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Happy Like Murderers Paperback – September 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571279139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571279135
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Gordon Burn was the author of four novels, Alma Cogan (winner of the Whitbread First Novel Prize), Fullalove, The North of England Home Service and Born Yesterday. He was also the author of the non-fiction titles Somebody's Husband, Somebody's Son, Pocket Money, Happy Like Murderers, On The Way to Work (with Damien Hirst) and Best and Edwards. His last book, Sex & Violence, Death and Silence, was a collection of his essays on art.

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Kali on June 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most grotesquely fascinating books I have ever read in my life. It is about a grotesque man, Fred West and his equally grotesque wife Rosemary West, two serial killers born and bred in the UK.
Fred and Rosemary West will long be remembered for their systematic abuse (and murder) 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 themselves, in a way it is quite detached from Fred and Rosemary, and I think the author did this on purpose.

Instead the book looks at the lives of people who at first seem to have nothing to do with the storyline, but then the threads are carefully drawn in, showing the connections to Fred and Rosemary West and how evil can spread its tentacles in and too the most unlikely of places.
This is a horror story that turns your stomach because it is a true horror story, of how a man and a woman could get away with cold blooded and totally calculated murder for years.
This book is not for the faint hearted or squeamish; it is brutal, and explicit in its search for truth and understanding. It is well written, savagely analytical and totally mesmerising from beginning to end. It is a book that I can recommend but only if you have the stomach to read it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Emmysmom on June 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is the first true crime I've read in ages that took a different approach to story-telling. It's unusual, told almost colloquially as if someone were verbally recounting it. I noticed the repetition that someone else in a review below complained about, and I was intially taken aback by it, but now I believe it was purposeful and effective, adding to the impression that someone's telling the story to you. If a person recounts a long complicated story, it's inevitable that portions will be repeated - that's the impression I got.

I love the way it familiarizes the reader in detail with the lives of others in the Wests' orbit - it makes the whole story three dimensional, and thus far more moving.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Katrina Csanadi on February 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
If you are at all interested in the appalling crimes of Fred and Rosemary West, this is a must have for your library. Books about Fred and Rose are rare (I have only counted 6 titles). Others include: "Fred and Rose", "She Must Have Known", "The Corpse Garden", and "Out of the Shadows". "Happy Like Murderers" gives a rich look into the lives of these sick individuals.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 20, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By LeeBee on March 17, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a direct gaze into the dark heart of generations of families so twisted and dysfunctional, they take everything that we have learnt about what is right and wrong, and turn it upside down and inside out. Burn very artfully takes us on a virtual tour of this bizarre world, through the eyes and language of its two main villains and protagonists, Fred and Rose. The stench of their banal evil is woven into the tapestry of Burn's language, as he speaks the way Fred or Rose speak; the repetitions and obsessions; the way that depraved evil of such hideous proportions became such an ordinary part of daily suburban family life. Fred's fetishisation of his tools and his sexual perversions; right at the core of his personality, and Rose's deep ugliness are ingrained into the text, and I felt deeply horrified for their own children who tried, and failed to escape the kinds of horrors that are only in our worst nightmares.\

But most of all, this story is a lesson in how cycles of child abuse and sexual violence can be passed from generation to generation unchecked, until something like this happens; the fusing of two individuals who had lost all of their humanness, and wanted nothing more than to visit that on as many people as they could.

Absolutely compulsive reading. You won't forget it.
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