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Autobiography and Biography

Killing for Company: The Case of Dennis Nilsen by Brian Masters

When Dennis Nilsen was arrested at his Muswell Hill home, little did the police know that the proverbial can of worms was about to be opened. Within days, the civil servant had admitted to killing fifteen men and the name of Dennis Nilsen was about to be added to the list of Britain’s most notorious murderers. Here, with the assistance of Nilsen himself, Brian Masters tells the detailed story of the ‘Muswell Hill Murderer’.

Ever since watching the TV series, Des, which starred David Tennant as Nilsen, Killing for Company has been a book I have wanted to read. This review is based on the audiobook which is superbly read by Jason Watkins, the actor who played Brian Masters, the author of this book.

This is a very in depth look at the life of Nilsen and I particularly enjoyed the earlier chapters which chronicled his childhood in Scotland. The research into his family life was very detailed, and it was fascinating learning about the history of his family and how certain events could have, possibly, played a pivotal role in what was to happen in the future.

The details of his crimes are not for the faint of heart although I do not feel that the descriptions are too graphic. For me, the most chilling part of this case is Nilsen’s ability to carry on with life as normal, knowing that there were the remains of several young men at his home. While Masters makes it clear that some of Nilsen’s stories may not be 100% true, he certainly provides a valuable insight into what became one of the murder cases of the century.

This is a well-written, superbly-researched book that provides a fascinating look into the life and crimes of one of Britain’s most infamous killers.

The Doctor Will See You Now by Dr Amir Khan

You might recognise Dr Amir Khan from television programmes such as GPs Behind Closed Doors or Lorraine. In The Doctor Will See You Now: The Highs and Lows of My Life as an NHS GP, we see how the popular doctor has progressed from his early days as a newly-qualified GP to becoming a partner in a busy surgery, with many heartbreaking, heartwarming and hilarious tales along the way.

I enjoy watching GPs behind Closed Doors and Dr. Amir Khan is one of my favourites on there, his way with patients showing why he has been embraced warmly by television. I listened to the audiobook, which is voiced by the author, and hearing his tales in his own words definitely enhanced my enjoyment.

Dr Khan paints a very vivid picture of what it is like to work in the NHS and it is clear that he thoroughly enjoys his work. He demonstrates how no two days are ever alike, sharing tales that will make you laugh and cry in equal measures. I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions, and have already regaled several people with one story about the time some non-human ‘patients’ ended up in his surgery! There are some truly heartbreaking stories, however, and one particular family will remain in my thoughts for some time.

The epilogue really resonated with me, especially in light of recent events (COVID does feature in the book) and the vital role the NHS has played in keeping our country running over the past year. Our NHS is something that should not be allowed to be broken up and it is important that there is proper funding and recruitment that will allow this amazing institution to continue. It is the envy of many around the world and we need to be able to keep people like Dr Khan.

I, Robot: How to be a Footballer 2 by Peter Crouch

With what is going on in the world at the moment, I was in need of something a bit more light-hearted than what I usually read. I, Robot is the second book in a year from footballer Peter Crouch and if you were a fan of the first instalment, then you’re going to enjoy this one too.

If you’re looking for a serious autobiography, then you’re not going to find this here, but then, with Peter Crouch, I’m sure that’s not what you were expecting! What we have here is a collection of anecdotes from both his career as a Premier League footballer and from before this time, split into chapters with headings such as ‘Away Days’, ‘Referees’ and ‘Strikers’. While some sections are more successful than others, on the whole, this is a very readable book with plenty to keep you entertained.

As you would expect, in his writing, Peter Crouch comes across as a self-effacing character, honest about his career and team mates without ever being too shocking. Although he does give his opinion on many aspects of the game, it never veers from being a light-hearted take on the beautiful game. 

If you’re a football fan looking for a non-demanding, easy read, then this just might be the book for you.

With thanks to Ebury Press for my copy of I, Robot. 

 

 

**BLOG TOUR** First in the Fight by Helen Antrobus and Andrew Simcock

In 2018, a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst was unveiled in St. Peter’s Square, Manchester, 100 years after some women first received the right to vote. Prior to this, a list of 20 pioneering women of Manchester had been drawn up, the aim being to commemorate the role women have played in the city. First in the Fight tells the story of these women, some of them well-known, others virtually unheard of, each of them powerhouses in their field.

Being from Liverpool, if I were asked to think of pioneering women from the north-west of England, my initial response would be the likes of Bessie Braddock, Kitty Wilkinson and Eleanor Rathbone, all known for their work in my home city. As someone interested in social history, I was pleased, therefore, to be given the opportunity to expand my horizons and discover more about the women that made Manchester.

I really like how this book is organised as this made it very easy to read. Each woman had a chapter devoted to her, written in an informative and stirring way with wonderful colour illustrations that really brought each subject to life. I also enjoyed reading about how the project came into being, each step being documented with photographs to show the journey from beginning to end.

