London Books: The City’s Dark Side


IMG_1845We haven’t had any London books for a while, so here are a few exploring London’s murder miles.

The most traditional of the lot is Mark Herber’s ‘Criminal London: A Pictorial History from Medieval Times to 1939’, although it’s mainly concerned with the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s a piecemeal affair with case histories from Charles Peace to Dr Crippen, and chapters on riot and anarchy, prisons and instruments of punishment. No case is gone into in much detail, but it’s a good quick overview. Not a very attractive volume, though.

Kris & Nina Hollington’s ‘Criminal London: A Sightseer’s Guide to the Capital of Crime’ is arranged by neighbourhoods, and has many cases I didn’t know about, like Lord Byron killing his neighbour,  the British Baader-Meinhof group and a modern day gang of kids called Fagin’s Kitchen Crew. Evocative photographs of the sites have been taken in the empty streets of early dawn light.

David Long’s ‘Murders of London: In the Steps of the Capital’s Killers’  follows a similar format, although the cases aren’t explored in any depth – it seems popular at the moment to avoid any deep analysis of London subjects in favour of a light skim, probably because you can find more information on the internet. Here you’ll find the death of a real-life Bond girl spy, the Charing Cross trunk murder and 1964’s Jack the Stripper murders.

Decland McHugh’s ‘Bloody London’ is a quirky pocket guide to the most obvious criminal hotspots with some nice oddities (horror writers, odd facts about the Chamber of Horrors, why Croydon got bombed during the war) from a performer who conducts murder tours. A bit on the thin side, though.

Finally, Morris Kaplan’s ‘Sodom On The Thames’ is an altogether more in-depth look at sex and criminality in London, with engrossing details of the cases themselves, the legal processes, publicity, public scandal and political fallout of high profile criminal prosecutions, including London’s very naughty telegraph boys. Each chapter comes with a dramatis personae and feels like an act from a play – all in all, a real eye-opener.

3 comments on “London Books: The City’s Dark Side”

  1. Janet Wilson says:

    Not George Gordon, but great uncle Bill who ran his neighbouring cousin thro in a drunken ‘duel’. And it got worse, tho mostly at Newstead, not in London. But THE Lord Byron defo frm a highly dysfunctional family.

  2. Ben Aaronovitch says:

    Oh god Fowler have no conscience it’s not like my TBR list has shrunk any since the last set of London Bookas – to Amazon website – awaaay!

  3. rick says:

    Sodom on the Thames? How has that not become and HBO series?

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