One of the better disaster books. While the author is clearly very sympathetic to the victims and families (and who wouldn't be?), the book is not sen...moreOne of the better disaster books. While the author is clearly very sympathetic to the victims and families (and who wouldn't be?), the book is not sensationalist and the author clearly delineates between fact and opinion and clearly explains his reasoning. The descriptions of the fire are horrifying, but you don't get the full impact without viewing the Brian Butler video which is on YouTube and is one of the most terrifying things I've seen - so unbelievable that it takes mere seconds to go from a happy concert to fullblown fire.
Part of the fascination of this book for me was the investigation into the causes of the fire, and also the legal wrangling relating to suing for damages, since I am not that familiar with the US system. Barylick explains it all clearly.
The causes behind the Station nightclub fire - and the deaths of 100 people - are the classic Swiss cheese situation; so many problems all lining up to cause an accident, and afterwards you have to wonder why it hadn't happened before. The dodgy brothers not paying insurance for their employees, the irate neighbour complaining about the noise and then selling them highly flammable "soundproofing" foam, the fire inspector who repeatedly not only ignored the foam but inflated the building's occupancy; the lack of sprinklers; the lack of adequate exits and the bouncer who blocked the stage door. All that plus illegal pyrotechnics equals a hundred deaths.
Two things I got from this book: If you can't afford appropriate protection like worker's comp for your employees, you can't afford to be in business, full stop.
And if you're in a public place, always be aware of all the exits.(less)
I didn't know much about Constance before reading this, and I was delighted to discover her through this book; what a fascinating portrait of her life...moreI didn't know much about Constance before reading this, and I was delighted to discover her through this book; what a fascinating portrait of her life, her relationship and her work, particularly with movements like the Rational Dress Society. She comes across as complex, intelligent and compassionate, both far-sighted and a product of her times. The book offers a very sympathetic treatment of both Constance and Oscar, while still being clear about their individual faults - it's Bosie Douglas who comes across as the least sympathetic character here, but then, there's ample evidence to that effect. I really came out of this feeling Constance deserves to be more widely known, and more than just a footnote in Oscar's story.(less)
I have no connection to the Portland salon murders at all, but like many Victorians I remember the case; it seemed a strange and pointless crime then,...moreI have no connection to the Portland salon murders at all, but like many Victorians I remember the case; it seemed a strange and pointless crime then, even more so now.
This book was a welcome change from the flood of Underbelly-style organised crime stories which dominate Australian true crime at the moment. You can tell it's a first book - some of the punctuation/grammar is not quite right, but not enough to be jarring, and the quotes from a few people's interviews could have done with a bit of an edit. But being a first book, it also has a freshness and energy about it which makes it a great read. The author also displays genuine curiosity, a burning need to know what happened to these victims and why, which is one of the book's main charms. Too often, true crime authors fall into a rut where you get the impression they're just churning another book out because they're contracted or they need the money. Horrible Man seems to have been written from a genuine place of concern and a desire to help get the crime solved. The author doesn't come with a preconceived theory to prove - in fact, she admits when she thinks she may be biased, which is also a refreshing change from some other TC regulars.
I would love to see this book lead to some new leads and ideally help to get this cruel murder solved. I hope this author writes more in the true crime field; she is a refreshing and interesting new voice.(less)
Growing up on the other side of the world from Northern Ireland, IRA bombings and shootings were regularly reported, in such a way that I always worri...moreGrowing up on the other side of the world from Northern Ireland, IRA bombings and shootings were regularly reported, in such a way that I always worried that if I ever went to England, the IRA would get me. The reporting was very one-sided - the words "sectarian violence" were used frequently but there was very little reporting of any violence carried out by the loyalist factions and not a lot of background of any kind. It makes me wonder whether, if the IRA had not been active in England, we would have heard much about the Troubles in my part of the world at all.
This book provides what is probably as level and even-handed an account of the Troubles as can be expected, or is possible, given the multitude of emotional, political, social and cultural factors in play. Its greatest asset for me was in the 20th century historical background - I'd learned about the plantation of Protestants into Ireland in the 16th-17th centuries and the 1916 rising at school but little else. All those gaps were filled in here. It does leave you feeling unfulfilled, because there isn't really an emotionally satisfying "ending" - but then, that's the reality.