Of course, no book on this subject would be worth its weight in salt if it did not discuss the lives of, arguably, the most influential women in Britain’s recent history – the Suffragettes. The Pankhursts, Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia, are all covered, but it was, perhaps, the likes of Margaret Ashton that interested me the most. The lives of the Pankhursts have been well-documented, but I found it fascinating to read about those women who very few of us will have heard of.

After reading about these amazing Mancunian women and the significant roles they played in society, I’d love this to be part of a series with women from other cities highlighted as there are lots of untold stories out there. This is a superb book and one that I know I will be returning to in the future.

To buy your own copy of First in the Fight, visit https://inostalgia.co.uk/product/first-in-the-fight/ 

With thanks to iNostalgia and to Kelly from Love Books Group for organising the blog tour.

 

**BLOG TOUR** What Nobody Knew by Amelia Hendrey

Abandoned by her mother at the age of three and left with her violent father and stepmother, Amelia had what can only be described as a horrific start in life. What Nobody Knew is the author’s own heartbreaking story, from her incredibly traumatic beginnings to her brave survival and, hopefully, happier life.

First of all, I need to start by saying that due to its content, this book may not be for everyone. Dealing with subjects such as child and domestic abuse, rape and abandonment, What Nobody Knew is a harrowing and, at times, difficult read. It’s not, however, sensationalised in any way, and is an honest account of the author’s upbringing.

Throughout the book, I had overwhelming feelings of anger directed towards the adults in Amelia’s life. She truly had no one to turn to and was let down constantly by those who had the power to do something about what she was enduring. Her numerous injuries, some of them requiring hospital visits, should, surely, have had the alarm bells ringing and yet this poor child continued to stay in the family home with those who were responsible.

What I found most fascinating about this book was the inclusion of actual documents from when concerns had been raised. This helped to highlight how little had been done for this child, the authorities seemingly intent on placing the blame firmly with the child rather than investigating the true cause of her behaviour and injuries. The more I read, the more frustrated and angry I became – how could they let this happen?

Being taken away from the family home can be traumatic for any child, but in her case, this provided one of the few high points for Amelia. Boarding school gave her the opportunity to live life as a ‘normal’ child and it was heartwarming to see her developing a close friendship with one of the other girls, doing things that girls her age would do. Of course, this couldn’t last, and it was devastating to think that she was send back to her home, and her abusers, each school holiday.

You would be forgiven for thinking that these events happened a number of years ago, but it is shocking to see how recently this all occurred. Neglect like this should never be allowed to happen again and I applaud the author for having the courage to tell her story.

With thanks to Amelia Hendrey and to Sarah Hardy from Book On The Bright Side Publicity & Promo for organising the blog tour.

Teacher, Teacher! by Jack Sheffield

The year is 1977 and Jack Sheffield has just started a new job as head teacher at Ragley Primary School in North Yorkshire. Teacher, Teacher! is the story of his first year in the post, showing how the young, inexperienced teacher deals with the staff, parents and pupils along with the numerous colourful characters of the local village.

Although I mainly read crime and thriller books, occasionally I like to venture into something a little more light-hearted so when I saw Teacher, Teacher! on The Works website, it looked right up my street. As someone who grew up after the time the book is set but remembers primary school with fondness, I looked forward to the book taking me right back to simpler times. As someone who works in education, I was also intrigued to see how schools today compared to Ragley in the 1970s.

Teacher, Teacher! is filled with laugh out loud moments from a cast of larger than life characters. A vivid picture has been painted of life in the school and it was easy to imagine people such as Ruby, the caretaker, and Mrs. Brown, the parent nobody wants to speak to at parents’ evening. There were numerous amusing tales of events such as the school camping trip and sports day – all before the days of health and safety and risk assessments!

The book also has its more poignant moments, the standout ones for me being Jack’s visit to a local special school where he spent his time dancing with a severely disabled child who could only ‘dance with her eyes’. This was a truly beautiful scene. I also enjoyed reading about Ping, a Vietnamese refugee who spent a short time at Ragley school. Both of these stories showed how important a nurturing environment is to children – a stark contrast to the current trend of testing and reducing children to statistics.

Teacher, Teacher! is a heart-warming read and I have already purchased the next in the series.

A Better Me by Gary Barlow

During the 1990s, Take That were the boy band. Sell-out tours, number one singles, adoring fans – they had it all. After they decided to call it a day, everyone expected the career of lead singer and songwriter, Gary Barlow, to go from strength to strength, but this was not to be the case. Finding solace in food, Gary became a virtual recluse, tired of the endless jibes at his expense. A Better Me chronicles the battles with his demons, from his lowest times to the present day where he is happier than ever.

