Non-fiction Bonus Reviews #1

I haven’t been feeling great so my reviews are a bit behind. I have a stack of books next to my laptop that I need to tell you all about. I’ve got three Pen & Sword books for you and an indie about comic book history.

A History of Torture in Britain
Published By: Pen & Sword
Publication Date: 5th November 2018
I.S.B.N.: 9781526719294
Format: Hardback
Price: £19.99
Purchase Link


There is an ancient and quite baseless myth that the use of torture has never been legal in Britain. This old wives’ tale arose because torture had been neither endorsed nor forbidden by either statute or common law. In other words; the law has, until the late twentieth century, never had anything to say on the subject. In fact, torture, inflicted both as punishment and as an aid to interrogation, has been a constant and recurring feature of British life; from the beginning of the country’s recorded history, until well into the twentieth century. Even as late as 1976, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the British Army was guilty of the systematic torture of suspected terrorists.

In ‘A History of Torture in Britain‘ Simon Webb traces the terrible story of the deliberate use of pain on prisoners in Britain and its overseas possessions. Beginning with the medieval trial by ordeal, which entailed carrying a red-hot iron bar in your bare hand for a certain distance, through to the stretching on the rack of political prisoners and the mutilation of those found guilty of sedition; the evidence clearly shows that Britain has relied heavily upon torture, both at home and abroad, for almost the whole of its history. This sweeping and authoritative account of a grisly and distasteful subject is likely to become the definitive history of the judicial infliction of pain in Britain and its Empire.

My Review

I found this book very instructive. No, I’m not planning to torture people, but I do enjoy telling people about interesting torture methods, to squick the out. I particularly found the tracing of different patterns of torture use in England and Scotland interesting, especially as those countries were united, first under one crown and then under one parliament, and the way the laws of the two were applied and finally the differences accomodated over time.

Worth a read if torture’s your thing.

The Golden Age of Science Fiction
Published By: Pen & Sword
Publication Date: 11tb February 2019
I.S.B.N.: 9781526729255
Format: Hardback
Price: £20.00
Purchase Link


John Wade grew up in the 1950s, a decade that has since been dubbed the ‘golden age of science fiction’. It was a wonderful decade for science fiction, but not so great for young fans. With early television broadcasts being advertised for the first time as ‘unsuitable for children’ and the inescapable barrier of the ‘X’ certificate in the cinema barring anyone under the age of sixteen, the author had only the radio to fall back on – and that turned out to be more fertile for the budding SF fan than might otherwise have been thought. Which is probably why, as he grew older, rediscovering those old TV broadcasts and films that had been out of bounds when he was a kid took on a lure that soon became an obsession.

For him, the super-accuracy and amazing technical quality of today’s science fiction films pale into insignificance beside the radio, early TV and B-picture films about people who built rockets in their back gardens and flew them to lost planets, or tales of aliens who wanted to take over, if not our entire world, then at least our bodies. This book is a personal account of John Wade’s fascination with the genre across all the entertainment media in which it appeared – the sort of stuff he revelled in as a young boy – and still enjoys today.

My Review

I enjoy a bit of sci-fi, as some of you might have noticed. I found this book, a combination of entertainment history and memoir, really useful for understanding some of the tropes and references in modern sci-fi, and the author’s enthusiasm for the subject shines through. If you like sci-fi but haven’t had a chance to read or view the classics, this book makes a good cheat sheet and guide to what you have to read/watch. It was really easy to read and the illustrations were usefully placed.

Images of the Past: Fallen Idols
Published By: Pen & Sword
Publication Date: 17th December 2018
I.S.B.N.: 9781526742148
Format: Paperback
Price: £15.99
Purchase link


It’s a scandal! How often we use that phrase and what a catalogue of sins it covers. That’s what this book is all about. It is literally a catalogue of sins – committed by some of the most celebrated names on the planet.

Within these covers are startling stories of scandals during a century when screen idols seemed to vie with each other in outraging public decency. It was an age when fan fever was at its height and an endless supply of shocking revelations emerged to fuel the frenzy.

Because of the perpetrators’ superstar status, the shame of exposure was often heightened, not only wrecking reputations but often harming careers and, at least, ensuring very public humiliation.

The lessons learned from these cases of celebrity scandal (though often, it seems, not by the celebrities themselves) is that the bigger the star, the harder the fall … and that deceit and intrigue so often turn hard-won fame into instant infamy.

My Review

Some people get away with all sorts of behaviour. ALthough some of the things that fifty years ago might have been scandalous are now nothing to fuss about. This book catalogues affairs, drug abuse, murder, suicide, child sex abuse… all the horrible stuff people get up to and it comes right up to 2017, with the allegations against Woody Allen. It shows that the current crop of immoral or illegal behaviour that is being highlighted in Hollywood has always happened, but now people are able to shine a light on it and fight back.

If you ignore the abuse and murders, this book is a bit of fun and gossip about the film industry, full of useless trivia that film buffs and celebrity followers will enjoy. The true crime enthusiasts will enjoy the murders and other crimes. It’s illustration heavy too,

Published by: Independently published
Publication Date: 26th November 2018
I.S.B.N.: 978-1720079132
Format: Paperback
Price: £4.68
Purchase link


Among the exciting features of this work is a 1940’s African American comic book publisher creating black heroes. An added bonus is superheroes fighting villains who sets foot in Africa.

My Review

Demetrius emailed me to ask if I’d review his book for him, and I agreed. It’s a compact introduction to black characters in comic books. The author highlights the early characters, comics and publishers that have been forgotten by modern comic book fans. This is important history, a facet of popular culture that is often ignored and marginalised. If you’re interested in the history of comic books, I recommend this quick read to get a foundation in this particular subject.

The layout could do with some work and it’s probably better as an ebook.


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