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In his own darkly humorous style, Geoffrey Abbott describes the instruments used and their effectiveness and reveals the macabre origins of familiar phrases such as “gone west” or “drawn a blank,” as well as the jargon of the underworld. He covers everything from the preparation of the victim to the disposal of the body. Execution is everything you ever wanted to know about the ultimate penalty---and a lot you never thought to ask.
It includes such hair-raising categories as:
· Cave of Roses: A rare Swedish method of execution in which the victim was confined to a cave full of snakes and poisonous reptiles.
· Bastinado: Involved the victim being caned gently and rhythmically with a lightweight stick on the soles of the feet until the mental collapse and eventual death of the victim.
· Sewn in an Animal’s Belly: A living person is sewn into the belly of an animal and left to die.
· The Spanish Donkey: This method of torture consisted of seating a victim on top of a wall that resembled an inverted “v” with weights attached to the ankles, the weights slowly increased until the victim’s body split in two.
· Iron Chair: The victim is tied to an iron armchair and pushed nearer and nearer to a blazing fire.
· Sawn in Half: Victims are secured in a standing position, pinned between two wide boards fixed between a stake driven deep into the ground while two executioners (one on each side) would wield a long, two-handled saw downwards through the boards.
Execution is a unique fascinating look at the grim and gritty history of sanctioned death.
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Geoffrey Abbott served for many years as a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London. Author of nineteen books and contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, he has made numerous television appearances. He lives in London.From Publishers Weekly:
What seduction the guillotine holds over the "nail through the ear" or the Iron Maiden is not exactly common knowledge. Nor are the virtues of the rack versus the pendulum likely candidates for routine conversation. But capital punishment is often discussed: Should state-decreed death be abolished or expanded? According to Abbott, before the public can come to any decision, it is essential that all the facts of the different methods be known. Enter this encyclopedic guide to the ultimate penalty. In 69 entries, ranging from a single paragraph to 30 pages in length, Abbott recounts not only the grisly facts, but also the colorful myths, mysteries and bloopers behind criminal executions. For example, guillotine inventor Joseph Ignace Guillotin was born prematurely when the future inventor's mother was frightened into labor by the screams of a man being "Broken on the Wheel." Bumbling executioners, from clumsy axmen to wayward firing squads, are also brought to comic light. Abbott tackles the question of life after decapitation, the type of gas in the gas chamber and the kind of injection in the lethal injection. Presumably, years spent greeting tourists as a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London gave Abbott his knack for anticipating interests, and his previous book, The Executioner Always Chops Twice, gave him practice with the impish prose he uses to make doom and gloom read glibly. But this is no page-turner, it's a novelty dictionary horror buffs and the morbidly curious will enjoy flipping through.
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