on 27 January 2009
I had expected much when `Black Country Ghosts' by Anthony Poulton-Smith arrived for review. Little did I realise that I was going to be disapointed.
Overall the book is a pleasant mixture of local ghost stories, split into easy to read sections under local towns. All the old favourites are here - the ghost of Gideon Grove (Himley), Edmund Croaker (Dudley), Spring Heeled Jack (Blackheath) etc. But it is with perhaps one of the most well known stories - that of William Howe - that the author stumbles into sloppy research. The facts of this well known case hardly need repeating, suffice to say that in 1812 William Howe attacked and left for dead a local farmer near Kinver. Howe was eventual captured and executed for the crime. His body was gibbeted on the site of the murder as a warning to others. Ever since then there have been reports that his spectral presence has been seen along the dark, deserted road. So far, so good. Instead the author of this new book magicaly transports the crime from Kinver to Halesowen! He correctly states that the gibbeting of the body changed the name of the road from Fir Tree Hill to Gibbet Lane, but places this miles away in Halesowen. In 1872 the spectre of William Howe was encountered in full penny dreadful fashion by a gentleman as he returned home along Whittington Common, Kinver. Except the author how places Whittington Common in Brierley Hill!
And it gets worse! When was the last time you visited the Black Country town of Sandwell? All entries in this book are given under the town/village they occured. But Sandwell! Has no one told the author Sandwell is a region not a place?
Now the Black Country is one of those amorphous regions on which no one can really agree where it begins and where it ends. But surely you would have to push your definition to include the villages of Enville and Bewdley (both outside of the Black Country by miles)?!
If these basic details can be wrong, what hope for the rest of this book?
It is a real pity that a potentialy good book should turn out so bad. But perhaps I am being a little harsh, the author does after all state at the start of the book that when he started to write it he knew nothing about the Black Country. Now he has finished it, the same is still sadly true!
Should you buy this book??Only if you have a hole burning in your pocket!