Strangeways: A Prison Officer’s Story by Neil Samworth

Strangeways: A Prison Officer’s Story by Neil Samworth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I do love a bit of gritty British crime nonfiction and Strangeways by Mr Samworth ticked all the boxes.

His biography from a Prison Officer’s POV is as hard hitting and emotional as it is compelling, sickening and comical. Neil (Sam) calls a spade a spade. He’s a big, bold, brave Yorkshireman, who shares his life experiences and how it lead to working at the notorious Strangeways prison.

This book is brutally honest, at times I had to stop reading and properly digest certain aspects. This is no job for some namby pamby featherweight do-gooder. And neither is this book. It’s hardcore stuff this. To just about get through the harrowing shifts you need presence. You need big fists and a big attitude to match. But most of all, you need empathy and patience. And Neil has shed loads.

If you like your books eloquently written I suggest you try something else (like The Prison Doctor). Neil Samworths style felt like I was listening to him over a pint or ten at the local boozer. (I love that my phone suggests his name is actually Neil Samwise, because Sam, is indeed, just that!!).

Things I’ve learnt:

• what the word ‘mither’ means.
• never underestimate the lengths desperate people go to.
• being called ‘love’ by a Yorkshireman is standard practice.
• it really is ok to have a dark laugh, guilt free, when the going gets tough.
• it’s cool naming book chapters after popular songs of my era Neil. Cheers matey!!

Strangeways : A Prison Officers Story is a book I’d highly recommend. But it’s not for you soft lads, so move along the hall….



View all my reviews

The Yorkshire Witch: The Life and Trial of Mary Bateman by Summer Strevens

‘When Mary Bateman was born, she was of so little importance that the date of her birth went unrecorded. When it came to her final moments on the gallows however, thousands of spectators witnessed her execution upon York’s ‘New Drop’ on the morning of Monday 20th March 1809, some of whom, packed shoulder to shoulder in the crowd, were convinced to the very end that the Yorkshire Witch would save herself from death at the last moment by employing her supernatural powers to vanish into thin air as the noose tightened. Needless to say, she didn’t.’

Mary Bateman was no witch! More a petty thief and fraudster with a sociopathic personality. She was intelligent and used her reading and writing abilities (a rare attribute for women of this era) for unsavoury financial gains.

This was an interesting account of crime in the early 1800’s, as rarely were women seen to be of criminal mind, often simply being deemed ‘mad’ and locked away in an asylum.

Mary was charming and manipulative and had an inventive imagination, often making up non-existent characters, used purely to back up her dodgy dealings, to improve her chances of getting more money out of her victims.

She was labelled a witch because of her wicked ways, having some knowledge of herbs and remedies and offered her own kind of ‘healthcare’ to many unfortunate women. Poisonings were her main go-to MO all in the name of lining her own pockets.

I enjoyed how Strevens’ put this book together, it read well as a nonfiction and had enough creativity to keep me reading. I particularly liked how the time period was described, this added to my reading experience in a positive way. The centre of the book has glossy photos which always gets bonus points from me in a nonfiction read!

As I was coming to the end, I really enjoyed how macabre this era was. I won’t give too much away, but the following picture shows how Mary ended up! As a museum exhibit, of all things, how shocking!

I’d recommend to British history enthusiasts, particularly folk who have lived in and around Leeds and York. A lot of settings would be familiar to folk who dwell in these parts!

The Yorkshire Witch gets 4 stars from me!

I’d like to say thank you to those lovely folk at Pen & Sword Publishers, in particular Rosie, who kindly sent me my copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author

Born in London, Summer Strevens now lives and writes in Oxfordshire. Capitalising on a lifelong passion for historical research, as well as penning feature articles of regional historical interest, Summer’s published books include Haunted Yorkshire Dales, York Murder & Crime, The Birth of Chocolate City: Life in Georgian York, The A-Z of Curiosities of the Yorkshire Dales, Fashionably Fatal , Before They Were Fiction and The Yorkshire Witch: The Life and Trial of Mary Bateman.

The Regrettable Actions of my Bookish Younger Self

So today I’ve decided to take a trip down Book Memory Lane. You know what us oldies are like for reminiscing about days gone by, all nostalgic, when times were better…

As you’ve probably all experienced in your own lives, us book lovers simply run out of shelf space. Unless of course you’re one of those lucky sods with a massive spare room/library to house every single book you’ve ever owned. (No bitterness or jealousy at all there.)

I’ve done many a charity shop donation with books I just didn’t have room for. Okay, admittedly, some I was glad to see the back of, but most were ‘I doubt I’d re-read, but I still like yous’. I have been known to *ahem* buy them again if seen for a bargain somewhere though.

In superb technicolour, here are the actual editions I have loved and lost.

[Click on the covers to find out more!]

And there we have it. A mixed bag of books from my past that I would love to have back on my bookshelves. Did any of these ring any bells? If you were a child/teen of the 80’s, I’m sure some of these covers will take you back!

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend folks!

The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

4D1C9E8E-763E-4770-BAAB-7CB8F319A3B6.jpeg

5star

I read this during a stressful and difficult year. I was faced with some pretty tough obstacles and struggled with my health and happiness levels. So, like many of us readers, I got engrossed in books so I could travel around when I felt unable to really go anywhere.

