Review: Stephen From The Inside Out, by Susie Stead

Publication date: 2 Apr 2021
Category: Biography / Memoir
Paperback price: £9.99
Page count: tbc
ISBN: 978-1-911293-68-2
E-book price: £3.99
ISBN: 978-1-911293-67-5

Stephen struggled for most of his life with severe mental health issues, endured 25 years inside British psychiatric wards and never felt acceptable outside, in the ‘normal’ world. People found him difficult and demanding yet on the inside was a man with wide interests, deep longings and an integrity that would not be compromised, whatever the cost.
This is his story, inside and out; a story of grave injustices, saints and bigots, a faithful dog, a wild woman, a fairy godmother and angels hidden in plain sight.
It is also the story of the author, Susie, who started off by wanting to ‘help’
Stephen ‘get better,’ and instead found herself profoundly challenged by a
friendship she did not expect.
Idiosyncratic, unorthodox, tragic, yet at times hilarious – this book not only tells a compelling and important story but will be vital reading for anyone who cares about mental health in our contemporary world or who might just be open to a different way of seeing: from the inside out

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Review: The Queen of Romance, by Liz Jones

18 MARCH 2021
Market: Biography
Price: £9.99


The first biography of the bestselling author and journalist Marguerite Jervis.
Daughter of an officer of the Indian Medical Corps, Marguerite Florence Laura Jarvis (1886 – 1964) was born in Burma and became one of the most successful novelists of her time. During the course of her 60-year career, Marguerite published over 150 books, with 11 novels adapted for film, including The Pleasure Garden (1925), the directorial debut of Alfred Hitchcock. In her heyday she sold hundreds of thousands of novels, but is now largely forgotten; under numerous pseudonyms she wrote for newspapers, women’s magazines and the silent movie screen; she married one of Wales most controversial literary figures, Caradoc Evans. She also trained as an actress and was a theatrical impresario. Known variously as Mrs Caradoc Evans, Oliver Sandys, Countess Barcynska and many other pseudonyms, who was she really?

Liz Jones has dug deep beneath the tale told in Marguerite Jervis’s own
somewhat romanticised memoir to reveal what made this driven and
determined woman. And what turned her from a spoilt child of the English
middle classes to a workaholic who could turn her hand to any literary
endeavour and who became a runaway popular success during the most
turbulent years of the 20th century.

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Review: The Philosopher Queens, ed. by Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting

17th September 2020 | PBO £9.99

Where are all the women philosophers?
• A beautifully illustrated introduction to twenty of the most important and underrepresented women philosophers, from 400BCE to the present day
• In 2015, women accounted for only 22% of philosophy professors at the top 20 US universities; in some fields of philosophy there has been almost no increase in the number of women since the 1970s
• Three of the most comprehensive histories of philosophy published in the last 20 years have made little or no mention of women

The history of philosophy has not done women justice: you’ve probably heard the names Plato, Kant, Nietzsche and Locke – but what about Hypatia, Arendt, Oluwole and Young?

The Philosopher Queens is a long-awaited book about the lives and works of women in philosophy by women in philosophy. This collection brings to centre stage twenty prominent women whose ideas have had a profound – but for the most part uncredited – impact on the

You’ll learn about Ban Zhao, the first woman historian in ancient Chinese history; Angela Davis, perhaps the most iconic symbol of the American Black Power Movement; Azizah Y. al- Hibri, known for examining the intersection of Islamic law and gender equality; and many more.

For anyone who has wondered where the women philosophers are, or anyone curious about the history of ideas – it’s time to meet the philosopher queens.

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Review: Nothin’ But A Good Time, by Justin Quirk

3 September 2020
£10.99 / $14.99 / €11.66

From 1983 until 1991, Glam Metal was the sound of American culture. Big hair, massive amplifiers, drugs, alcohol, piles of money and life-threatening
pyrotechnics. This was the world stalked by Bon Jovi, Kiss, W.A.S.P., Skid Row, Dokken, Motley Crue, Cinderella, Ratt and many more. Armed with hairspray, spandex and strangely shaped guitars, they marked the last great era of supersize bands.
Where did Glam Metal come from? How did it spread? What killed it off? And why does nobody admit to having been a Glam Metaller anymore?

