Tag Archives: murder

Book Review: The History of Murder by Colin Wilson

Colin Wilson’s The History of Murder (nonfiction)

It has been said that man is the most violent creature on earth.

Read this book and you’ll be convinced this thought is true.  Wilson writes a history of homicide, covering a couple thousand years—quite a literary achievement. And he does so in very thoughtful ways. I read this book because I am a writer of mystery fiction; murder, death, ghosts, humanity are all part of my stories and exploration. If you study murder or are curious about the psychology of violence (or like to read about the dark side of life) this is one to add to your list. At over 600 pages and two inches thick, this is like an encyclopedia, but Wilson makes it more personal and sometimes philosophical. He explores why man is a killer. Wilson begins with Ivan the Terrible, Nero, Vlad the Impaler and the spectacular sadist Tamerlane. Lots of details that were a bit disturbing for me, especially Countess Elizabeth Bathory who enjoyed soaking in bathtubs filled with the human blood of young murdered girls. Moving on to Murder Elizabethan Style with a poisoned crucifix, disembowelments, castrations, beheadings, Jack the Ripper, British murders, sex crimes and serial killers. A lot to handle. Best way to read this is in small bites. I like Wilson’s narrative style and will likely read some of his fiction titles. At the end, Wilson says “in spite of three thousand years of cruelty and slaughter, there is still hope for the human race.” Read this book and you’ll know why.




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Filed under Book Reviews, ghost story blogs, horror blogs, literature, murder mystery, mysteries, short story blogs

Murder, Mysticism, and Shadows

The Curse of the Fires and of the Shadows   by William Butler Yeats (1893)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    June 17, 2014


In Ireland, 1642, Sir Frederick Hamilton, under the direction of Thomas Cromwell, went on a murdering rampage and killed the townsfolk of Sligo, women and children. Survivors were sold off as slaves and shipped to the Caribbean. W.B. Yeats wrote a short story about this murdering rampage. Supernatural, mystery, mysticism, and symbolism all feature in this fiction based on Irish history.

We are in the province of Connacht, Ireland, at the Sligo Abbey (The Dominican Friary of the Holy Cross).




The White Friars with their holy candles are kneeling on the altar.  As Sir Hamilton and his Puritan troopers invade and are given the order to shoot, deep shadows from the holy candles dance a warning. The troopers proceed with their order and leave the monks dead on the altar, their white habits stained with blood.

Set fire to the house!’ cried Sir Frederick Hamilton…”

The dance of the shadows passed away, and the dance of the fires began. The
troopers fell back towards the door in the southern wall, and watched
those yellow dancers springing hither and thither.


But there is more–another dance is to come: the dance of white moon-fires, a haunted river, madness of the horses, and the Lug-na-Gael.

This story reminded me of Yeat’s poem Death.

NOR dread nor hope attend
A dying animal;
A man awaits his end
Dreading and hoping all;
Many times he died,
Many times rose again.
A great man in his pride
Confronting murderous men
Casts derision upon
Supersession of breath;
He knows death to the bone —
Man has created death.

That last line, ‘Man has created death’ is a popular Yeat’s quotation and can be interpreted many ways. I couldn’t help but hear in the poem that while animals are unaware of their mortality and humans so very aware, the acts of murderous men create their own deaths as well.  Yeatsian scholars would likely differ, but I found the mystical symbolism of his story and this poem to create a haunting symmetry.



This story is a short read, and so worthy of your time if you enjoy a mix of imagination, mysticism, and symbolism, and especially if you are a Yeats fan.

We don’t often think of Yeats as writing occult fiction (although there are shades of it in his poetry), but he was a student of the occult and a practicing magician. He also wrote an unfinished novel The Speckled Bird, which is autobiographical about his mystical enlightenment. In a letter to his friend John O’Leary, Yeats said “Mysticism is the center of all that I do and all that I think and all that I write.” (1892)



Read The Curse of the Fires and of the Shadows at Online-Literature.com

Listen to the audio at Librivox Recordings (16 minutes)


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