Posts tagged ‘non-fiction’

Famous Trials 5

Review by Steve Savage

Five murder trials ranging in date from 1892 to 1935 – what would they have in common? When you read this book, which is an abridged version of five titles in the Notable British Trials series from William Hodge & Co, Ltd, perhaps the main common factor is inexplicability, or randomness. Unlike in fiction, these murders often lack clear motives. The question repeatedly arises whether the accused were entirely responsible for their actions. That is a question that dates back to Don Quixote and no doubt earlier. In the case of the “Arran murderer”, John Laurie, the Scottish authorities came under pressure from an emotional public campaign against his execution, and although the defence had not claimed any mental incapacity, after Laurie was condemned to death it was decided that, for unspecified reasons, he was “of unsound mind”, and the unfortunate criminal spent the rest of his life (over 40 years) behind bars. (more…)

February 27, 2018 at 3:46 pm Leave a comment


Review by Robin Hull

In this fascinating biography of the Atlantic Ocean, Simon Winchester models his millions of years of history on the Melancholy Jaques ‘seven ages of man’ from As You Like it.

As a child with a liking for jigsaws it seemed obvious to me that the ‘Africa piece’ fitted into the gap in the Americas so that Wegener’s theory of continental drift, though it surprised science, was immediately accepted by many children. Winchester starts his saga with the expanding mid-Atlantic ridge which, some 40 million years ago, gave birth to the Atlantic. He describes how man, eons later from his safe Mediterranean sanctuary, summoned up courage to pass through the Pillars of Hercules and take his first tentative steps onto the enormous, uncharted ocean. (more…)

September 19, 2012 at 3:05 pm Leave a comment

The Annals of Imperial Rome

Review by Steve Savage

The surviving Annals of Tacitus cover the period from the death of Augustus to the middle of Nero’s period in power in Rome – a period of about fifty years. Not all the text has survived. The fall of Sejanus is missing; also the reign of Caligula and the first few years of Claudius’s reign; and the end of Nero’s reign.

Tacitus’s idea appears to have been to set down the events of each year – military, political, social – particularly events which might have been missed by other historians. Different things caught his attention in different years, and the modern reader will no doubt be less interested in the succession of treason trials than in the Roman credit crunch which Tiberius sorted out by distributing ‘a hundred million sesterces among specially established banks, for interest-free three-year State loans’.

September 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm Leave a comment

At The Loch of the Green Corrie

Review by Andrew Murray Scott

This non-fiction title by Andrew Greig combines an homage to the poetry of Norman MacCaig with a fly-fishing expedition to the hill lochs of Assynt.

The book could be neatly summed up in the words of one of Greig’s companions on the fishing trip: ‘Fishing for MacCaig? Wouldn’t have missed it for the world.’ For not only does the book relate the author’s friendship with the Scots makar, thereby ‘fishing’ for an understanding of his lasting value as a poet, the writing of the book and the fishing trip were literally undertaken after a request from the poet to fish on his behalf as he, just months before his death, was no longer able to do so. The feisty brown trout in a remote and relatively undistinguished Assynt loch therefore becomes a sacred quest for Andrew Greig and his companions Andy and Peter Dorward on a par with the seeking of the mythical salmon of experience in Neil Gunn’s Highland River. (more…)

February 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm Leave a comment

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