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Autobiography and Biography

The Prison Doctor by Amanda Brown

Former GP Dr Amanda Brown has worked with inmates in some of Britain’s most well-known prisons from young offenders’ institutions to Wormwood Scrubs and finally Bronzefield, a women-only prison. In this book, the first of a series, the author tells the story of what goes on behind those prison walls, creating an insight that most of us (thankfully) will never experience.

From quite early on we see how much compassion Amanda has for her patients at her GP practice and you could tell how difficult it was for her to leave this behind and start a new career as a prison doctor. She soon realises, though, that her skills are transferable and is soon making a difference for those who need her help.

The stories in the book are, at times, heartbreaking, especially when you read about those who have become so institutionalised that they can no longer cope with life on the outside. There is also lots of good humour thrown in for good measure, however, so it is not a totally harrowing read,

The Prison Doctor is an easy read and one that has made me want to read the follow-ups.

The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins by John Pearson

The names Ronnie and Reggie Kray are synonymous with the gangland crime that existed in London in the 1960s. Their empire of crime saw them befriending famous actors, sportsmen and politicians despite the terror that they brought to those who dared to cross them. The Profession of Violence takes us back to the beginning – their childhood – and tells the story of how they became the infamous criminals we know today.

After watching a recent documentary series about the Krays, I felt compelled to find out a bit more about them and this book, published in 1972 and nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award, seemed like a good place to start.

The Profession of Violence gives a complete overview of the lives of the brothers, from their humble beginnings in the east end of London to their later incarceration and subsequent deaths. (The audiobook I listened to had been updated to give this up-to-date information). Although many people would inevitably read this to discover more about their infamous crimes, for me the most interesting part was the details about their childhood and early life. We see from an early age, the bond they had, doing everything together (unless prison got in the way). At a time when National Service was in existence, I also found their time here fascinating, and although many men say that this period in their lives was what put them on the straight and narrow, this could not be said about the Kray twins!

Some good research definitely went into the writing of this book and I have seen that there are other books written by the same author that I will definitely be reading at some point.

Mind Games: The Ups and Downs of Life and Football by Neville Southall

First of all, if you are expecting this to be a typical footballer’s autobiography then you are going to be bitterly disappointed. Any followers of Neville Southall on Twitter will know that while he certainly still has an interest in football, his social media platform has, in recent years, been used to highlight inequality in society, regularly using experts in certain issues to host ’Twitter Takeovers’.

Mind Games is a more in depth look at these issues, linking them, at times, to things that he has witnessed during his footballing career. Discussing topics such as racism, homophobia, alcoholism and mental health, this is an honest and candid book, highlighting things that have often been taboo subjects in the footballing world.

The former Everton and Wales goalkeeper does also talk about issues affecting footballers and it is here where we get an insight into what goes on behind closed doors, Southall recounting stories from his own time in the sport that will delight fans of both his club and national career.

This is a well-written, honest book that will appeal to all, not just football fans.

With thanks to Harper Collins UK and Net Galley for my copy.

How to Be a Footballer by Peter Crouch

After reading and enjoying the second book in this series, I, Robot: How to Be a Footballer 2, I decided that it was time to read its forerunner.

Read by Peter Crouch, the audiobook is incredibly easy to listen to with numerous laugh out loud moments. If you are looking for a serious autobiography, then this is not the book for you as, although we do get a great insight into the life of Peter Crouch, this is more of a collection of stories and observations than a straightforward life story.

I like how Peter Crouch does not take himself too seriously and is prepared to tell embarrassing stories that others may have wanted to keep hidden. It was also refreshing to see how someone who is comfortable financially is still appalled by the money others spend on things. The tales of a ridiculously expensive jumper and a rather overpriced haircut were particularly amusing!

If you are looking for an easy to read book that will make you laugh – even if football is not one of your interests – then I completely recommend How to be a Footballer. The audiobook, in particular, made this several hours well spent!

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.

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