My Experiences as an Executioner by James Berry


One of the charms of the Librivox project is the way it filters non-fiction. For a book to be voxed (yes, there’s a verb…we like it) it needs to inspire someone to spend dozens of unpaid hours to record it. At the same time, many readers deliberately choose works which can not gather sufficient audience to be commercially recorded. The books which float to the surface of the project, then, tend to be curiosities that you will not discover elsewhere.

This book is an excellent example of that process. It is a memoir from a British hangman who was active until 1891. He performed 131 hangings, with only two going poorly enough for his efforts to be reviewed. Berry describes his equipment and methods, the law surrounding his profession, and his social role. Berry describes the rituals of British execution. He explains how he performed a task which he considered, at its most basic level, morally repugnant, if not strictly immoral.

I recommend this book for three primary groups of people. Writers of period crime literature will find this useful for their research. It also covers the final moments of many of the famous criminals of the period, and will be interesting to readers of true crime stories.

I listened to this book in Librivox recording, but e-texts are also available.