My one complaint - and it probably relates only to the Kindle edition of the book - is that "Derry" constantly appears as "Deny", more so in the first few chapters. It's quite distracting. I assume it's to do with the conversion to Kindle edition.(less)
This is one of those books I've read over and over, although less so in later years. I keep coming back to it for its lyricism and poetic quality, the...moreThis is one of those books I've read over and over, although less so in later years. I keep coming back to it for its lyricism and poetic quality, the portrayal of three very flawed people with complicated relationships and difficult lives, the Maori culture, and the fact that it tackles a horrible subject without demonising the perpetrator. The detective-style clues to Simon's origins also kept me guessing. It irritates me sometimes (the self-insertion of the author, the challenging style which in my less generous moments I think is self-indulgent) but I always come back - which I guess makes the book a little like Kerewin, challenging and frustrating and rewarding in equal quantities! I first read it in university and the book polarised the class tremendously. (less)
I nearly didn't read this because some of the reviews made it sound as if it was preachy, and because I've read Alive and wondered what else there cou...moreI nearly didn't read this because some of the reviews made it sound as if it was preachy, and because I've read Alive and wondered what else there could be to tell. I'm so glad I did get this though.
I usually avoid things which are touted as "inspirational stories" but Nando is so down to earth and non-preachy and basically, utterly human that it really got to me in a good way. Nando's experiences were extraordinary, but as he says, his story is everyone's story; everyone has their own personal Andes. This makes a great companion to Alive. Most of the survivors come across a lot better in Nando's version, and it's also interesting that he admits his own views have changed as he's gained more wisdom and understanding in the years since the crash. I hope I can keep some of his compassion and wisdom (and appreciation for life) with me.(less)
This was fascinating and compelling. I was surprised at first that there had never been a full-length book devoted to the Parker-Hulme case (apart fro...moreThis was fascinating and compelling. I was surprised at first that there had never been a full-length book devoted to the Parker-Hulme case (apart from Parker-Hulme: A Lesbian View), and then I realised that if there was one I would already have it :) Peter Graham has done a wonderful job of examining this case from many perspectives and of examining all the different treatments of the story from newspaper coverage of the day up to 'Heavenly Creatures'.
One of the things I most appreciated was Graham's investigation of the families of both girls and the circumstances of their childhoods, and in particular his attempt to give a more rounded picture of Honorah Rieper/Parker, who was the victim in this murder and yet tends to be incomplete. I don't believe I've ever seen a photograph of her, and she's always eclipsed by the more glamorous and salacious details of the Hulme family. Most commentaries on the case talk about Christchurch in the 1950s but few go further back to look at the circumstances of their parents' lives.
One of the things that struck me most is that neither girl appears to have received any proper therapy or treatment while in prison, which of course wouldn't be the case today. Stories about their lives while incarcerated are scarce and it would be interesting to know how they reacted to being separated - particularly since the idea of separation was one of the main motives for murder.
Of course, one of the most titillating aspects of this case is that Juliet Hulme transformed herself into Anne Perry the writer and gained fame and fortune in the way she seems to have dreamed about early on. The author clearly dislikes Hulme/Perry and it's difficult not to share his distaste, especially given her recent attempts to minimise her own part in the murder. Fame doesn't appear to have brought her happiness though.
I doubt this murder could happen in quite the same way today (although of course children do still murder their parents and vice versa). Perhaps in a less inhibited world with more outlets for imagination, the girls would have been less dependent on each other and their energies could have been dissipated differently. It's interesting to note that both women have turned to religion and become very devout in their later lives. Perhaps they both needed something to devote themselves to, and in 1950s Christchurch all they could find was one another.
Altogether a great read. True crime writing is always best when it includes context and Peter Graham does a great job of it here.(less)
The Psychopath Test is wickedly funny and somewhat alarming. After reading it, I feel slightly paranoid at the number of potential psychopaths and gen...moreThe Psychopath Test is wickedly funny and somewhat alarming. After reading it, I feel slightly paranoid at the number of potential psychopaths and general nutbags in the world, but also full of wonder that the world contains such variety and imagination in the human mind.
It's not intended as an overview or comprehensive investigation; as the title states, it's a journey. Jon Ronson begins with investigations into a mysterious book inexplicably turning up in the postboxes of academics and researchers worldwide, and continues with a criminal who scammed his way into Broadmoor and couldn't get out again; Scientology's campaign against psychology and psychiatry; strange experiments in which psychopaths were given LSD and asked to act as one anothers' therapists; the truly wacky Messiah complex of a 7/7 conspiracy theorist; and of course the test which is the basis for the title. Along the way he examines his own reactions, journalistic intentions and his obsession with "psychopath spotting".
