Book or Film?

My eldest boy recently had a school project to analyse the differences between a book and the film of that book. Often these are considerable. Sometimes only the title of the book remains, leaving fans unhappy but potentially attracting viewers unfamiliar with the original. This can grant a longevity to outdated works. The original James […]

More than a song

It is six years since I first wrote about William Onion and now my biography of him is nearing completion. Every time I revisit the sources, I discover something new, which helps build a picture of his character to supplement the facts. In the early stages of his drunken career, that allegedly accumulated a thousand […]

Jack the Ripper: The Interviews

Last year I was a guest on the House of Mystery radio show talking about Jack the Ripper. A transcript of the interview is available in a book which also includes eleven other discussions about Jack the Ripper from the show featuring contributors such as Paul Begg, Michael L. Hawley, Adam Wood, and Tom Wescott. […]

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 […]