A Book You Are Embarrassed About Liking
I’m not really embarrassed about liking it, but other people seem to think I should be…
My work as a tour guide involves being a mine of information – useful and otherwise – about a whole host of places, people and topics. This information can be acquired from various sources, but despite the prevalence of online facts and figures these days books remain vital for my work. Research for tours, particularly ones that are specialised or on a certain theme, often requires delving into some very obscure volumes indeed.
As a result, my “guiding bookshelves” at home contain titles that most people would think were a little strange, anoraky or downright weird. Just been to look, and a random selection includes “Hedges and Walls”, “Castles and Moated Mansions of Shropshire”, “Architecture in Britain 1530-1830”, “The M6 Sights Guide” and the unmissable “Every Pilgrim’s Guide To England’s Holy Places”. However, the one that tends to cause embarrassment and the look that suggests people don’t want to know me any better than they do is “Hanged at Birmingham” by Steven Fielding.
This is a book that we refer to quite a bit on our ghost walks. It contains the stories behind every hanging that took place at Winson Green Prison in Birmingham, so the murders themselves, the trials, the people involved and the details of the actual sentence, including reproductions of crime scene photos – some of them quite graphic – mug shots and death certificates. Some of these cases are closely linked to hauntings we talk about on our tours, but the whole book is absolutely fascinating. But admitting this, as we do on the ghost walks, can be a little embarrassing and provoke reactions from sniggers to looks of sheer pity from our clients. Especially when I confess that I was given the book as a Valentine’s Day gift by my wife – that really makes them think I’m some kind of psychopath.
Nevertheless, I recommend the book to anyone as a different look at the city’s social history, and thank the writer for providing details that are so useful to us for our ghost walks.