|Bloodletters and Badmen
By Jay Robert Nash. This is a fabulous encyclopedia of infamous American criminals, listed alphabetically from gangster Frank Abbandando to fellow gangster Abner 'Longy" Zwillman. But this book isn't just a list of short biographies about gangsters. (Although there have been quite a lot of gang-related personalities run amuck here in the States.) It also lists bank robbers, thieves, con artists, swindlers, bootleggers, rapists, murderers, and of course, serial killers. A nice fat smorgasbord of naughty fellows and descriptions of their misdeeds with a timeline that spans all the way back to the puritanical colonies.
|The Book of Execution
By Geoffrey Abbott. Shiva considers this book to be "The Bible" when it comes to descriptions and information about how creative man can be when it comes to putting a fellow man to death. Listed alphabetically from Axe to Twenty-Four Cuts, this carefully-researched book features over 70 methods of execution used throughout history. While not necessarily light reading, the author does interject a bit of gallows humor in the descriptions when appropriate and often includes witness accounts of notable executions and the men who performed them, interesting incidents that occur on the scaffold, and even some memorable last words spoken by the condemned.
|The Cases That Haunt Us
By John Douglas & Mark Olshaker. A collection of the world's most puzzling, intriguing, and often unsolvable crimes as pondered by FBI Profiler John Douglas. The book covers cases such as JonBenet Ramsey, Lizzie Borden, the Lindbergh Kidnapping, the Zodiac killer (the one they didn't catch!) and of course, Jack the Ripper. What makes this book interesting is the perspectives given by an author whose career has been to get into the minds of the perpetrators of such crimes and then find a suspect that matches the profile. Even if you've read many books on the old classics like Lizzie's axe and Saucy Jack, this once is certainly worth a look.
|Children of the Flames
By Lucette Matalon Lagnado, Sheila Cohn Dekel. The story of Dr. Josef Mengele and his experiments on twins at Auschwitz. Notorious as being the "Angel of Death" as he pointed thousands towards the gas chambers, Dr. Mengele was also given liberty to choose prisoners to use as human guinea pigs for his horrific experiments in genetics to manufacture the perfect Aryan race. Among his favorite test subjects were identical twins, and he became both a savior and a monster in their young eyes. This very powerful book features a collection of first-hand accounts from the twins who survived the Holocaust, as well as details into the history of the doctor who controlled life and death with a simple wave of his hand.
|Corpse - Nature, Forensics,
and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death
By Jessica Snyder Sachs. This is not pleasant Sunday afternoon book club material. In fact, it goes into a great deal of detail about subjects like maggots and decomposition of bodies that have been left somewhere to rot. But some people deal with this sort of unpleasantness every day, and this is their story. And it is very interesting, provided you can get over the heebie-jeebies about worms, maggots, and other corpse-loving critters who are invaluable to forensic ecologists. Just don't eat anything beforehand.
Civilization -The Roman Games
By Roland Auguet. Almost anyone can recognize the image of the great Coliseum of ancient Rome and tell you that gladiators fought to the death within its walls. But not so many people understand why these circuses of blood were so important to the development of Roman civilization or what it really meant to participate in them. This is a wonderful book that studies the various types of games, from basic hunts to the better-known death matches to the extravagant naval battles fought on the flooded stage and comments on how Romans appreciated these spectacles.
|The Darwin Awards
By Wendy Northcutt. These books are just priceless for those of us who find entertainment in the stupidity of others. The Darwin Awards are given to "individuals who ensure the long-term survival of our species by removing themselves from the gene pool in a sublimely idiotic fashion." In other words, they are people who have done something dumb resulting in either their infertility or death.
It's kind of scary to think that there were enough candidates out there to merit not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR Darwin Award books. All of them are fun to read and clearly illustrate what not to do in any given situation.
|Death - A History of Man's
Obsessions and Fears
By Robert Wilkins. This book is all about fear. In fact, each section starts with that word. Fear of premature burial, fear of posthumous indignity, fear of bodily disintegration, and fear of being forgotten. Human beings seem to be full of fear about what will happen to their physical bodies after death, and they go to incredible lengths to make sure everything will be as it should be after they die. From rigging up buzzers to alert loved ones if a coma victim awakens in a grave to the lavish memorials people have built for themselves, there are lots of death-related subjects covered in this morbidly fascinating book.
|The Evil That Men Do
By Stephen G. Michaud. Written from personal accounts by the FBI's celebrity criminal profiler Roy Hazelwood, this book deals with the psychology, history, and detailed crimes of sexual predators, rapists, and lust-murderers. Many of the cases are very chilling and disturbing with extremely graphic descriptions, which only further emphasizes the difficulty of a profiler's work. A wonderful book for those interested in the darkest realm of criminal investigation.
|Executioners - Men and
Women Who Kill for the People
By Phil Clarke, Liz Hardy, and Anne Williams. While the title suggests that the contents deal primarily with executioners themselves, the book is more of a history of execution devices, legal systems, and famous victims on the scaffolds around the world. Special attention is given to the era of the Spanish Inquisition and assorted witch-hunts along with the atrocities committed at the time. The amount of information specifically about the men (and one woman) who served as official executioners is thin and often flimsy.
