The Last Chartist Petition – Part One

The million-strong People's Vote March today put me in mind of the Chartists. OK, I know that Chartism didn't end well, with the final petition discredited by the Tories (claiming the signatures were fake, the demonstration much smaller than it was, and turning out the army), but everything they were fighting for has since come… Continue reading The Last Chartist Petition – Part One

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The Newgate Controversy

A new article for the Wordsworth Editions Blog, touching upon the subject of my next book from Pen & Sword History... When considering an author as culturally monolithic as Charles Dickens, it’s easy to forget that he wasn’t born the national author, anymore than Shakespeare was. As a young journalist in the early-1830s, although already… Continue reading The Newgate Controversy

The Real Harry Flashman

Speaking of Victorian pornography, here's an extract from my new book, The 19th Century Underworld, published by Pen & Sword Books... Edward Sellon was a particularly colourful public school Dugdale writer. A subaltern in the 4th Regiment of the East India Company Madras Infantry and a libertine of the old school, Sellon could have been… Continue reading The Real Harry Flashman

The Pornographer Royal

I was interviewed by Southwark News this week, talking about Henry Spencer Ashbee, Victorian businessman and erotomaniac... There are quite a few unusual things about Henry Spencer Ashbee, a Victorian gentleman who was born in the Rising Sun inn on Blackfriars Road in 1834. He was a self-made man and an only child in an… Continue reading The Pornographer Royal

Author delves into the dark past of city’s infamous murderer

Did I tell you I got in the local paper...? He was one of the most infamous killers in the country and a wax effigy of John Thurtell was displayed in Madame Tussaud’s ‘Chamber of Horrors’ well into the 20th century... such was the horrific nature of his crime. The gruesome and fascinating story of… Continue reading Author delves into the dark past of city’s infamous murderer

Looking into Hell: Kipling and the Great War

Guest post for Wordsworth Editions... During a visit in the winter of 1918, Rider Haggard – who believed in reincarnation – asked Rudyard Kipling if he thought the earth was one of the hells. His old friend replied that he did not think this, he was certain of it (qtd. in Wilson: 1994, 306). And… Continue reading Looking into Hell: Kipling and the Great War

The 19th Century Underworld

My latest book, The 19th Century Underworld: Crime, Controversy and Corruption (published by Pen & Sword), goes on sale today. The book is available on Amazon here Or you can buy direct from the publisher Here's a brief extract... The City’s Sacred Victim The Ratcliffe Highway was an ancient road running east out of the City to… Continue reading The 19th Century Underworld

Duel at Chalk Farm Tavern: A Regency Tragedy

On the night of Friday, February 16, 1821, two men faced each other across the field of honour, a wooded knoll beyond the Chalk Farm Tavern near Primrose Hill, to the north of a great chase that had yet to become Regent’s Park. This had been the scene of many duels; there were no neighbouring houses, just open fields hidden from the nearest road by a screen of trees. One of the men had left half a bottle of wine at the inn, telling the landlord he would be back to finish it later.

A Stroll On The Heath

This is another fragment found amongst the Jack Vincent Papers, the first volume of which I edited and published last year. Like the story of the murderer George Slaughter, this curious little anecdote was not part of the packet containing the second memoir, and I confess that I am not entirely sure where it belongs. I’ve decided to share it here because it confirms my theory that Jack Vincent and the author and traveller George Borrow knew each other, while also providing an interesting portrait of my hometown, Norwich, in the early-1850s…

Deep in the Woods – A Victorian Ghost Story

I do not believe in anything. My dear wife was always more religious than I. That is to say she was more open-minded when it came to matters spiritual and incorporeal, tending towards a polite agnosticism over my own intractable atheism, and general scepticism towards the supernatural beyond the pages of my own fiction.