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I don’t find it easy to review non-fiction books so thought that I would provide a quarterly (or thereabouts) round-up so that I don’t miss any of my 2018 reading. This post covers the first quarter of this year.

  • The Midnight Assassin by Skip Holdsworth – “Panic, Scandal and the Hunt for America’s First Serial Killer”, this covers the crimes of the person who became known as the Servant Girl Annihilator in Austin, Texas during the period 1884-5. Never caught, there was serious consideration of this man (probably) as Jack the Ripper a few years later. So interesting I’ve gone off and purchased the novel by Steven Taylor which recreates the murders and the various trials.
  • The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards – a history of the Detection Club as founded by Dorothy L Sayers and others, counting most of the greats (including Agatha Christie) in its membership. A breezy history of the club and the development of the classic murder mystery, this led me down several rabbit holes including rewatching some old TV series and finding successor authors picking up unfinished stories before creating their own. Dangerous for its potential impact on book spend.
  • I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara – “A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer – the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised California for over a decade – from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.” So well written, totally fascinating and really sad whenever you come across sections where it’s made clear that they were reconstructed from the author’s notes. I read this in tow massive chunks one weekend. Gripping.
  • Bright Young People by DJ Taylor – this is one of the rabbit holes I mentioned above. We watched an adaptation of my favourite Lord Peter Wimsey novel (Murder Must Advertise) which has a number of characters described as bright young things, which led me to this book which gives a history of the Bright Young People, who they were, what they got up to and how they, mostly, declined. Includes various Mitfords and Evelyn Waugh for a start. I’m not sure it delivers much in terms of analysis but there is plenty of society gossip. I can’t resist tales of aristocratic ladies!

I seem to be very attracted to true crime at the moment – watch this space 😀

 

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22732450Subtitled The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile, this is an attempt by Dan Davies to explain (if that’s at all possible) how Savile became (as far as we know, and I shudder at the thought there might be someone worse) the most prolific sexual offender in UK history while maintaining a high-profile career as a TV celebrity over several decades.

Given the subject matter I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this, but it’s been nominated for a major non-fiction award and just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it should be avoided when, as here, it tries to provide answers to the questions those of us who grew up listening to Savile on the radio or watching him on TV have been asking about his crimes.

I was then not at all sure if I wanted to talk about it, but here we are.

The most interesting aspect of the book, and something which I didn’t expect, is that Davies actually started looking into Savile’s life a long time before he died. He spent a lot of time in Savile’s  company trying to get underneath the famously prickly personality but didn’t get terribly far; this is a man who protected himself through a combination of misdirection, threats, wilful eccentricity and peculiar charm.

The book alternates between a straightforward chronological telling of the life and the exposure of his crimes, with special focus on the travails of the BBC, almost entirely self-inflicted as they flinched from taking forward an investigation into what were long-standing rumours about Savile’s predilections.

He was a big part of popular culture when I was growing up so reading the stuff about his career took me right back to my teenage years. We all thought he was a bit odd but it was always put down to cleverly manufactured eccentricity. And of course that’s how he got away with it all for so long – a famous man with friends at the highest levels of all walks of life who raised huge amounts of money for charity and used all of this to access vulnerable people who wouldn’t be taken seriously if they told anyone. Appalling.

Well written and in my opinion not at all salacious, but as I was reading it I kept wanting to wash my brain out with soap. I can’t in all conscience recommend it, it’s so grim, but it’s also totally compelling.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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