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Brewer's Rogues, Villains and Eccentrics Hardcover – 26 Sep 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 676 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; New ed. edition (26 Sept. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0304357286
  • ISBN-13: 978-0304357284
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 19.5 x 5.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

We've had some excellent coverage for this book. Willie was on LOOSE ENDS (BBC Radio 4) on 28 September and has also done the following local radio interviews THE DAVID PRIVA SHOW (LBC), THE ROBERT ELMS SHOW (BBC LONDON LIVE), THEBRIAN MORTON SHOW (BBC RADIO SCOTLAND), THREE COUNTIES RADIO and BBC RADIO LEICESTER. The following local radio stations have run competitions with the book - BBC RADIO GUERNSEY, BBC RADIO NOTTINGHAM, BBC HEREFORD & WORCESTER,SCOT FM, BBC RADIO SOLENT, BBC WILTSHIRE SOUND. The excellent interview withWillie ran in the INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY magazine on 27 October and last month he was featured in the INDEPENDENT'S Passed/Failed slot. We've had diary stories in THE DAILY EXPRESS, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH and BOOKSELLER. John Walsh gave it a wonderful plug in his column in THE INDEPENDENT as has Terence Blacker in his column Reviews have been excellent 'This is not a serious book by any means, but it is a welcome relief from the usual hagiographies found in Debrett's and Who's Who, which will set very comfortably on the bookshelves of those who have given up hope of an entry in either.'Ross Golden Bannon, THE SUNDAY BUSINESS POST 'I have not laughed so much in years, nor been so relieved that I did not know an author. You enter the world of William Donaldson at yourperil.'Byron Rogers, THE SPECTATOR 'This is probably the greatest bathroom book yet written.'Steve Jelbert, THE TIMES 'The most unputdownable anthology.... there's much to savour about this volume'John Walsh, THE INDEPENDENT 'In this breathtaking triumph of misdirected scholarship, Donaldson has found the ideal outlet for his splenetic wit and healthy disrespect for the great and the good.'Robert Chalmers, THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY 'This new 600-page encyclopedia is the funniest book of the year, and quite possibly of all time.'Francis Wheen, THE WEEK 'There is plenty here to titillate and entertain...... ifyou are curious to know who bottle-fed a porpoise in a railway waiting room (Francis Trevelyan Buckland), or which king died after being bitten by a monkey (Prince Phillip's father), or whose feet were cut off so that he could fitinto his sarcophagus (the 10th Duke of Hamilton) or which hangman later became a hairdresser (John Ellis), then this book is for you. It will make a goodbog-book, with oodles of human quiddity and notoriety to detain you.'Christopher Silvester, THE EXPRESS 'This book aims to catalogue the infamous and egregious from the 'undergrowth' of British and Irish history, and it certainly achieves this.'Charlie Campbell, LITERARY REVIEW 'The publishers wanted a 'browsable and addictive collection of pen portraits of 1,500 extraordinary characters' and Donaldson's flair for finding the extraordinary has fulfilled this brief amply - giving readers a glorious gawp into the lives of outsiders and outlaws past and present.'THE BIG ISSUE BREWER'S ROGUES VILLAINS AND ECCENTRICS has also been mentioned in a number of Christmas round-ups. We had an extremely successful launch on Tuesday 8 October at the Pan Bookshop in the Fulham Road, with a wonderful array of villains and eccentrics there from Frankie Fraser to Sebastian Hawsley.

Book Description

A browsable and addictive collection of pen-portraits of 1500 extraordinary characters from British and Irish history

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Barry McCanna TOP 500 REVIEWER on 19 Oct. 2008
Format: Hardcover
If ever there was a case of art imitating life this must be it. Into over 650 pages the author has crammed a bewildering assortment of human flotsam and jetsam, relieving the alphabetical nature of the enterprise by a deliberately droll indexing system. It is the ideal bedside companion, which might equally well while away the tedium of visits to the smallest room, or provide an evening's entertainment for a broadminded dinner-party.

