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Happy Like Murderers Hardcover – 1 Jan 1999

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (1 Jan. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571195466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571195466
  • Product Dimensions: 0.3 x 0.3 x 0.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 685,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Gordon Burn has already written a book about serial killer Peter Sutcliffe so it should be no surprise (apart from wondering at his stamina for this sort of material) that he has also taken on the macabre story of the Wests. This is a vile catalogue of the manner in which Frederick and Rosemary West raped, tortured and killed. It spares none of the utterly sordid details.

Burn, who has also written two acclaimed novels (Alma Cogan and Fullalove), has opted to apply some of the techniques of fiction to this grisly task. But while this approach does raise ethical questions--he sometimes recounts scenes and emotions that only the participants, and they are dead, could have witnessed--such is his obvious seriousness of intent that these episodes can be justified in narrative terms. The vast compilation of awful but indisputable facts inevitably makes the prosaic detail of the Wests' lives, like Fred's endless DIY and Rose's Sunday lunches, almost unbearably sinister. And the ghastly details of their victims' fates are unspeakably depraved. Britain has seen nothing like this scale of domestic degradation before. But while every reader must decide for themselves how much of this they need to know, and how much they want to know, it is nevertheless right and commendable that Gordon Burn has written this chilling book and thus given people the choice. --Nick Wroe

Book Description

Happy Like Murderers by David Burke is a true crime classic republished to tie in with the ITV drama based on Fred and Rose West, Appropriate Adult. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Jan. 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable account of the worlds of Fred and Rose West and it pulls no punches.
I have read of life in Auschwitz and other concentration camps, as well as detailed biographies of the killers Ed Gein and Dennis Nielsen, and I can say without hesitation that I have not before encountered such a detailed account of pure evil.
The news media have concentrated, for the most part, on the women and girls that died at the hands of Fred and Rose West. This book does not speculate on the details of those killings since only one living person knows what actually happened, and she isn't saying.
Detailed and graphic accounts of the child abuse suffered by the West's young family are included and I found these to be truly sickening. Including such details may sound voyeuristic but there is no titilation here, just horror.
It is a well crafted read and Gordon Burn should be commended on handling such a subject with sensitivity.
People will read this book and cry.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Kali on 21 Oct. 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a grotesquely fascinating book about a grotesque man and his equally grotesque wife. Fred and Rosemary West will be remembered for their systematic abuse of their own children (and others) and how for many years they evaded being discovered because of the indifferent society they lived in. Gordon Burn takes his readers into a modern day Heart of Darkness in which there is no happy ending, only survivors who will never be the same again. This is not an easy book to read, it starts in a peculiar way, far removed from the West family. Instead it looks at the lives of people who at first seem to have nothing to do with the storyline, but then the threads are carefully draws in, showing the connections to Fred and Rosemary and how evil can spread its tentacles in the most unlikely of places. This is horror story that turns your stomach because it is true horror, of how a man and a woman could get away with murder for years. This book is not for the faint hearted or squeamish, it is brutal, and explicit in its search for the truth. However it is well written, savagely analytical and totally mesmerising. It is book that I can recommend but only if you have the stomach to read it...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Matthew W. Hiles on 12 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very scary but well written book. It gives a real eye-opening insight into what life was like for this family. It beggars belief that all of this went on for so long without being detected - let's hope the detection procedures have greatly improved as a result! An excellent read if you are a real crime fan as I am.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Alsirat on 1 April 2014
Format: Paperback
Back in the 1970's, I was driving along the A40 West of Carmarthen, when I noticed the traffic ahead was slowing, and steering round something. When I got there, I saw a man chasing a boy, kicking out at him viciously. I pulled up, and yelled at the man to stop. He took no notice, so I grabbed him, kicked him hard enough to shake him up a bit, and manhandled him to the verge. I tried to comfort the boy, who was hysterical. The man said "It's all right, he suffers from Asthma", which seemed to me a strange reason for such a vicious assault.

I flagged down a car, and got the driver to call the Police, When they turned up, I described what had happened. The man gave his name as "Frederick West". I fully expected to be called as a witness, but never heard any more until I saw his distinctive simian features on the front pages years later.

Having this connection, I have read several books about the Wests and their crimes, in my opinion, this one is the best. As others say, a very harrowing read. If I had known what I now know about Fred West, I would have kicked him much harder!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "robertf999" on 22 Aug. 2004
Format: Paperback
How did a boy born into a farming family find his perfect partner - a young, impressionable schoolgirl - and kill so many people over such a long period? How did Fred and Rose get away with abusing, and even murdering, their own children without anyone finding out? This book has the answers. It demonstrates how the Wests' parents had their own part to play in what eventually happened in Gloucester over 30 years. The abused turned into abusers - and murderers.
The book also covers those who knew Fred West as a colleague and employee. How did the sex-maniac, serial killer appear to the outside world?
This is not a book for the faint-hearted. In particular the sick abuse of the Wests' own children and the helplessness of their situation will move anybody with a heart.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 Jan. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having read, "Somebody's Father Somebody's Son: the Story of the Yorkshire Ripper," by the same author, this book was recommended to me as another true crime classic. I found the Yorkshire Ripper book very unsettling, but I think that this compelling book is even more disturbing. It tells of how Fred and Rose West - both from incestuous and dysfunctional backgrounds- met, married and killed together...

Author Gordon Burn, now sadly no longer with us, was a great writer and, in this book, he manages to create a real of sense of what both Fred and Rose West were like. The style of writing is almost chatty - a little like Fred West - garrulous, a bragger, persuasive, charming when he wanted to be. By the time Rose, not quite sixteen years old, met Fred, he had already been married, had already fathered children and had already killed. However, rather than being forced into his activities, Rose seemed more than happy to take the lead. Her violence and cruelty towards Fred's daughter by his first wife, and his step daughter, in the early days of her relationship with Fred are almost unbearable to read. Yet, still, the book gets worse. There are more children born; more cruelty, more vicious and violent attacks, abuse, killings and then the abductions, torture and murders of young women who are buried in the house and garden of Cromwell Street. Many of the young women are abducted from bus stops - indeed, it was at a bus stop that Fred first met Rose - others visit the house and one was even their eldest daughter together. Fred was a patient predator and he could spot vulnerable young girls who needed a roof under which to sleep, a kind word, some attention, a mile away. Many were in care - others chance encounters - but he was always a man with an eye on the possible chance.
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