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A Handbook on Hanging Paperback – October 31, 1999
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From Library Journal
This is a chronicle of hanging and other forms of capital punishment throughout history. It is also a tongue-in-cheek commentary on humankind's fervor for public executions and other grisly forms of entertainment. Though published in 1923, this is not out of place in today's society.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
CHARLES DUFF (18941966), who also went by his Gaelic name Cathal Ó Dubh, was born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, in what is now Northern Ireland. He served in the British Merchant Navy, fought in World War I, and subsequently entered the British Foreign Service. Duff was a gifted linguist, fluent in seven languages, and in his later years he worked as a freelance writer and translator. His own writing included plays, travel essays, and an introduction to James Joyce; among his many translations were works by Quevedo, Zola, B. Traven, Gorky, and Arnold Zweig.
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Mr. Duff presents vivid details of the English hangmen's "art" and uses hunmorous anecdotes of their fine craft in dispatching malafactors. There are humorous examples of how the English hangmen used mathematics and careful study of the intended victims so that executions can be as painless and as quick as possible. Mr. Duff traces the improvements in public executions since Anglo-Saxon England and after the Conquest (1066). He comments on "Merrie Ole England" when the Tudors used hanging along with drawing-and-quartering which some of the English refer to as "The good old days."
Mr. Duff cites examples of State sponsored executions whereby the condemned was actually innocent, but the State or Crown had to have their "pound of flesh" regardless of errors in justice. Mr. Duff cites examples where "court experts" were either wrong or perjured themselves so that an execution could take place, the hangmen could maintain gainful employment.
Readers should note that at the turn of the 19th century (the 1800s), there were 210 offenses for which hanging was the punishment for the crime. These crimes included poaching on royal land, theft of five shillings (less than the value of a dollar), etc. Mr. Duff cites associating with gypsies as a capital offense, but he could not understand why associating with politicians was not included.
For sheer humor, Mr. Duff uses a hypothetical case of the owner of butcher shop who caught his wife having an affair with an employee. Mr. Duff's description of the blow-by-blow brawl is amusing to say the least. This amusing anecdote starts on page 92.
Mr. Duff also feigns and enterprising spirit when he suggested that film directors, television executives, media sponsors use their talents to publicly present executions to the fun and amusement of a population with morbid interests in such events.
Mr. Duff pretends to show the shock of unemployed executioners just because of botched executions which resulted in decapitation, prolonged suffering, etc. However, Mr. Duff uses the judges' instructions that the condemned be hanged until dead regardless of the time or suffering.
The one reviewer who wrote that he or she were appalled by this book either did not read it, or they have no sense of humor whatsoever. The idiotic comment the reviewer made that men like Mr. Cooper are disappearing is in incredible bad taste. The fact that such men have used humor to deal with tragedy is a sign that civilization is not dead.
Again, this book was written as feigned praise for executioners. Mr. Duff was opposed to capitial punishment which is often debated. This reviewer favors capital punishment in extreme cases, but Mr. Duff's book gives readers who can think and apprecaite humor something to ponder. While the book did not change this reviewer's mind, it sure made him think
The book goes through all of this in your typical British Humor, and it's great. And if you are smart, you'd realize that this book is actually a book against capital punishment, backed with figures and facts. I myself is not against the death penalty, but the book does make you think. Great book.
Don'd read the preface by this whoever, though. It is boring and just plain stupid PC, and it makes you not want to read the book at all. It doesn't have any sense of humor, it tries to push the same ol' conclusions in a hastly manner, a real disgrace. Rip it out. Just go for the actual thing! If it hadn't been for this, I would have gave the book 5 stars.