As someone who remembers Take That from the days when they used to tour shops and who still enjoys going to their tours today, I was really looking forward to reading A Better Me. If you are looking for a ‘warts and all’ tale of life in a boy band, then you are going to be sorely disappointed. This is very much Gary’s story – not the story of Take That – and it is one of humour, sadness but, above all, honesty.

As the title suggests, this is about how Gary changed his life for the better, be it through his battles with his weight or his mental health. What comes across throughout the book is how, despite his wealth and his happy family life, he could not find peace within himself, turning to food to fill the void when his solo career did not go how he had hoped. I daresay a lot of people will be nodding as he discusses the numerous diets, some more bizarre than others, that he tried in order to lose weight.

It was fascinating to read his take on the breakdown in his relationship with bandmate Robbie Williams, and he deals with this particular part of his life with brutal honesty. Similarly, he addresses his well-publicised tax avoidance – something I thought may have been omitted.

Gary deals with the well-documented loss of his stillborn child in a sensitive, honest way. I can understand why he had reservations in including this traumatic part of his life, but I feel that he made the correct decision in writing about it. If just one person going through the same thing finds it comforting, then it has been worthwhile.

A Better Me is a brutally honest take on the life  of one of the country’s foremost songwriters and is one that I’m sure all Take That fans will love.

**BLOG TOUR** Full Metal Cardigan by David Emery

Full-Metal-Cardigan-Front-CoverFull Metal Cardigan is the first book from David Emery, detailing life as a social worker. While this is certainly a serious profession, it has also had its lighthearted and downright bizarre moments, many of which are recalled in this comical yet no-holds-barred look at life in social services.

They (whoever they may be) say that you should laugh in the face of adversity and it’s fair to say that David has found humour in some very dark places! Although he has faced some very dark events in the course of his job such as attempted suicides and physical attacks, he has clearly kept his sense of humour throughout, the numerous tales that had me laughing out loud being testament to this! From stories about being an unwitting driver to a drug dealer to nearly aiding a client on a one-way trip to Dignitas, Full Metal Cardigan provided laughs from beginning to end.

It must be remembered, though, that despite the funny stories, working in social services is not easy and is a profession that comes with a huge amount of responsibility. I have much respect for David and his colleagues, especially when reading about the lengthy working hours and amount of personal danger they are placed in. Not a job I would enjoy!

I really enjoyed Full Metal Cardigan and if you are looking for a quick, light-hearted read then this could just be the book for you!

With thanks to Fledgling Press for my ARC and to Kelly at Love Books Group for organising the blog tour. take a look at the rest of the blogs on the tour:

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**BLOG TOUR** Trafficked Girl by Zoe Patterson

Today, I am so pleased to be one of the blogs featuring on the tour for Trafficked Girl by Zoe Patterson. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time.

When she was taken into care at the age of 13, Zoe hoped that her life was about to take a turn for the better. Abused at home from a very young age, Denver House was a fresh start, away from the physical and emotional violence she had experienced. Little did Zoe know that her life was about to go from bad to worse as she found herself being bullied by older girls who forced her into going to ‘parties’ which were actually further ways of abusing her. Soon, Zoe found herself being trafficked around the country with no one in authority willing to help put a stop to it. Trafficked Girl is the story of a girl who truly experienced rock bottom yet managed to fight back.

It is hard to read a book like this without asking the question, ‘How was this allowed to happen?’ The quote at the start of the book is actually a dictionary definition of the word ‘care’ and this is precisely what Zoe never managed to experience. From being physically and mentally abused by her mother and sexually abused by the older men she was forced to spend time with, Zoe really had no chance in life whatsoever. Perhaps what really sickened me the most, however, was the attitude of those who were tasked with her protection. How could the police turn a blind eye to what was going on? How could the staff of Denver House be so blasé about what their charges were doing? How could social services not put a stop to what was, seemingly, happening in several authorities at the time? The list of questions could go on.

In recent years, there have been countless stories that have emerged about the failings in the care system and while these are horrific to read, hearing the words of one of the children actually involved gives you a whole new understanding. My heart went out to Zoe as she moved from place to place, each time hoping that this would be where she would finally belong. It was also quite poignant to see how, despite her mother’s abuse, she still tried to keep contact with her dysfunctional family only to find herself still the subject of ridicule.

Trafficked Girl shows how all it takes for someone to turn their life around is the trust and belief of another person, this person being Pam, who took Zoe under her wing and gave her the strength to fight back and take on the system that had failed her repeatedly. It was thanks to Pam that Zoe is now able to take steps towards moving on in her life and, although the memories of her past will probably remain with her for ever, she is now in a position to achieve the things she always wanted but was never able to.

It has been a long time since a book has made me so angry and I applaud Zoe Patterson for having the courage to tell her story. Trafficked Girl is a highly emotive read on a subject that should never be brushed under the carpet. These children, now adults, deserve their justice.

With thanks to Rosie Margesson and Harper Collins for my ARC.

Take a look at the rest of the blog tour:

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