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Review: The Magic of Terry Pratchett, by Marc Burrows

The Magic of Terry Pratchett

Published By: Pen & Sword – Imprint: White Owl
Price: £13.99
ISBN: 9781526765505
Published: 6th July 2020

The Magic Of Terry Pratchett is the first full biography of Sir Terry Pratchett ever written. Sir Terry was Britain’s best-selling living author*, and before his death in 2015 had sold more than 85 million copies of his books worldwide. Best known for the Discworld series, his work has been translated into 37 languages and performed as plays on every continent in the world, including Antarctica. Journalist, comedian and Pratchett fan Marc Burrows delves into the back story of one of UK’s most enduring and beloved authors; from his childhood in the Chiltern Hills, to his time as a journalist, and the journey that would take him – via more than sixty best-selling books – to an OBE, a knighthood and national treasure status. The Magic Of Terry Pratchett is the result of painstaking archival research alongside interviews with friends and contemporaries who knew the real man under the famous black hat, helping to piece together the full story of one of British literature’s most remarkable and beloved figures for the very first time.

*Now disqualified on both counts.

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Pen & Sword Review: ‘The Hidden Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Victims’, by Robert Hume

The Hidden Lives of Jack the Ripper's Victims
ISBN: 9781526738608
Published: 18th September 2019

Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly are inextricably linked in history. Their names might not be instantly recognisable, and the identity of their murderer may have eluded detectives and historians throughout the years, but there is no mistaking the infamy of Jack the Ripper.

For nine weeks during the autumn of 1888, the Whitechapel Murderer brought terror to London’s East End, slashing women’s throats and disembowelling them. London’s most famous serial killer has been pored over time and again, yet his victims have been sorely neglected, reduced to the simple label: prostitute.

The lives of these five women are rags-to-riches-to-rags stories of the most tragic kind. There was a time in each of their lives when these poor women had a job, money, a home and a family. Hardworking, determined and fiercely independent individuals, it was bad luck, or a wrong turn here or there, that left them wretched and destitute. Ignored by the press and overlooked by historians, it is time their stories were told.

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Review: The Mayfair Mafia, by Dick Kirby

The Mayfair Mafia
By Dick Kirby
Imprint: Pen & Sword True Crime
Pages: 198
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781526742612
Published: 1st May 2019

It is a little known fact that one immigrant Italian family ran London’s thriving vice trade unchecked from the mid-1930s for some twenty years.

The five Messina brothers imported prostitutes from the Continent on an industrial scale, acquiring the women British citizenship by phoney marriages. Demanding 80% of earnings, the Messina became fabulously wealthy, purchasing expensive properties, cars and influence.

As this revealing and absorbing account describes, the brothers ruled with a ruthless combination of charm, blackmail and all too credible threats of disfigurement and death.

It took a sensational Sunday newspaper exposé to get the authorities to act. A series of dramatic arrests and trials followed and one by one the brothers were imprisoned and deported for crimes including immoral earnings, attempted bribery and firearms offences.

Such was their fortune that numerous potential beneficiaries came forward, most recently in 2012.

The author, a much published former Metropolitan police officer, has researched the remarkable criminal careers of the five Messina’s and the result is a riveting and shocking read.

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Review: Hidden Wyndham, by Amy Binns

New biography explores the secret love life of celebrated author John Wyndham

Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters includes previously unpublished love letters from The Day of the Triffids author

The first biography of the life of science fiction author John Wyndham is now available. It includes the first publication of a collection of love letters to his long-term partner and later wife, Grace Wilson.

Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters, by Dr Amy Binns, author and senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), explores Wyndham’s wealthy but traumatic childhood. This was transformed by a spell at the first mixed-sex public school Bedales from 1915 to 1918, the source of the strange but fervent feminism of Consider Her Ways and Trouble with Lichen.

The biography covers his formative years as a pulp fiction writer, his experiences as a censor during the Blitz and his part in the Normandy landings. He described his struggles with his conscience in a moving series of letters to Grace, the teacher with whom he had a 36 year love affair.

 After the war, he transformed the searing experiences of wartime London, France and Germany into a series of bestselling novels: The Day of the Triffids, The Chrysalids, The Midwich Cuckoos and The Kraken Wakes. But he remained intensely private, shunning fame and finally retiring to live anonymously with Grace in the countryside he loved.