Very entertaining and informative in a non-didactic way. (less)
Overall a good read. Bearing in mind that this is just one small group of stories from one of the many communities devastated by Black Saturday, it do...moreOverall a good read. Bearing in mind that this is just one small group of stories from one of the many communities devastated by Black Saturday, it does a good job of providing a variety of experiences and reactions. It is informed and overview-esque and yet very intimate. Told mainly from the POVs of emergency personnel including CFA volunteers and police, it focuses on Kinglake, St Andrews and Strathewen. Having the focus on the CFA gives a real sense of urgency and reinforces the fact that this was an unprecedented event - that no matter how many tankers and trucks and firefighters you had, there was no way they could have stopped the monster that was Black Saturday from happening.
The style is very "blunt Aussie" but that doesn't mean it's dumbed down or uninformative - in fact, there are a great many chapters which focus on quite complicated topics like the anatomy of bushfires, the special conditions making Victoria so bushfire-prone, and the ways people react in disasters. This would make it quite accessible to international readers.
My main wish is that someone would write something this informed about what happened in Marysville and in the areas of the Churchill fire on that day. I think it's important to remember those communities and those people, from the unprepared to the excellently and professionally prepared, who died that day, to honour them and to make sure we learn from the lessons of Black Saturday.(less)
What a story - sixteen lives desrtoyed with one gun, and investigations spiralling out of control and into conspiracy theory territory. The story is t...moreWhat a story - sixteen lives desrtoyed with one gun, and investigations spiralling out of control and into conspiracy theory territory. The story is told well and with minimal sensationalism despite the personal involvement of the authors - in fact, dividing the book into two parts, one dealing with the murders and investigation and one with the journalists' experiences, is a very satisfactory way of dealing with this. Sadly, it's evident that the debacles and (mis)management of various investigations has pretty much destroyed any chance of discovering the true identity of the Monster, and yet it is so tantalizingly within grasp. I am sure many will say that it "couldn't happen here", but I know there have been equally perplexing and botched cases in the UK, the US and here in Australia. It could happen anywhere.(less)
I remember reading a Readers Digest condensed version of this back in my childhood (which probably helped form my interest in plane crashes and disast...moreI remember reading a Readers Digest condensed version of this back in my childhood (which probably helped form my interest in plane crashes and disasters!) but only read the full version quite recently. It's an incredible read, and not just because of the experience and resilience and determination of these young men. The author covers the more sensational (and better known) details of the boys' survival in a calm, factual manner; no tabloid sensationalising here. What really struck me, though, is how honest the author is about the different ways they reacted to their plight. He doesn't gloss over the fact that someone cried all the time, or someone was snappish and angry and his dying companion, or someone else pinched food. It's all there warts and all. Not a comfortable read but an enthralling and, dare I say, "life-affirming" one.(less)
Interesting, but I found the writing a bit repetitive at times and there was a lot of assumption about the fate of the missing people which was presen...moreInteresting, but I found the writing a bit repetitive at times and there was a lot of assumption about the fate of the missing people which was presented as fact at times. Cummins' second book on missing people in Ireland is much better.(less)
A big improvement on Cummins' previous book on Ireland's missing persons, this one covers several individual cases and also has chapters covering unid...moreA big improvement on Cummins' previous book on Ireland's missing persons, this one covers several individual cases and also has chapters covering unidentified bodies and the IRA 'Disappeared'. Cummins also makes a really good case for better services for the families of missing persons and for a more coordinated response in many cases. His chapter on 'Failure to Find Bodies' has some damning cases, such as the bloke who was found, three years after he went missing, less than a few hundred yards from where he was last seen.(less)
Books about murder are common. Books about missing persons are rare. I suppose it's the lack of any kind of closure, since the person is still missing...moreBooks about murder are common. Books about missing persons are rare. I suppose it's the lack of any kind of closure, since the person is still missing. But I find books on missing persons are just as interesting and moving as any on proven and solved crimes.
This particular book is fantastic. Most of these are cases I'd never heard of and in many cases there is no information available about them online. The writing is excellent and Bainbridge has been really detailed and thorough in his investigations and interviews. It's fairly easy to guess what happened to a few people (I'm sure Roselyn Tilbury lies somewhere not far from the Heaphy Track and Wendy Mayes was dead very shortly after her disappearance) but many of these cases are very strange, with tangled clues that seem to point in many directions and yet none at all. Heidi Charles and Sidney Fiske are the real standouts here.
I wish someone would do something like this for some Australian missing persons!(less)