Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Murder Most Notorious - The Leveson Street Slaughter

For a relatively small city, Liverpool packs a terrific punch when it comes to its rich and varied history. Home to a great cultural heritage, and some of the finest Georgian architecture to be found anywhere in the UK, it also - in common with most locations - has its darker side.


In this case, a murder so notorious it caused the local council to rename the street where it occurred. 

It all happened in 1849 in Leveson Street just south of the city centre where, at Number Twenty, Ann Hinrichson lived with her Danish sea captain husband, John. He was away on a voyage and Ann - pregnant with her third child - her two sons, aged five and three and their maid were living peacefully and happily when Ann made a decision that would have fatal consequences. She decided to make some extra cash by renting out one of their rooms.

John Gleeson Wilson, a young Irishman from Limerick, answered her advertisement and, having inspected the rooms, told her he was a ship's carpenter and paid his week's rent in advance. This was on March 28th.

When a delivery boy called the following day, he received no reply to his knock on the door, but he heard someone moaning and, through the keyhole, he could see the feet of someone lying across the hall. he raised the alarm and ran off to find a policeman. When they returned, the neighbours had already broken the door down.

Inside, Mrs Hinrichson's older son and the maid, Mary Parr, had been battered severely with a shovel and left for dead in a pool of blood. Meanwhile, in the cellar, the youngest child lay with his throat cut from ear to ear. The motive appears to have been robbery. Evidently, Mrs Hinrichson had been out when Wilson struck. She had come home to find him in the process of searching through her bedroom drawers. He attacked her viciously with a poker.Mrs Hinrichson and her elder son died shortly after but, unfortunately for Wilson, Mary Parr lived long enough to identify him before she too succumbed to her injuries less than a week later.

Wilson had fled, washed his bloodsoaked clothes in Toxteth Park nearby, and then tried to sell a gold watch to a pawnbroker in London Road. He purchased new boots and trousers and returned to his other lodging house in Porter Street to collect a clean shirt from his landlady. he then calmly walked into a barber's shop for a shave and asked about purchasing a wig as he maintained his hair was falling out. He also made enquiries about buying a £3 ticket to the USA.

The next day his luck ran out Once again he attempted to sell the watch - this time to a dealer in Great Howard Street. Something about his demeanour aroused the dealer's suspicions and he asked his son to take Wilson to a dealer in another part of the city. It was all a ruse. As they passed the Bridewell in Dale Street, the son grabbed Wilson and marched him in to turn him over to the police. The watch had belonged to Ann Hinrichson, as attested to by her mother.

Wilson was unrepentant throughout his trial although during the time he was being held in custody, he was known to have lengthy screaming fits and uncontrollable rages. The verdict required no deliberation on the part of the jury and he was publicly hanged in front of a crowd of some 50,000 people. In fact so many people wanted to witness the end of the notorious killer, that special trains were laid on and a charge of a shilling was made by those wanting a better view.

Wilson didn't go gently to his Maker. The hangman made a mess of the execution. He was a 70 year old stand in called George Howard and he miscalculated the drop.He also failed to position the hood properly and it barely reached his eyebrows. Wilson dropped and writhed in agony, his eyes bulging from their sockets. A number of those with the best views watched in horror as the man's face turned purple and, at one point, he twisted round to face his executioner. This proved too much for some of the crows and a number of them fainted. For fifteen minutes, he slowly choked before he finally expired.

As for poor Captain Hinrichson, he returned home to find his entire family dead. He later rose to become Dock Master at Toxteth, Huskisson and Queen's Docks.

 For residents of Leveson Street, life became intolerable, with sightseers and the sheer notoriety of their street. The council renamed it Grenville Street South. Even so, people would still point at Number Twenty. Gradually the slaughter faded into the annals of history, while all four victims continue to slumber in their graves in St James's Cemetery, nearby.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Forest Dancer - Susan Roebuck

My bookshelves and Kindle heave with books I love, from all genres - not merely my own. I love stories where the atmosphere pours from every page, the characters live and breathe and the story keeps me addicted until the last page, and even beyond. Susan Roebuck is one such author who always delivers this for me and she is my guest today, talking about her latest book, Forest Dancer, which I loved.

 Forest Dancer, my new novel, takes place in Portugal as my previous book Rising Tide was. Instead of being on the coast, Forest Dancer is set in the mountains just outside Lisbon in a fictional village called Aurora.

If you know Portugal and particularly the Lisbon area I think you’ll guess that the large town where the main character, Flora, goes frequently and which is called “Serra Glória” in the book is really Sintra.

 Sintra is only about twenty kilometres to the west of Lisbon but, compared to the heat and noise of Lisbon (which is in itself a beautiful city), it is a fairytale land of misty forests, turreted castles and huge megalithic stones that were hurled out of a volcano a millennia ago.

