Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Here At Last!

At last the day has come, and my ebook is out there in the ether.  It’s odd to have a book published which I can’t see or feel.  It was also an unusual experience to go through the production process with a publisher who is based in France, an art director who is in Canada and an illustrator in the North of England.  Not a word was exchanged between us, verbally at least, and any differences of opinion seemed to be easily resolved in the silent world of the written word.  (You can only shout by using CAPITAL LETTERS!)
My first foray into the world of ebooks forced me to think about their place in our rapidly changing world.  Our ‘convenience’ culture demands that everything in our lives - food, entertainment, information - comes with a wide choice and easy accessibility.  Hence the phenomenal rise in popularity of the ebook.  I love the idea that this way of  producing books saves many trees, as well as giving people greater, and more economical, access to books. 
Few of us have the time, or inclination, to plough through weighty tomes on serious subjects.   That doesn’t mean we’re not interested in historical facts. My book was written as an overview of punishments through the ages without sending the reader to sleep.   I can’t guarantee they’ll be no nightmares though!    


  1. How did your involvement in the editorial and production process differ from your work on books intended for hardback and/or paperback release, Irene? Any alteration in the way you help promote a published work? Good luck and best wishes. Neil M.

  2. Rave reviest are coming in thick and fast for Irene's new book. I'll post one here and others in following 'comment' notes ...

    Yet another immediate review in on the A-Z ...

    The A-Z of Torture is a fascinating and gripping read. You can almost feel the pain as the instruments of torture through the ages are described in graphic detail. Gruesome but you can’t stop reading it – brilliant!

    Phil Dampier, Royal correspondent and best-selling co-author of Duke of Hazard, The Wit and Wisdom of Prince Philip and What’s in the Queen’s Handbag.

  3. And another review: from former international journalist Neil Sutherland ...

    One cannot of course judge a virtual book by its cover … it has none. But as a journalistic colleague of Irene for many years I now realize you cannot judge an author on appearances either.

    That this detailed catalogue of gruesome grotesquery should be produced by an otherwise sweet English lady leaves me gobsmacked. Every page is a turn of the screw in this wonderfully researched litany of the pain man has inflicted on his fellowman throughout history.

    Irene has touched here on a relevant and timely subject. Her impeccably detailed descriptions are painful to read and one is tempted to shrug these off as medieval malpractices. But this book should be made mandatory reading for those who still condone and commit similar atrocities in our modern world, be it the harsh strictures of Sharia or CIA waterboarding interrogation techniques.

    I am delighted (if surprised) that this salutary summary of inhumanity has sprung from such an unlikely source. But then … Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition!

    Neil Sutherland. Recovering writer now living in Atlanta, Ga.

  4. Another early review ...

    In her gripping yet gruesome chronicle of man’s inhumanity to man, Irene Thompson examines not only the brutal mechanics of killing but provides a fascinating insight into ingenious methods devised by the sadistic mind to inflict extreme cruelty.

    Some of the instruments detailed in ‘The A-Z of Punishment and Torture’ are so elaborate they are worthy of a PhD in mechanical engineering. Take the awesomely dreadful French invention ‘the pear of anguish’, an engraved metal device composed of four ‘petals’ which the torturer inserted into a bodily orifice and then turned a screw which slowly opened up the 'petals,' ripping apart the cavity. Or the horror of the Iron Maiden, a coffin with spikes which, when closed, impaled and crushed its victim to death in its agonising embrace.

    Not for the faint of heart, Thompson’s highly-readable and well-researched book takes us on a horrific odyssey from ancient Greece (where unfortunates were pushed inside a brass replica of a bull and then roasted alive above the flames) to the modern day horrors of simulated drowning practised by CIA interrogators. What this book depicts, above all, is the relish with which torturers go about their grisly task, and the pleasures they derive from finding new ways of creating a veritable Hell on earth.

    Tim Miles. Author of Torn Apart: The Most Horrific True Murder Stories You’ll Ever Read.


    You didn’t have to torture me to read this book. I’ve long been fascinated by human ingenuity in inflicting pain and suffering. Irene Thompson has indulged this guilty pleasure beyond my wildest macabre dreams in her opus on the subject. ‘The A – Z of PUNISHMENT and TORTURE’ takes one in dispassionate detail through all the nasty stuff from the ancient world to the present day.

    Humour and horror sit side by side i.e. the first gibbets chopped off heads with such vigour that they bounced like balls into the laps of spectators. But to knock the smile off your face consider this: “The Iron Maiden crushed victims in her deadly embrace, impaling them on spikes.”

    It’s all there in compelling detail for punishment aficionados – a fascinating compendium of dark deeds; a must read for both sado-masochists and the gruesomely curious like me!

    Tony Brenna, author, international journalist and critic. Pacific Press International, Seattle.

  6. And this today from Kay Green at Earlyworks Press in the UK:

    “Punishment and Torture” – the perfect title for this book because it’s an area of knowledge I have absolutely no desire to pursue but the world being what it is, I often have to do so, when editing both fiction and non-fiction. It’s also a book that’s been released only as an e-book so I am finally cornered into investigating the format – as one who is never happier than when wandering the papery heaven of an old fashioned library, that’s the second reason the title’s appropriate, to my eye at least.

    Why am I reviewing this book? Well obviously because it IS a subject both writers and editors could do with a practical reference book on, because one regularly hears good things about BeWrite Books so should pay attention to review copies when they’re offered, and, to declare a personal interest, because the book is illustrated by Catherine Edmunds, who has been a mainstay of Earlyworks Press in her guises as writer, illustrator and fearless internet explorer for most of the time we’ve been online.

    So here’s a harsh test: how did the book stand up to the negative feelings of this reluctant reviewer? First, the e-bookness. Well I have to say it’s clean, it’s accessible, it’s good-looking and economical and it makes a valuable contribution to my reference information without taking up any room whatsoever in my study. The reluctant side of me will have to make do with muttering about how I won’t be able to use it during power-cuts, but even then I’ll be shouted off stage by i-pad and mob users who will tell me a desktop computer isn’t the only place a resourceful person can store e-books.

    That’s the e-angle dealt with. Now for the book bit…. well actually, I started out still making comparisons – the vertiginous experience of scrolling down the deep picture of the guillotine seen through a high gateway and the impossibility of having a casual flick through before starting to read made embarking on this book more like entering a cinema than settling down to read, but my interest was caught.

    The introduction finally got me into book-reading mode and it is very interesting. Why didn’t I know that the expression ‘Draconian’ comes from Draco, a Greek law maker who made short work of penal policy by making all crimes punishable by death? The remaining pages of the introduction take us on a roller coaster ride through Roman emperors, Spanish Inquisitors and Victorian transportations to the (now far off) day in 1984 when the UN declared torture illegal. That’s the end of all the stomach-churning stuff then, isn’t it…. Ha!

    The book proved a very entertaining and informative read. It does a lot of myth-busting – much of which is obvious when you think about it – why would those far-off cannibal tribes decide to boil missionaries alive? And even if they wanted to do something so pointless (boiling dinner alive involves contaminating good meat with the contents of the dinner’s stomach) where on earth would they get such a large iron pot from? … along with some points which need regular flagging up – such as the fact that nine out of ten members of a decimated army survive to tell the tale.

    /Continued for reasons of length restriction in next post.

  7. And another today (Nov 23):

    The A-Z concept used in this book enables the author to present a challenging subject in palatable pieces. She never dwells on the unsavoury for any longer than it takes to detail it with the crisp detachment of a professional journalist. This book is both entertaining and informative, occasionally shocking, but always interesting. A good read.
    Andrew Morton, author of Diana: Her True Story.