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on 22 October 2013
love it good book really enjoyed it it cam quickly had too see the film love the cove of book
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on 5 December 2015
I love the late Mr Haining's anthologies of supernatural fiction, but this is a baffling attempt to claim that the fictional Demon Barber was a real person with no hard evidence provided. I confess that initially I was as gullible as some reviewers here and presumed that because the book is by a prolific author what he says bears some relation to the truth - but when you realise he gives no sources for his alleged unearthing of Todd's trial and execution you begin to scent a dodgy meat pie. Robert L.Mack's book on the Todd mythos exposes some of Haining's errors. But was he sincere, having a laugh, or playing a literary hoax? Who knows, but I'd love someone to investigate and let us know.
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on 10 May 2017
it's total fiction, i researched all of it at Winchester Library (their historical microfilms) but i couldn't find anything, and definitely not via the Newgate Calendar. the trouble is Sweeney Todd is portrayed wrongly in fiction too, esp Johnny Depp's effort.
Haining should have written a fictional book instead, because he's got the basic story right.....Todd would have been a pick pocket street urchin whilst young, he then ended up in Newgate Prison at the age of about 13 and was released much later as a ``street smart murderous thug``, who was also quite intelligent.

Todd was a fog bound cut throat killer, so he was murdering victims on the street at night too, which adds more interest to the villan, i had a huge essay on him Online years ago, one day i might redo it.

if you find anything about him it still wont be true, because Todd would have killed about 300 people over a 16 year period and most of these would have been seriously rich, he didn't target poor people, no money. BUT there are NO RECORDS anywhere of rich people vanishing whilst visiting London in his time period............ his shop wasn't a scruffy dump, it was very smart inside, because if not; rich gents would never step in.

his shop could not be where Haining states, because from here he cant see the clock of St Dunstans church, try around the other side at roughly 167 Fleet St...........so you can see the fictional book is a good foundation to use, to base a really good book on, but Haining has made an idiot of himself by stating that it's TRUE.
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on 1 January 2015
perfect item
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on 2 August 2009
I have just read the 1993 version of this book and was very disappointed that it had no bibliography, or end notes and that references within the text were scant. The flyleaf describes the book as the definitive biography of Sweeney Todd but with such glaring omissions how can it be? I thought it was going to be a serious debate about whether Todd really existed, and I was disappointed when it wasn't, the author frequently fails to say where exactly he got his information and therefore the book cannot be taken seriously. If proper references had been included it wouldn't have mattered whether he had found that Todd had existed or not as it would have put an end to the debate one way or another instead it is left up in the air. I felt this was a a shame because in many ways I enjoyed reading the majority of the book and would have happily given it a higher rating had it included a more academic structure. I also found the last chapter about the history of the stage productions of the story to be superfluous and distracting. I would have preferred it if the author had included a chapter about how he actually researched the book!
4 people found this helpful
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on 23 December 2008
I was expecting a historical book looking into the real life crimes which helped the original Penny Dreadful writers to create their FICTIONAL character.

Unfortunately this book takes a few small facts and then embarks upon making a fictional charcter into a real person. There has never been a birth or death certificate found to prove his existence (there is an urbal legend he was hanged at several places but no real evidence has ever been uncovered there). It is generally accepted that the story is possibly influenced by some french crime and story... but nobody knows what the influences for thw work of fiction are.

I love Sweeney Todd, the character is fantastic and the book is brilliant. I do not need an author who cannot even get right his historical dates (as other reviewers have noticed).

Buy 'Sweeney Todd: a string of pearls' and there is a far better introduction and accurate history of the origin of the character than this book... and at least you'll geta great story rather than a bad history.
10 people found this helpful
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on 30 June 2009
This is not "the real story" - it is sensationalist, hack journalism of the very worst kind. Haining tries to convince the reader that Sweeney Todd was a real person, while offering NOTHING AT ALL in the way of evidence. The simple truth is that the story of "Sweeney Todd" is entirely fictional and this book is entirely rubbish.
8 people found this helpful
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on 2 July 2000
Peter Haining's little volume on Sweeney Todd lifts the lid on the real mass-murderer, as well as highlighting his more familiar fictional incarnations. Much historical detail puts Todd firmly in his historical context, while the (skimpy) details are colourfully etched in.
Perhaps the prose is a little cliched and the facts somewhat thin on the ground, but the familiar street names and sheer audacity of the main protagonists (Mrs Lovett was his pie-maker accomplice) make for riveting reading. Haining draws together many sources to paint a grim picture of crime-ridden 18th century London and the grotesque dysfunctional barber-surgeon at the centre of these awful acts.
What the book does not attempt to do is offer questions for Todd's deeds - psychoanalysis is absent from the gaudy melodrama here described. Just what did Todd hope to achieve by murdering so many clients? Was he twisted by his appalling childhood? Why did he not sell any of the purloined valuables and rise to a higher class of living? What was Mrs Lovett's motivation? Why was she attracted to him in the first place? These queries sadly go unanswered, and, whilst answers must surely be speculative, an appreciation of them would not have gone amiss.
Overall, however, a fascinating story well told.
Mark Campbell (Freelance Writer)
9 people found this helpful
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on 31 January 2008
I recently purchased this book on the Demon Barber, and was so disappointed within the first four chapters that I'm afraid I'm not prepared to read on. Perhaps that disqualifies me from reviewing it. Then again, perhaps four chapters was plenty.

Aside from the multiple typing errors ('candies' flickering in the window, apparently! What a mood killer! - and yes, I know this is not likely to be down to the author)the book very quickly shows itself as being void of even basic research. Charles II, for example, reigned from 1660 - 1685; a fairly easy one to remember as it marked the start of the Restoration period. Not according to the author. He enjoyed a much longer reign, and stayed admirably below Cromwell's radar. This is not me picking holes or trying to sound clever; this is important history, and people learn from books. There is, I would strongly argue, a responsibility there somewhere. And as for Todd's parents? Mr and Mrs Todd - no forenames; I didn't have time, the movie is out soon! Please.

And then there's the prevarication. George III was the contemporary monarch, to be sure; but is it really necessary for Mr Haining to drift off and starts hammering on about the Mad King to the extent that he does? I say 'drift off' as it comes just as Sweeny Todd is being portrayed as a factual character. We are given a birthplace, a year and even a door number (well, three actually. You'll have to take a guess). And just as it appears as though the book might be getting to the flesh of something, Mr Haining breaks off, and stays off for far too long. Not so much tantalising as GCSE essay, and a mediocre one to boot.

Overall, I found the reasoning specious, the style provincial and the substance wanting.

I could go on, but I fear people will find this as interesting as I did the book. And I'd sooner have my throat cut in a barber's chair than inflict that on anyone.

Right, I'm off for a meat pie.
23 people found this helpful
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on 15 April 2009
I haven't yet finished this book, because the total lack of proof reading - leading to at least one mistake on almost every page of the book - is so utterly distracting. It's a shame, because the story is interesting (if not that convincing as reality) and this could be a good little book. What a pity to compromise it at the last hurdle by not proofing it. Very irritating.
2 people found this helpful
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