By Greg Emmanuel. Ever wonder what it would be like to be mauled by a bear or executed in the electric chair? Well, now you can experience all the pleasure without that annoying dying part. This book offers a unique format that puts the reader in the shoes of the unfortunate victim in a wide variety of death (or at least very painful) scenarios. This is done by combining scientific research and first-hand accounts by people who survived similar experiences, resulting in a very entertaining and twisted literary journey for the reader. Some imagination required.
|Hangmen of England
By Brian Bailey. A detailed look at the lives and times of England's executioners, from the days of the Tyburn Fair to the abolishment of capital punishment in the U.K. An excellent resource for those interested in English execution history.
|The History of Murder
By Colin Wilson. A very cluttered collection of accounts and observations of murder and mayhem passed down through history starting with the beginnings of civilization. After a strange introduction that ponders the question of what alien races might think of the inhabitants of a planet who kill each other for profit and pleasure, the book dives right in to listing the cases of human beings who are dubbed as being monsters - all the usual suspects like Vlad Dracula, Elisabeth Bathory, Ivan the Terrible, Gilles de Rais, the Marquis de Sade, and a whole slew of various Roman Emperors. Afterwards we're treated to a slightly more organized format separated into categories such as piracy, cannibals, assassins, lust-murderers, and the evolution of homicide through various historical periods. Lots of good information for researching specific time periods, but not always easy to follow when being read cover-to-cover.
By Kenneth Anger. This notorious book is a must-read for people who enjoy getting all the dirt on celebrity misbehaving and star-studded mysteries back in the days when Hollywood was the jewel that produced carefully crafted role-models on the silver screen. Fatty Arbuckle, the Black Dahlia, and Errol Flynn... just to name a few. A great addition to a film-lover's library.
How to Insult, Abuse & Insinuate in Classical
By Michelle Lovric. Speaking of new (or old) ways to insult someone, this is another of those great reference books. Cleverly written with fun illustrations and containing some of the most unusual insults to spill from one tongue in regards to another. A wonderful book for history and language buffs.
|The Inquisition Hammer of
By Edward Burman. This fascinating read begins with the Starting structure of the Inquisition in 1096 and its decline on through to its rebirth in 1478 as the infamous Spanish Inquisition. Featuring documents used by the Holy officials and bits of case accounts and eyewitness testimony, the book covers almost every aspect of the workings of the Inquisition and the people who both supported and opposed it. A very heavy read, probably best left to serious students rather than the morbidly curious.
|Journey Into Darkness
By John Douglas. The author of this book knows all about getting inside the minds of serial killers and those who commit atrocious crimes - he's one of the pioneers of the fairly new technique of Investigative/Criminal Profiling. Telling us about some of his most interesting cases, Douglas draws us in the process of getting into the mind of a serial killer at large and using that information to capture him. Peppered with amusing anecdotes and humorous mishaps that people wouldn't normally associate with the FBI, it's a fun read that balances well when dealing with such a dark subject coming from a man who has truly been there.
|Legends, Lies, and
Cherished Myths of World History
By Richard Shenkman. This is one of those books makes you wonder exactly how much time you wasted listening to teachers and textbooks in history classes. Who would have thought that the Fall of the Roman Empire occurred a lot later than we've all been told, or that the awful stories surrounding Emperor Caligula are likely to have been just a smear campaign. Broken down into sections covering various periods and geographical locations, this book is filled with tons of interesting and not well-known facts on subjects that everyone thinks they know about. A great read, even if you do end up feeling a little gullible afterwards.
|The Little Book of Venom
By Jennifer Higgie. This little book packs a stinging punch. It's a collection of some of the most witty and yet very harsh criticisms from one famous person about another. A must-have for people who enjoy finding new and exciting ways to insult their peers without using vulgar language.
|Lord High Executioner: An
Unashamed Look at Hangmen, Headsmen, and Their Kind.
