Bloody London written and illustrated by David Fathers
You have to feel for any author with a book due out during the Covid-19 crisis but it seems extra hard on David Fathers as this is a walking book. All I’d say about that is the walks will be there when this is over and the book is very readable, even in the abstract.
Bloody London is a lightly told potted history of the dark side of 2000 years of London life, it is immensely enjoyable and informative. As a guide the walk is the focus so each entry is brief, there’s no nuance to the stories which is fair enough. If your curiosity is aroused by something in particular you can always look it up. The walks are well thought out, well plotted, obstacles like steps are highlighted as are nearby transport links, and there are alternative routes offering different bloody discoveries for each location.
Sadly, now isn’t the time to test the walks unless they happen to be on your local exercise route, which is frustrating. Reading Bloody London will make you want to see the locations associated with crimes and events you may be familiar with but haven’t connected to a specific place. There are also plenty of entries that will be new to readers, some will surprise and one or two will shock.
This pocket guide is handy enough to take out and about. Even in London with its myriad attractions you can get blasé about getting from A to B not taking in the sights. Bloody London is an aid to curing that complacency. In all Bloody London has twenty walks. The first area covered is Holloway and Islington and the first walk takes in these people and places: Frederick Seddon, poisoner, Ronald Marwood, cop killer, Joe Meek, record producer – Telstar by The Tornadoes – and killer of his landlady before committing suicide, Holloway prison, Dr. Crippen, the scene of the last duel, Frederick Bucknell, jilted lover/killer, Pentonville prison, and the MDC not guilty affair. The alternative walk features Joe Orton’s house, (murdered playwright). Other areas include Fitzrovia and Soho, Kensington and Notting Hill, but some walks are themed; The Great Plague 1665, The Great Fire 1666, Jack the Ripper, Tyburn, and the Thames. The lengths of walks vary, from less than a kilometre to ten kilometres. They are for the curious, the history buff wanting to connect paper knowledge to location, and for Ben Aaronovitch, the crime writer who introduces this guide, a source of material. Maps are clear and the illustrations by the writer/artist add to the flavour.
This is a book I intend to make use of as soon as social isolation allows. If exploring London is your thing this is for you.
Published by Conway, 2nd April, Paperback, 9781844865505

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