The Hangman’s Breakfast

THB New Cover

In 2006 I started work on a book  – The Hangman’s Breakfast – that consumed the next 18 months of my life and resulted in a half-a-million word manuscript that is totally unpublishable. Admittedly it needs some serious editing, but beyond that there’s the fact that no-one – sane or otherwise – would want to read about sixty years of “murder, madness and mystery”, and I should know, ‘cos I wrote it and it took me to some very dark places indeed. Each chapter focussed on succesive decades since World War Two, highlighting the crimes notorious and otherwise that took place, attempting in my own fumbling way to write an alternative social history of Britain at the fag end of the 20th century. Alongside the usual roll-call – Brady/Hindley, Sutcliffe, the West’s – were many other examples of failed humanity that, by the end of it, left me deeply unsettled and cured of any fascination I held for the ‘true crime’ genre. Above is the final design I settled on for the book’s cover, whereas this:

THB Original cover

was the original design. And this:

The Hangman's Breakfast

was my final statement on the subject, a painting from summer 2008 that represents the point where I decided to completely change my working practices. I sold or gave away all my true crime books, destroyed all my notes for the book, archived the digital files, and tried to start again like the preceding twenty years or so all had been a bad dream and I was waking up on a bright new morning loaded with promise. Well, you’ve only got to look at my output since to know that I am – and always will be – drawn to the darker end of the street, and that all my reading and research for this failed book continues to bleed through into everything I do. It’s unavoidable really, given that I grew up in the era of the Yorkshire Ripper, that one of his first victims came from our village, and that my dad met him a few times when Sutcliffe made deliveries to the place where he worked. Donald Neilson, the Black Panther, went to school with my mother. Robert Black abducted and murdered a girl from my home town. All of this has undoubtedly had an impact on my view of humanity, and as a result this affects the work that I do. Like the song says, “I see a darkness.”

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