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I've read a few Denise Mina books and read a good review of The Long Drop. I know the Peter Manuel story quite well, I even live less than 10 minutes from where his stomping ground was, though I didn't watch the recent TV programme starring Martin Compston about him.

 

In the midst of his killing, William Watt decides to spend a night on the town with Peter Manuel to find out what he knows or will confess to about the recent string of murders. Interspersed with this story, we get the events and the subsequent trial of Peter Manuel for the crimes committed. To be honest, it wasn't for the trail and media circus towards the end of the novel, I would have given up on this book. No one in this book is particularly likeable. I know, I know, Manuel is not supposed to be likeable, but he is so utterly lacking in anything that it made for a boring read. Maybe that's the point, to show how dull and pathetic he was, but it doesn't make for a great read. At the trial, however, he somehow becomes more interesting as he tries manipulate and become ringmaster of the court.

 

I couldn't recommend this though, it's just lacking in anything that makes you want to keep reading. A pity.

 

 

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Oh, I didn't know this was about Manuel.

I grew up in a world haunted by him in a way. My mum grew up in Manuel's home village. (We lived just along the road.) She was a kid when he was committing his crimes and once sat in the swingpark beside him without knowing who he was: she went home talking about the strange man in the swingpark in the very white shirt, and found out who it was. His mum was a member of the local Labour Party along with my dad and gran when I was a kid, and she was always treated with a lot of respect for what she had gone through.

 

I watched the Martin Compston tv show (filmed where I grew up - we loved spotting the locations!)  and I'm reading a book about his trial just now. I might give this a go, despite your reservations, Hazel. (In a weird six degrees of separation thing, one of my pupils is related to Denise Mina)

 

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Do you want me to send my copy to you MM? I don't mind - it's just going to end up in the charity pile.

 

My dad remembers a lot about the time around Manuel too - that's crazy though that your mum met him in the swing park. Apparently he was very charismatic in a Ted Bundy kind of way - which doesn't really come across in the book.

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Thanks Hazel!

I get the feeling that everyone has a Manuel story round about here. It's strange how there is a sudden resurgence of interest in him. I suppose it's long enough ago now that his crimes feel like a story. His sister (who stayed on in the family home, and was a local midwife), is dead now, and so are most people who knew him, though not all. 

The book and the tv series just made me realise how unusual such crimes are, thankfully. There's a theory that he suffered from a form of epilepsy which led to a loss of control, but this wasn't ever disclosed because the public wouldn't tolerate him getting off.

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I guess it was also at a time when extenuating circumstances weren't considered at a trial, such as his epilepsy. My dad has quite clear memories of the day he was hanged too which seems like such an odd thing these days - certainly in the UK anyway.

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Just finished this - thanks to Hazel for sending it to me! 

It was a strange mix of fact and fiction. Mina draws a conclusion about why Watt goes drinking with Manuel that night which makes sense, but I also wondered if it was morally right to speculate like this about real people. I don't know - I'm assuming Watt is long dead,  but it just seemed odd. 

I was fascinated by the recreation of a Glasgow which I never knew,  but in that sense,  it was very close to the true crime genre. 

(I once went to see Chris Brookmyre who is a great storyteller. He told a story about a shell-suited gentleman who queued to get a book signed for his mum. "So what wis it ye done?" he asked. He knew CB wrote crime,  and he thought he was a gangster turned author ...)

The best bit,  for me,  was the insight into the ordinary people who were on the edges - the members of the public,  the police and,  above all,  his mother. Who I did actually meet a few times without fully understanding who she was. 

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You are very welcome MM - hope you got more out of it than me, by the sounds of things, you did! I agree about the strange mix of fact and fiction, it never really sat comfortably with me and I am sure that's why I didn't enjoy it too much. But then, I have read similar books and not had a problem - maybe it was too close to home.

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