What a Way to Go

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

Geoffrey Abbott

St. Martin's Griffin

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A gruesomely, hilarious and fascinating pop-history account of methods of execution from around the world and through the ages 

In this wickedly humorous book, Geoffrey Abbott describes the effectiveness of instruments of torture and reveals the macabre origins of familiar phrases such as 'gone west' or 'drawn a blank'.  Covering everything from the preparation of the victim to the disposal of the body 'What a Way to Go' 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:

  • Sewn in an Anima'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

What a Way to Go is a a unique and fascinating look at the grim and gritty history of sanctioned death

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Book Excerpts

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Chapter One

Axe

The very prospect of a not-so-sharp wedge of iron descending forcibly on the back of one’s neck, perhaps more than once, evokes shudders of horror. Yet this method of execution, rather than that of hanging, was actually granted as a privilege to those of noble birth, death by cold steel being considered more honourable, akin to being slain on the battlefield.

The execution axe itself was not unlike the battleaxes used in combat which, far from being finely honed and balanced weapons, were designed solely to batter through armour and cleave through helmets.

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Reviews

Praise for What a Way to Go

“We are very sick puppies . . . The fun, though, is in the oddities.”---The New York Times Book Review

 

“Fascinating vignettes of death.”---The Wall Street Journal


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About the Author

Geoffrey Abbott

Geoffrey Abbott served for many years as a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London. Author of nineteen books and contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica, he has made numerous television appearances.

Geoffrey Abbott

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Available Formats and Book Details

What a Way to Go
The Guillotine, the Pendulum, the Thousand Cuts, the Spanish Donkey, and 66 Other Ways of Putting Someone to Death
Geoffrey Abbott

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Griffin
April 2007
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312366568
ISBN10: 0312366566
5 x 7 1/8 inches, 352 pages, Includes black-and-white illustrations throughout
$19.99
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From The Publisher

St. Martin's Griffin

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