things through with his Homo Sapiens colleague Sergeant Dorothy Knox.

Dorothy smiled at her boss knowing he meant no harm. Their career paths had collided just over five years earlier when the Food Related Crime Division was established. They forged an excellent working relationship, despite Wortel being a carrot and Dorothy being a fully formed human. Dorothy Knox was an experienced policewoman who was approaching the latter stages of her career when Chief Superintendent Archibald summoned her to his office one cold November afternoon. Thinking that she may find herself forced into an earlier than planned retirement, Dorothy was pleasantly surprised when he asked if she would be prepared to work alongside an up and coming young detective who had a tricky case of the crabs.


When a number of victims started to fall foul to infected crab meat the case soon became high profile as the public demanded answers as to how the contagion was going to be prevented. Wortel found Dorothy’s experience invaluable and together they unmasked Sammy the Shrimp, a small time psychopath hell bent on destroying the hard earned reputation of the crab. It was the week before Christmas when Wortel and Dorothy tracked down Sammy the Shrimp to a squalid flat on the high street above the local betting shop.


Sammy, seeing the two officers arrive with an arrest warrant, attempted to flee by pushing a small child to the floor, grabbing his scooter and using his long narrow muscular tail to pick up speed on the improvised getaway vehicle. Wortel and Dorothy gave chase but just when it seemed Sammy the Shrimp had managed to evade capture, his getaway scooter skidded on a patch of black ice sending him dangerously out of control of the child’s toy, jack-knifing the vehicle and flying through the air towards the shop window of ‘Bamboo-can-do’, the number one store for all bamboo related objet d’art. The unfortunate impaling of Sammy the Shrimp saw the end of the great crab meat infection, with most victims recovering following a dose of salts and the application of soothing cream.


Wortel was not comfortable being thrust into the spotlight, but the media latched onto the first food sapien detective and he soon found himself a somewhat unwilling celebrity. The successful resolution of the great crab infection saw the resources offered to the division soar, from diddly-squat to austere. However, being the new media darling was of no help to Wortel and Dorothy during their confrontation with their nemesis, MadCow McBeef. A confrontation  that very nearly cost them their lives.


The ‘Pow-wow with MadCow’, as nicknamed by the press, was a titanic bloodbath of a struggle with multiple victims strewn across the food and homo sapien population. The eventual capture of MadCow McBeef on a farm grazing happily next to the bloodied body of his former owner, Old McDonald, made front page news, with the trial at the Old Bailey covered daily by the rolling television news channels. Despite Wortel’s best endeavours, the jury accepted MadCow McBeef’s insanity plea and he was sentenced to life detention at the Farmer Giles Mental Institution.


“Have you tried these new flavoured crisps, they’re seriously nice.”


The question bought Wortel back into the room from his thoughts. He looked across at Dorothy. “What flavour?”


“Ham and honey mustard with a pickle twist.”


“No, you’re okay thanks,” he said, somewhat suspicious of the flavour combination.


“You don’t know what you’re missing, they’re really moreish.”


Wortel hesitated, decided against trying the new flavoured crisps, and sat himself down at his desk. “No news about a murder weapon?”


“No boss, whoever has done this seems to have been pretty clean in their dealings and we’re assuming at this stage that the murder weapon was taken away from the scene.”


“Fine. Look Dorothy, finish up what you’re doing and then call it a night. I know this is a new murder case but we’ve nothing to get going on just yet and I need you firing on all cylinders tomorrow. When you get home give my best to Graham and the kids.”


“And are you making a move for home any time soon?”


“I will. I just want to go over the notes from the crime scene to make sure I have my paperwork up to date. And I’m sure the Super will want an update about this case as well as the Cookie trial before I leave.”


Another half an hour slipped by before Dorothy pulled on her jacket, picked up her handbag and wished Wortel goodnight. As she reached for the office door it flew open, and Chief Superintendent Archibald strode purposefully into the room, his false leg working overtime to keep up with his real one.


“Ah, glad I’ve caught you Wortel. I’m due to for a late night tee-off in under an hour so you’ll have to be brief, but I want an update on this murder. Eggs isn’t it? Hmm, messy business. And we also need to talk about the Cookie biscuit sentence. I’ve arranged a press conference for the morning. We need to make sure we’re both on the same page. After all, we know the press love their Willie.”

And here’s the blurb:

Addicted to Death: A Food Related Crime Investigation

Following the murder of Benedict and Darcy Blacktail, two eggs savagely beaten to death outside their home by an unknown, fedora wearing assailant brandishing a large metal spoon, Detective Inspector Willie Wortel, carrot and the leading food detective in the police force, is called in to investigate. When the only food sapiens minister in the Government, Professor Perry Partridge, is murdered at the Strawberry Strip Club, run by the young damson Victoria Plum, DI Wortel suspects that the two cases may somehow be linked. As the Head of the Food Related Crime Division, DI Wortel is ably assisted by his human colleague Sergeant Dorothy Knox. But as their investigation begins, four celebrity chefs are sent death threats. It’s a recipe for disaster as the incarcerated evil genius MadCow McBeef is seeking parole; someone appears to have crumbled Mr Bramley’s apples; and there is an anti-GM food protestor on the prowl. And why do Oranges and Lemons think they owe someone five farthings? DI Wortel and his team must find out who is seemingly addicted to death. It will take all efforts – human, fruit and vegetable – to figure this one out.
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About Matthew Redford

Born in 1980, Matthew Redford grew up with his parents and elder brother on a council

estate in Bermondsey, south-east London. He now lives in Longfield, Kent, takes masochistic pleasure in watching his favourite football team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, is a keen chess player and is planning future food related crime novels. To counterbalance the quirkiness of his crime fiction Redford is an accountant. His unconventional debut crime thriller, Addicted to Death: A Food Related Crime Investigation was published by Clink Street Publishing last summer.


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