Comprehensive to a fault.

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VILLAINS’ PARADISE

A HISTORY OF BRITAIN’S UNDERWORLD

Murderers, swindlers, prostitutes, burglars, gangs, thugs, conmen and cops collide in England.

The subtitle is misleading: Thomas focuses on the 25 years following World War II. Like his earlier true-crime works (The Victorian Underworld, 1998, etc.), this one evidences the author’s prodigious research of newspaper and criminal-court archives. Thomas also mixes in numerous allusions to the era’s crime novels and films, endeavoring to demonstrate how popular culture influenced, perhaps even inspired, the miscreants. He manifests some nostalgia for the death penalty, abolished in England in 1964, and several times implies that certain crimes (e.g., cop-killing) cry out for it. Encyclopedic in scope and style, the text begins with a few chapters on the austerity of daily life at the end of the war before moving on to the main narrative, a recitation of various sordid and celebrated cases. Some of England’s more notable nasties stalk these pages: sadistic murderer Neville Heath, blood-drinking killer John Haigh; John Christie, who stored his victims under the floorboards; postal robber Billy Hill; and 1950s street punks the Teddy Boys. The author examines as well some of the era’s biggest heists, involving banks, trains, postal vehicles and armored cars. He worries about the scourge of drugs and drug lords. He chronicles the brutal careers of twin brothers Ronnie and Reggie Kray, whose huge funeral processions rivaled those of royalty. Some well-known non-criminal names also appear in these pages. Did John Fowles borrow material from an actual 1957 case for his 1963 novel The Collector? Did the cops really find cannabis in Mick Jagger’s house in 1969, or did they plant it? The Jagger question appears in one of the later chapters, which take a quick look at cases involving police corruption—and heroism.

Comprehensive to a fault.

Pub Date: March 12, 2007

ISBN: 1-933648-17-1

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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