Hidden Wyndham is distributed by Gardners Books and is now available on the Waterstones and Amazon websites, in Kindle and in paperback edition.

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Pen & Sword True Crime Round-up Reviews

I have so many Pen & Sword books to review (because they keep releasing so many that I want to read!) that I’m doing multiple reviews in a single post. Today I’m writing reviews for the true crime books I’ve read recently.

The Secret Serial Killer
On the evening of 21 August 1983, Metropolitan Police detectives raced to the cells of London’s Clapham Police Station to find a prisoner dead and his cellmate sat cross-legged and quiet in the corner.

Kieran Kelly, a labourer from Ireland, quickly confessed to strangling the prisoner – and then stunned officers by confessing to dozens of unreported and unsolved murders over the previous 30 years.

Detectives believed they were in the presence of Britain’s most prolific serial killer yet Kelly was convicted on just two of his admissions and his story went unnoticed until 2015, when a former police officer who worked on the case claimed the killer’s crimes were covered up by the British Government.

Strangulations, murders on the London Underground, an internal Metropolitan Police review – as the story’s elements whipped the international news media into a frenzy, journalist Robert Mulhern set off on a methodical search for the truth against the backdrop of an ever-increasing body count.

Could Kieran Kelly really have murdered 31 times?

My Review

I had not heard of this case before, and I was intrigued because I thought I’d heard of most of the major serial killers in Britain in the last fifty years, There has been a lot of speculation and sensationalisation about Kieran Kelly, much of it encouraged by former Police Officer Geoff Platt, alleging that Kieran Kelly had murdered 31 people, 12 on the tube. He wrote a couple of books about it and apparently does cruises. He also says the crimes were covered up by the government for some reason.

Robert Mulhern does an excellent job of chasing down as much of the truth as possible after so long. The only certainty is that Kelly killed his cell-mate William Boyd in August 1983 and Hector Fisher on Clapham Common in 1975. He may have also killed five or six other homeless people, but the police weren’t able to prove anything and his own solicitor called Kelly a ‘fantasist’.

As much an investigation in to the life of Kieran Kelly and an investigation into the claims that were making headlines and their author. Mulhern travels from London to Ireland and back, trying to check the details and speaking to people who knew Kelly as Ken.

Mulhern spoke to a lot of other people, including more police officers involved with the Kelly case in 1983/1984, and Geoff Platt himself. Among those Mulhern spoke to was ‘Officer A’, who had access to a lot of the paperwork and the new Inquiry, and retired D.I., Ian Brown, a detective on the Boyd case, who objects to being called a liar.

The evidence suggests Kelly murdered five or six homeless people during drunken rages, but had nothing to do with any deaths on the Underground. It also suggests that Platt is making hay from his minor part in an unusual case of murder in a police station. There’s some really good investigative work in this book, with multiple interviews from the people who were there.

Britain's Forgotten Serial Killer

Serial killer Patrick Mackay was dubbed the most dangerous man in Britain when he appeared in court in 1975 charged with three killings, including the axe murder of a priest. The Nazi-obsessed alcoholic had stalked the upmarket streets of West London hunting for victims and was suspected of at least eight further murders.

Now, after more than 40 years behind bars, where he has shunned publicity, Mackay has been allowed to change his name and win the right to live in an open prison – bringing him one step closer to freedom. For the first time, Britain’s Forgotten Serial Killer reveals the full, untold story of Patrick Mackay and the many still-unsolved murders linked to his case.

My Review

Patrick Mackay is a bit of a sad sack, who took out his own insecurities first on his mother and sisters, and then on local kids, before moving on to murder people who tried to help him. Usually elderly women. I’ve heard about him before so I couldn’t understand the title of this book. And then I got to the last chapter.

Patrick Mackay’s crimes were sensational at the time – priests found hacked to death in their baths will cause a fuss – but over the years he’s been forgotten. Murderers with higher body counts have pushed him into the background. He’s changed his name and now lives in an open prison. Brady or Sutcliffe would never have been allowed to do that.