Joshs’ biography was book number 29 for the year, having given myself the challenge of 52 and actually managed 57! Among the 57, not one filled me with as much hope, joy and positivity as this one.

Josh Hanagarne has Tourette Syndrome. He is also a book lover, a librarian and a Mormon. He sure makes a fascinating character! His life has been a tough journey with Misty (his nickname for his condition) at his side continuously, she just interferes with his health and happiness day in, day out, making things you and I take for granted, a constant uphill struggle.

Now, Josh is a BIG guy, he’s 6’7″ and his Tourettes has a huge impact on his life, so in order to try and curb it, or have some sense of control of the daily tics, he turns to weight lifting. Maybe his physical strength can have some positive effect on Misty, so he at least has some control of his body. Hopefully Misty will then stay quiet and do as she’s told! So, with Joshs’ faith, family and steely determination, he tries to lead a normal life as possible. This is his story, and it’s incredibly uplifting. (Pun intended, weights, lifting, see what I did there?!!)

I knew I was going to LOVE this after I’d read the contents page and the 9 page introduction. The contents are ingeniously listed chapter by chapter using The Dewey Decimal Classification System. You know, the numbers on the edge of the book spine in libraries, eg: 291.13 Greek Mythology, 808.543 Storytelling. It is fantastic!

On libraries……

“The library has a robust collection of what I call, non-cuddly hate lit. This is one of my favourite things about working here: if you believe censorship is poison, here lies paradise. We have sections on anti-Mormonism, anti-Semitism, anti-anti-Semitism, anti-Atheism, anti-God, anti-Feminism, pro-Gay……there’s something to offend everyone”.

“A library is a miracle. A place where you can learn just about anything, for free. A place where your mind can come alive.”

That’s what I love about the library, that’s why more people should support their local library, they are amazing places to feed the brain. They’re a supermarket for the old grey matter. Some stuff you’ll like, some stuff you would abhor, but it’s available FREE, and the human brain needs feeding as much as the belly! Get fat on words and education, it’s healthy!! Here in the UK, libraries are closing down left, right and centre. It’s an area that is always the first to have cuts because not enough people support them. And the government wants to save money, and instead, build an enormous pointless sculpture somewhere.

1B80B447-C25F-432E-BC4E-BCB7266E3841.jpeg

So going into chapter 2, Josh explains briefly about his Mormon faith, which I found fascinating, I’ve learnt a great deal about this religion, and it’s a bit like Christianity, with a few different twists. (That’s how I see it anyway, forgive me if I’m wrong!)

Josh is such a funny guy, considering the very tough life he leads, he seems to be able to keep his sense of humour. With the support of an amazing family, his faith, Stephen King and not forgetting the heavy metal band Slayer, he never gives up his battle.

Play guitar and read King!! Yeahhh! 

D8305E9B-5DA9-4892-B039-3419D63007C9.gif

 

On going to church…

“It’s an interesting experience to watch religious males try to out-righteous one another to catch the eye of the women. (…everyone trying to put the ‘stud’ into Bible Study”)

I could go on and on about this book and how it inspired me to start taking regular walks to the library on a sunny day instead of sitting around feeling pretty darn sad. Or how it’s got me walking again, in the forests and woodlands of Southern England, appreciating what I do have, instead of dwelling on what I don’t.

Josh, for those very things, I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you 🙏 

I initially gave this 4 stars, but on writing my review, I’ve decided it deserves no less than full marks.

The Secret Life of the Owl by John Lewis-Stempel

34211809

The Secret Life of the Owl by John Lewis-Stempel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I dedicate this review to my dear Mum.

The wisest owl of all.

1935-2003

This could be one of the hardest reviews I’m ever likely to write, and the reason is nothing to do with this perfect little book.

When I was growing up, I was surrounded by all things owlish. Pictures on the wall, ornaments here and there, owl clocks, owl crockery. You name it, we had the owlish version!

My Mum was an owl fanatic! And, suffice to say, it rubbed off on me big time.

For my birthday, one of my other favourite humans ever, my partner, bought me this little gem, and I was delighted. Little did I know, but this beautifully written book conjured up a whole host of feelings that I did not expect.

At just 96 pages long, John Lewis-Stempel has produced something that I shall treasure forever. It doesn’t just contain lots of facts and figures about this truly wonderful bird, he also includes the historical side of all things owl, the myths and legends of days gone by, and, the best bit of all? Poetry. Owl Poetry.

Near the beginning the author included the poem by Edward Lear, The Owl and the Pussycat. This poem helped me learn to read! This poem was read again and again at bedtime. With my Mum.

image

 

 

Eventually, I’d learnt how to read it perfectly, write it perfectly and recite it faultlessly. And unbeknownst to me, it was in this book. I started to read it, and couldn’t see the words for my tears.

Once I’d gathered up my senses and tissues, I read on, discovering the weird and wonderfully fascinating secret lives of a creature that has been with me all my life.

This book is stunning. I’d give it fifty million stars if I could. And I know that one of those stars, the brightest one, is my dear Mum. 💗

IMG_2411.JPG

View all my reviews

%d bloggers like this: