Book Review: A History of British Serial Killing

A History of British Serial Killing by Colin Wilson
I've mentioned before that I've harboured a fascination for true crime since I was around 8 when I used to devour my dad's crime books. I promise I'm not a weirdo. I'm a very nice person. I just have some morbid tastes in literature!

Channel 5 has a couple of crime series and I noticed this criminologist popping up a lot. Then he was on This Morning talking about murders and he is billed as hosting a lecture on Mary Ann Cotton at St Bart's Pathology Museum later this year. He seemed to be everywhere so I figured he knows his stuff. I looked up his name on Amazon to see if he had any books written and discovered this. It seemed like the perfect overview of British serial killers.
Extract of A History of British Serial Killing
Wilson begins with Jack the Ripper and initially describes the serial killings chronologically through the Victorian era and the 1920s, concentrating on the victims rather than the murderers themselves. He later explains that this is to deny the killers the publicity they desperately crave, which seems an odd statement for a man who makes a living discussing them to the media. 

When the chronology reaches the 1960s, Wilson breaks the book down into themes, looking at each of the main victim groups in turn: Prostitutes, gay men, runaways, children and the elderly. He discusses what makes them vulnerable and how we can learn from the killings to ensure a safer society for the future.
Colin Wilson's A History of British Serial Killing
Although Wilson is clearly well-versed in this field, and draws on a lot of academic research to support his conclusions, I'd argue that he needs to focus the research more. He has a tendency of reeling off results of surveys one after another which makes for rather tedious reading, especially without an explanation of why he has included so much detail. He also makes some rather bizarre links- "Children are becoming more sexualised in society. In the wake of adolescent pop band S Club 7 came the pre-pubescent S Club Juniors". Is he really suggesting that S Club Juniors are indicative of our oversexualised nation? I remember both S Club 7 and S Club Juniors being pretty wholesome compared to other acts of the day- TATU, anyone? 

As an initial overview of the history of serial killing, it's an interesting and useful read, so long as you can get over the tenuous links and repetitive recital of research findings. A good starting point before reading more accomplished texts. 

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  1. I've got to say, when S Club Juniors released Puppy Love I was on the rampage with sexualising society! ;)

    1. Really? But it's such an innocent song and they're all wrapped up in the video. Compared with this:


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