The author sets out a biography of Patrick Mackay and his potential involvement in other unsolved crimes that match the crimes he was convicted for. If you’ve never heard of this particular serial killer, this book is a good place to start.

Britain’s Unsolved Murders
Britain has its fair share of unsolved murders. Crimes that have both fascinated and horrified in equal measure, with many as baffling today as they were when the stories first hit the headlines in the national press. Spanning 100 years between 1857-1957, this book re-examines thirteen of these murder cases and retells the stories that have endured and confounded both police and law courts alike. Each chapter provides an account of the circumstances surrounding the killing, of the people caught up in the subsequent investigation and the impact it had on some of their lives. It also explores the question of guilt and to whom it should, or should not, be attached. Each of these murders poses an undeniable truth; no-one was ever proven to have committed the killing despite, in some cases, accusing fingers being pointed, arrests being made and show trials taking place. Consequently, notoriety, deserved or otherwise, was often attached to both victim and accused. But was it ever merited?

From the questionable court case surrounding Scotland’s now famous Madeleine Smith, and the failed police investigation into Bradford’s Jack the Ripper case of 1888, to the mysterious deaths of Caroline Luard and Florence Nightingale Shore at the start of the twentieth century, this book disturbs the dust, sifts the facts and poses the questions that mattered at the time of each murder. Did Harold Greenwood poison his wife in Kidwelly? Who was responsible for the Ripper-like killing of Emily Dimmock and Rose Harsent? Why did Evelyn Foster die on the moor near Otterburn in what became known as the Blazing car murder and who strangled Ann Noblett to death in 1957?

These are just some of the cases examined and the stories behind them. Each and every one, no matter how appalling the crime, still deserving of justice.

My Review

This book covers thirteen murders from 1857 – 1957, some quite well-known and some less so. The author gives the details then discusses the possible killers, as far as he is able to after so long. Each chapter is detailed and the photographs and images provided are helpful. It’s a fairly easy to read book that you can pick up to read a chapter or two then go back to later.

A good place to start if you’re interested in unsolved murders.

Crime on the Canals
Throughout our islands’ history we find tales of thieves, smugglers, thugs and murderers. Books have been written retelling tales of bandits, footpads, highwaymen, et al, attacking the lone traveller, the horseman, the coachman, shipping line, locomotive engineer, lorry or van driver and even pilot. Yet for almost two centuries the majority of goods travelled on Britain’s famed canal network. This also attracted felons of all kinds and yet many of these tales had been ignored, until now.

Within these pages all manner of crimes are covered. From murders to muggings, parental problems to pilfering, arson, assault, smugglers, counterfeiters and even road rage (albeit canal-style). But it is not all morbidity and misery, humour also plays a significant part in these tales. Why would a hungry man steal the inedible? Follow the policeman on foot chasing down a thief on board the narrowboat. Discover what really lies beneath the waters of the canal. Learn about canal etiquette, the hardships, the kindness and the cruelty.

From an author whose fascination with etymology has produced many books on origins of place names, leading to an interest in the historical modes of travel across our islands, this book is the latest to follow old routes and those found along them.

My Review

Well, this one was different. Since the network of canals around England were first dug in the early years of the Industrial Revolution to the modern use of them for pleasure, crime has taken place. Murder, mugging, coal theft.

I found this book sludgy going at times, although at others it was really fascinating.

Review: ‘Frankie’, by James Essinger and Sandra Koutzenko

Frankie: The Woman Who Saved Millions from Thalidomide

Thalidomide: patented in Germany as a non-toxic cure-all for sleeplessness and morning sickness. A wonder drug with no side-effects.

We know differently now.

Today, thalidomide is a byword for tragedy and drug reform – a sign of what happens when things aren’t done ‘the right way’. But when it was released in the 1950s, it was the best thing since penicillin – something that doctors were encouraged to prescribe to all of their patients. Nobody could anticipate what it actually did: induce sleeping, prevent morning sickness, and drastically harm unborn children.

But, whilst thalidomide rampaged and ravaged throughout most of the West, it never reached the United States. It landed on the desk of Dr Frances Kelsey, and there it stayed as she battled hierarchy, patriarchy, and the Establishment in an effort to prove that it was dangerous. Frankie is her story.

Purchase Links

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