 British Philippa of Lancaster was Queen of Portugal when she was married to Dom João I from 1387 to 1415 and was responsible for bringing about Europe’s oldest alliance – Portugal and Britain which has lasted to this day (the Portuguese know this, but I can’t say the same for the British). She loved Sintra and one of the royal apartments in the town Palace is dedicated to her: the magpie room, which Flora – my main character – visits.

The king and queen are buried in the Batalha Monastery (north of Lisbon) and their tombs depict them holding hands.

With such a wonderful setting it was easy to combine the forest with ballet and music.

Here is the opening extract of classical ballet dancer, Flora, during an audition for Swan Lake:

The music began and she was in her role, bourréeing backwards, her arms suggesting the sensuous flight of a swan. They were then on to their passionate pas de deux, and Flora concentrated, forcing herself to become the evil temptress that Odile was supposed to be. Immersing herself in the blissful string music helped, even though she wished they’d chosen the role of Odette, the naïve, fun-loving white swan, for the first audition. Tomorrow she’d be Odette, and in that role she knew she’d give the other contenders a run for their money by dancing for joy at the innocent music that made her feel skittish and playful.

 Although it’s not mentioned in the book, I think this is my favourite Portuguese music by Madredeus. It sums up the Portuguese way of being – their loyalty and faith. The title is “Haja O Que Houver” which means whatever happens (and then she goes on…I’ll be waiting for you). I think it also sums up the atmosphere of Forest Dancer.


Forest Dancer (paperback and ebook) on Amazon

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

What Hides Within - Jason Parent's Latest Horror - Reviewed

 My Review:

What Hides Within is a deft mix of darkest comedy, horror, suspense and psychological thriller.  To enjoy it at its best, you need to suspend disbelief and let your mind go with it on an epic journey. Jason Parent stories are like that. They’re different, complex, challenging, but well worth the investment of your time.

Imagine you were working at your usual boring 9-5 job and suddenly one day everything changed. You heard a strange voice in your head and you became aware that a tiny, almost transparent spider, similar to a black widow, had taken up residence in the deep recesses of your brain. Does it – she actually –want to kill you or become your new best friend? This happens to Clive who, until that point, is a pretty normal kind of guy. Granted he lives with an eccentric, introverted roommate called Kevin who demonstrates a strange fascination for old re-reruns of Hannah Montana but, apart from eating Clive’s food, he’s not too much trouble to have around. Okay, he is a bit weird, but…

Meanwhile, somebody has begun causing explosions in the town. People have been killed. Increasing numbers of them. Who’s behind these senseless killings? It is up to Detective Samantha Reilly to find out and she is determined to find the perpetrator.

Meanwhile, in Clive’s head, things are becoming increasingly complicated. His arachnid companion – whom he calls Chester – will not leave, despite her host’s best efforts and she is certainly not the easiest resident to have around. One false move on his part and… I did say, she was like a small black widow!

Clive is also becoming more and more concerned about his roommate – to the point where he begins to follow him.  What is Kevin up to?

With a strong cast of supporting characters, including a young niece called Victoria who is mature beyond her years, What Hides Within is a multi—layered novel that works because it is so well and convincingly written. In my review of his short story collection ‘Wrathbone and Other Stories‘, I described the author as being  ‘a weaver of complex, macabre tales’.  What Hides Within provides further evidence of Jason Parent’s supreme talent for doing precisely that.

 Clive Menard is just an ordinary guy living an ordinary life.

But when a talking spider crawls inside his head, things get a lot less ordinary…and people start dying.

Could an itsy-bitsy arachnid be behind the killing spree terrorizing Clive’s community?

To evade a sharp detective and find a murderer among friends, Clive must shake the cobwebs loose and piece together the puzzle of his life, all without falling prey to a dark force beyond his comprehension.

A genre-twisting dark comedy, What Hides Within is an EPIC Finalist and Independent eBook Award Runner-Up for Best Horror.

“I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes horror. It will make you cringe. It will make you shudder. It will make you want to take a shower. But you won't be able to put it down.” - Thomas W. Everson, author of The Rain Experience Trilogy

About the Author

In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Southeastern Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso.

In a prior life, Jason spent most of his time in front of a judge . . . as a civil litigator. When he finally tired of Latin phrases no one knew how to pronounce and explaining to people that real lawsuits are not started, tried and finalized within the 60-minute timeframe they see on TV (it's harassing the witness; no one throws vicious woodland creatures at them), he traded in his cheap suits for flip flops and designer stubble. The flops got repossessed the next day, and he's back in the legal field . . . sorta. But that's another story.

When he's not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, travel any place that will let him enter, and play just about any sport (except that ball tied to the pole thing where you basically just whack the ball until it twists in a knot or takes somebody's head off - he misses the appeal). And read and write, of course. He does that too sometimes.

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