Thursday, September 7, 2017

Charlie Peace – His Amazing Life and Astounding Legend

IT IS A CURIOUS FACT that, though crime is not unusually rife with us, we have been more inclined than other nations to make pets of interesting criminals. ‘Popular Heroes’ in Chambers’s Journal, October 24, 1863
 CRIME  English connoisseurs of crime may be proud of having had among them so great an artist as Charles Peace, the eccentric rubber-faced burglar, inventor, and cop-killer. Once Peace had been launched into eternity by the hangman Marwood the pockets of the penny-a-liners were emptied. From that point on the journalistic fraternity referred to him as the “late lamented” Charlie Peace. “In the hagiology of house-breaking,” wrote Judge Parry in Drama and the Law, “the sainted figure of Charles Peace stands in solitary grandeur — clear and illumined in the golden pinnacles of crime … that he was a really great man I cannot doubt.”
 DRAMA  Nottingham dramatist MICHAEL EATON tells how following the sensational trial and death of Charles Peace his life became the stuff of legend and myth. The myth was formed by broadsheets, children’s songs, songs set to popular tunes and hymns, penny literature, waxworks, articles in illustrated police newspapers, melodramatic stage thrillers, silent films, and British comics. Eaton — known for his stage plays and BBC radio dramas — writes in an engaging personal style from a humorous perspective.
 POLICE NEWS  The book begins with a brief outline of the criminal career of Charles Peace followed by several excerpts and sensational front-page illustrations drawn from the complete reportage in George Purkess Jr’s Illustrated Police News (subtitle: ‘Law Courts and Weekly Record’). Also included is the complete text of “THE WORST NEWSPAPER IN ENGLAND,” an Interview with the Proprietor of the “POLICE NEWS,” which was published in the Pall Mall Gazette on 23 Nov 1886. Also reproduced is an interview with the hangman.
 PENNY PAPERS  On March 1, 1879 Purkess issued Charles Peace; or, the Adventures of a Notorious Burglar by a Popular Author which ended early in 1881 after 100 penny weekly numbers. Eaton’s section on this periodical, “The Legend is Formed,” has commentary, excerpts and numerous illustrations. The most fascinating section of the book is “Stage-Struck Charlie” where Eaton has dug up texts to numerous obscure blood and thunder melodramas based on the life and crimes of Peace. Again, he provides ample excerpts from the plays.
 MOVIES  Next is a large section on Charles Peace in the movies, illustrated with a few dozen stills. Although the book is rather small-sized the copious illustrations are sharp and clear, all taken from the original sources. The reproductions from the daffy Valiant comic The Astounding Adventures of Charlie Peace are in clear resolution with easily readable text.
 COVERED…  The cover is by graphic artist EDDIE CAMPBELL (‘From Hell’); and part of an illustration that originally advertised Michael Eaton’s 2013 melodrama with a similar title (see HERE). This book on Charlie Peace has to be one of the year’s highlights in the true-crime genre – graphic, obsessive, funny and essential. Published on 23 June 2017 it is available worldwide on Amazon, and from the book’s publisher Five Leaves Publications HERE.

Charlie Peace – His Amazing Life and Astounding Legend, A kaleidoscope of true and not-so-true crime, paperback: 300 pages, size 15.8 x 1.8 x 23.4 cm, ISBN-10: 1910170305, ISBN-13: 978-1910170304, 

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