Execution by Geoffrey Abbott
The Guillotine, the Pendulum, the Thousand Cuts, the Spanish Donkey, and 66 Other Ways of Putting Someone to Death

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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. 



About Geoffrey Abbott

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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.
Published April 4, 2006 by St. Martin's Press. 288 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference, Crime. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Execution

The New York Times

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Abbott, the book jacket reports, “served for many years as a yeoman warder at the Tower of London.” What a yeoman warder does is not specified, but apparently it’s not much, because Abbott seems to have had an abundance of time to indulge his particular line of research: his previous books includ...

Jul 30 2006 | Read Full Review of Execution: The Guillotine, th...

Publishers Weekly

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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.

Mar 04 2006 | Read Full Review of Execution: The Guillotine, th...

Dallas News

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Friday prohibited the Texas Forensic Science Commission from considering evidence before its creation in 2005, effectively barring commissioners from reviewing arson evidence that led to an execution.

Jul 29 2011 | Read Full Review of Execution: The Guillotine, th...

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