27 Mar 2015


Take Control 2015
The sixth book read in my 2015 Take Control Of Your TBR Pile challenge.


BOOK BLURB (AMAZON.CO.UK): Presents a history of crimes and individual criminals, from Northumberland and Durham county, from around 1700 1945.

SOURCE: Given to me by a friend, thanks Jimmy.

FIRST SENTENCE {Introduction}: The dark side of human nature has always held a deep fascination.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 10}: Newcastle was also notorious for lawlessness in the 18th century.
The preacher John Wesley visited the city in 1742. He wrote: 'I was surprised; so much drunkenness, cursing and swearing - even from the mouths of little children do I never remember to have seen and heard before.'

MY THOUGHTS: Some wonderful facts and figures into the punishments - the jailings, the sending to the stocks, the hangings, the 'Riding the Stang'*, the transporting to America/Australia - meted out to the men, women and, yes, even child 'criminals' of eighteenth/nineteenth/twentieth century Northumberland and Co Durham made all the more fascinating because its my part of the world.

Looking at 'crimes' such as murder, highway robbery, grave robbing, domestic violence, prostitution and child cruelty Tough Times & Grisly Crimes is full of amazing original black and white photographs and illustrations - the faces of 'juvenile delinquents' (Jane Downey, 14; Joseph Oxley, 11 amongst others) their crimes (stealing clothes, taking blankets, sheets and a cruet stand respectively) displayed on boards held in front of them incredibly powerful and moving.

Whilst I found the longer accounts gave a fascinating insight into the people, places and events of that time (the shorter snippets some of which were only a sentence or two long less so) I felt the poor editing, and in particular the layout, could be vastly improved.

* 'A punishment often given to people who had upset their neighbours in one way or another. 
The victim was caught by the mob and strapped to a pole or plank, before being paraded through the town.
He or she would have rubbish and filth poured over them, as well as being punched, kicked, ridiculed and spat on by anyone who bore a grudge. Doubtless others joined in simply for the fun of it.
The procession was always accompanied by a group singing and banging kettles, frying pans or any similar metal objects that could make a loud noise'.
- Tough Times & Grisly Crimes, page 9: A Law Unto Themselves.


Gina R said...

Alas not a read for me though I can imagine the longer tales providing some disturbing insight. thanks for the share!

Kelly said...

Books like this are always all the more fascinating when set in a familiar location.

Literary Feline said...

I don't often read books about true crime, but this does sound interesting. I imagine Kelly is right though about being even more fascinating if you are familiar with the location.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

These always seem to fascinate me. Some of those punishments though... ew.

Suko said...

Tracy, you are "going to town" with this challenge. Good for you!

Thanks for your terrific, honest review.

Happy weekend to you!

kimbacaffeinate said...

These type of reads always fascinate me, too badit wasn't presented better.

Bo said...

Now this does sound interesting. I love hearing stories like this. Generally when hubby and I travel, we always do the historical walks and such, especially ghost walks. I like living history. I don't generally read about it though.
I read to escape and go to a happy place.
I'm glad to see you've managed to read 6 books so far and the month isn't over yet!

New Release Books said...

Sounds intriguing, I do have some books on true crimes. And I also have one on criminals.

Brian Joseph said...

This is really a fascination subject Tracy.

Though I do believe that society is becoming less violent over time, it is still striking how most of the crimes committed in past times are really the same crimes being committed today.

Yvonne@fiction-books said...

Hi Tracy,

This type of book makes for great coffee table material, ideal for browsing.

They certainly did make the time fit the crime back then, even going slightly over the top in some cases. We should seriously be taking a leaf out of their book today and not being so lenient with offenders!

The woman I work with comes from a Durham coal mining village, so she would probably be interested in this book, although just about everyone refers to her as a Geordie, which is always guaranteed to wind her up!

I wanted to know more about 'riding the stang' and was intrigued to know that the pole, or stang idea, was of Dutch or Scandinavian origin. I just can't imagine the cacophany of sound which all those metal objects being banged would generate!

I hate it when the editing is so obviously lacking in a book, I find myself looking for the mistakes, simply so I can complain about them, which only serves to spoil my enjoyment even more :)