Finding voices from the past

One of the challenges in researching historical characters is ascertaining what they were really like. Autobiography is a modern invention, mostly written by the rich and famous. There are no television images, social media comments and, before the nineteenth century, no photographs. When I discovered William Onion, possibly Britain’s most convicted man, I had no […]

New Anthology

This week I received my contributor’s copies of The Best New True Crime Stories: Well-Mannered Crooks, Rogues and Criminals. As with previous books in the series editor Mitzi Szereto has assembled a diverse range of material and authors. My piece follows one by T. Fox. Dunham. It is the fourth time I have worked with […]

The consequences of a routine case

On 2 July 1866 William Onion appeared at the Middlesex Sessions charged with trying to throw a police officer in the Thames. He could not afford a lawyer and the inspector informed the court of his previous convictions. He was sent to jail for nine months, with hard labour. On his release he went on […]

Don’t skip the hard work

Back in the 1990s when Virgin Books launched the Doctor Who New Adventures they advised aspiring writers, like me, that writing a book is hard work and warned that anyone who found it easy was almost certainly doing something wrong. This is perhaps the best piece of advice I have received in my writing career, […]

The Best New True Crime Series

This was a good week for the series of Best New True Crime Stories edited by Mitzi Szereto. The third volume, Well-Mannered Crooks, Rogues and Criminals was released and the second, Small Towns, was selected by Book Authority as one of the best new books on Criminology. I contributed to both, benefiting from Mitzi’s skill […]

Two repentant convicts

One of the benefits of researching Jack the Ripper is the introduction to the many fascinating characters who lived around the same time. Their stories are largely untold because they were poor. People like William Onion, possibly Britain’s convicted man, who reformed and became a noted street poet. In my unpublished biography of Onion, I […]

Allegations without facts

“On the twenty-first of May, Frederick Deeming passed away.” Frederick Bailey Deeming was labelled the criminal of the century after his execution in Melbourne on 23 May 1892. A folk song with a fictitious date forever linked him to a greater fiction that he was Jack the Ripper. Deeming killed his wife and four children […]

Well-mannered Crooks, Rogues and Criminals

The latest instalment in Mitzi Szereto’s true crime series is published on 15 June. This anthology of stories about rogues contains my piece on Charles Chadwick, also known as Andrew John Gibson, a notorious international conman and serial bigamist. One of the earliest reviews pays tribute to Raffles, the gentleman criminal created by E. W. […]

Should we judge the past?

Society is changing. Attitudes and behaviours which were once considered normal are no longer accepted or tolerated. This can create issues for readers and viewers of older material. Should we be offended, judgmental or willing to accept that the creators of the work had different values to our own? I have largely taken the third […]