ADDRESSES: Home—Chelsfield, Kent, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Sutton Publishing, Phoenix Mill, Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 2BU, UK.
CAREER: Author and journalist. Former executive editor of the European.
London's Underworld: Three Centuries of Vice and Crime, Robson (London, England), 2002.
The Encyclopedia of London Crime and Vice, Sutton (Stroud, Gloucestershire, England) 2003.
London: The Wicked City: A Thousand Years of Vice in the Capital, Robson (London, England), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Retired journalist and editor Fergus Linnane has published books on the history of crime and vice in London. The first, London's Underworld: Three Centuries of Vice and Crime, is a chronological account that encompasses the notorious personalities, political climate, and cultural context that accompanies the rise and fall of criminal activity in the British city. Linnane begins his account in the eighteenth century, exploring the city's nearly lawless streets. During this era, bounty hunters called "thief takers" were relied on to bring criminals to justice. The most untrustworthy of these figures was Jonathan Wild, a man who took payments in exchange for protection and ended his days on the scaffold. Linnane then shows the difficulty of establishing an effective and respected police force, which finally took hold at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Critical response to the book revealed it to be a vast but interesting work. Ian Thomson noted in the Spectator that it is "fun to read but ultimately it cloys … one longs for a bit of civility." A Kirkus Reviews writer commented that the author "carefully places each event and character in context, leading to some redundancy, but … it's a forgivable fault." According to an M2 Best Books critic, the work offers "a fairly impartial look at crime and related society." New Statesman critic Razor Smith, who wrote from prison, remarked that the book would be "fascinating to those who like their 'true crime' to have an informative and historical flavour." He concluded that London's Underworld is "shocking, sometimes amusing, but never boring."
In London: The Wicked City: A Thousand Years of Vice in the Capital, the author narrows his focus to the sex trade in London. Across the span of a thousand years, he highlights famous prostitutes and notorious gentlemen, and he charts changing tastes and laws. Victorians, for example, had a fascination with flagellation, while twenty-first-century sex clubs in Soho are described as relatively bland. In a review for the Spectator, Ian Thomson advised that the book "consists largely of (rather prurient) sketches of commercial sex and swiveling in red-light London from Chaucer's day to the present. The subject can hardly fail to interest."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Review, September, 2003, review of London's Underworld: Three Centuries of Vice and Crime, p. 187.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2005, review of London's Underworld, p. 526.
M2 Best Books, April 29, 2003, review of London's Underworld.
New Statesman, April 21, 2003, Razor Smith, review of London's Underworld, p. 51.
Spectator, June 7, 2003, Ian Thomson, "From Gin Craze to Twin Krays," review of London's Underworld, p. 40; December 27, 2003, Ian Thomson, "All the Sad Variety of Hell," review of London: The Wicked City: A Thousand Years of Vice in the Capital, p. 32.