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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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