By Howard Engel. I found this book to be a very good overview on hangmen around the world in particular, although there are general chapters on executioners who employed the axe, guillotine, and other methods of dispatching their clients. The book has chapters on all the stars of the British gallows such as Marwood, Calcraft, Berry, and Pierrepoint.
While it does go into quite a bit about the men behind the masks, it does tend to veer off a bit to include stories about the victims and a whole chapter is devoted towards the execution of women. But this is forgivable, since the condemned and the executioner are very closely related in that the executioners wouldn't be remembered if not for their most famous or infamous victims.
|Pierrepoint: A Family of
By Steve Fielding. A fascinating look into the three men of the Pierrepoint family who served as hangmen in England. Detailed descriptions of the procedures and executions, often in the hangman's own words, as well as the problems (and unexpected celebrity status) that they dealt with when their identities were made known to the public.
|Perverse Crimes in History
By Robert E. L Masters. This is a must-read for anyone who has ever asked the question "How low into perversion can a human being go?" Using historical accounts and documentation, this book features scores of cases where sexual compulsions and cruelty have gone hand-in-hand over the span of centuries. From unusual methods of the East to the assorted debaucheries of ancient Rome, special attention is given to extraordinary cases of sadism. The history of necrophilia is also given heavy attention from necromantic ceremonies of ancient times up to modern-day culprits caught in morgues. Not a book for the easily offended.
|The Pleasures of the
By John Swain. A very informative and graphically-detailed collection of accounts of torture methods throughout history. Arranged by category, the tour begins with the culinary arts of boiling, roasting, and frying the culprit... and it only gets worse from there. Some methods are seemingly harmless and even comical, designed to shame the wrongdoer rather than cause him any serious harm. Other methods are downright horrifying, and a confessional torture can easily turn into an execution by torture with a flick of a judge's pen. There are also special sections on collective tortures, self-inflicted or voluntary tortures, and everyone's favorite - the terrifying instruments of the Holy Inquisition.
|Rack, Rope, and Red-Hot
By Geoffrey Abbott. A very fascinating journey into the dungeons and cells where torture was used throughout history. After reading this book, you'll have a very different view as to what constitutes "cruel and unusual" and how it compares with more modern complaints heard today in the legal system. Also included are methods used for actual execution when torture was the death sentence as well as little tidbits of information about trial symbolism and famous victims. Not as neatly organized as Abbott's "Book of Execution", but still a fascinating read for those interested in the subject of historical punishments.
|Unpleasant Ways to Die
By Elan Fleisher. This is a great coffee table book, sort of along the same lines as "101 Uses for a Dead Cat". It's a collection of drawings that illustrate the various forms of demise that the author finds particularly terrible. Like crashing a car while talking on a cell phone. Or a sharp-beaked bird flying into your hot air balloon. Or being in Tokyo on the same day Godzilla decides to pay a visit
|Until You Are
Dead...The Book of Executions in America
By Fredrick Drimmer. While America's methods of disposing of unredeemable criminals are not particularly ghastly or creative as the European and Asian counterparts, this book dives deeply into the study of the five main methods of execution used throughout U.S. History. Each section includes information on how the method was invented, developed, improved upon, and in many cases, eventually rendered obsolete in favor of a quicker route of demise. The book also goes in to a lot of the background behind the executioners themselves and the notable cases they were involved in, as well as a few chapters on executed and nearly-executed innocents. The book ends on a lighter note, a list of humorous last words and unusual requests for a final meal.
|Uppity Women of Ancient
By Vicki Leon. A fun little book that takes a light-hearted approach on the notable women of Rome, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and other ancient cultures. While the strict page format doesn't allow for more than two pages on any given lady, what basic facts can be crammed into the short biographies give the reader just enough information to go in search of more. Not a great research book on its own, but a helpful who's-who synopsis guide that encourages further study.
|Witch Hunt - History of a
By Nigel Cawthorne. A historical journey through the witch-hunting hysteria arranged by geographical location across Europe and into the American colonies. A bit better then the average garden-variety burning times book, this study is composed of many different types of accounts during the events including what the average daily life was like as well as the details of the court systems and confession-seeking tactics, which gives the reader a more detailed idea of how these traumatic events might have played out.
|Women Who Kill
Edited by Richard Glyn Jones. A terrific book featuring mini-biographies and crime details about almost fifty female murderers throughout history. Chapters are listed in alphabetical order from Julia Agrippina to Aileen Wuornos. (We use this book a lot when coming up with ideas for our dolls!) A fascinating read, with many tales of cunning and cold-blooded murder committed by those of "the gentler sex".