Older readers may recall William Donaldson's earlier incarnation as the perpetrator of that magnificent spoof the Henry Root Letters, and if this parade of practitioners of the darker side of human nature appeals then you'd do well to seek out that collection also.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A. Pomeroy on 5 Jan. 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is over 600 pages long and is not meant to be read from cover to cover. It is instead a book to dip into, and to quote to your friends, until they tell you to stop. It is a perfect read whilst on the toilet or going to bed. It is also very, very funny.
The cast divides into several basic types. There are wasted, philandering aristocrats; mid-20th century London gangsters; perpetually underachieving parliamentary candidates; people who were unusually kind to animals, and show-offs and con-men. And necromancers. The humour comes from the fact that most of these people were failures, deluded failures who, oblivious to their shortcomings and filled with self-belief, aimed high and fell far.
There is Frank Evans, "kitchen fitter and Britain's only qualified bullfighter" (one of the book's few success stories), the harmless Charles Waterton, "Catholic country squire and friend of the hedgehog", Joan Flower, "witch" and there are lots of frauds, imposters, pirates and spies. The passage of time means that most of these people are amusing, although with some of them it is hard to laugh because they were such obviously awful people. Some of the people in the book are still alive.
The only real problem with the book is that there isn't a topical index, and indeed the book is simply an ungrouped alphabetical list, which is perfect for finding out new things but you'll have a heck of a time recalling your favourite bits. I ended up sticking my fingers into several pages and using bits of paper. There are topical entries but not enough.
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By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 May 2015
Format: Hardcover
A veritable cornucopia of strangeness, this is something you could keep on your bedside table to leaf through in idle moments before sleep. Beware, however, because it could lead to outlandish dreams. It is a record of some of the strangest and most inept people known to man.

Jane Wenham (1642-1730) was the last person in England to be condemned to death for witchcraft. A servant, Ann Thorn, said that she had seen Wenham take on the shape of a talking cat, which urged her to kill herself and produced a knife for that purpose. The elderly wise woman was also accused of causing the girl to run half a mile and jump over a five-bar gate. Among the prosecution witnesses was the Reverend Francis Bragge, a fanatical vicar, who testified that Wenham could not say the Lord’s Prayer, but was able to fly. The jury found her guilty, although Mr Justice Powell observed that there was no law against flying, and then summed up in a way that suggested he expected an acquittal. Nor did he let the matter rest there and he interceded with Queen Anne on Wenham’s behalf. The furore created by the case certainly contributed to the abolition of the death penalty for witches, and the case against Wenham was taken higher and dismissed.

Ida Rubell (1910-1991), a theatrical landlady was tried at Leeds crown court for abducting, killing, plucking and cooking a performing parrot called Arthur, before serving it with rice as the dish of the day. “Arthur was no ordinary performer,” said his owner, George Birch, who had been staying at Miss Rubell’s guest house. “He spoke three languages, ate scrambled eggs and had a small but varied repertoire of love songs.” Miss Rubell admitted that Mr Birch was an excellent guest.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sable Unadorned on 14 Feb. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Simply fabulous - pick it up and you're hooked. A wonderful insight into the lives of the infamous, from mass murderers to rock star hellraisers. But more than that - it's the wonderful cross-referencing which really grabs you as you flip through. For instance, I defy anyone not to turn immediately to an entry which is referenced as 'largest collection of bondage pornography in Western Europe - See Edinburgh, Philip Duke of'. See what I mean?
Perfect gift. If you can stand to give it away.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I suppose you would have to describe this as a reference book, but it's really even less of a conventional reference book than Brewer's 'Phrase and Fable' Dictionary. You might find yourself looking up the odd person (no pun intended), but the real joy of this book is browsing or opening pages at random and reading about some amazing or terrifying character you have never come across before.

My personal favourite is the outrageously rich Georgian gentleman William Beckford, who travelled around Europe escorted by 24 musicians and once imported a flock of sheep because the view from his window in Portugal wasn't up to his standard. Back in England, he lavished his fortune building a vast Gothic house, but the 300 foot tower kept collapsing - perhaps because he insisted on keeping the builders paralytically drunk to encourage them to work longer hours.

As well as the entertainment value, William Donaldson throws in lots of illustrative asides and references other characters and books which may be of interest to the reader. It's a serendipitously entertaining ramble of a book, and every time I pick it up I seem to learn something.

A bit of a confession: I've taken to keeping mine in the bathroom to enjoy in those private moments.
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