Milo Books

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Crime City

Manchester’s Victorian Underworld.

Every city gets the criminals it deserves and Victorian Manchester was no exception. A powerhouse of both industrial might and liberal ideas, it was also awash with violence, drunkenness and vice. Disraeli called it ‘a city of two classes’, a rogue’s paradise where vast wealth sat beside the worst poverty in England. It was unique, and so was its underworld.

The rookeries, pubs, pawnshops, workhouses and cheap lodgings of this bustling metropolis bred crooks and villains of all kinds, from cracksmen to fences, pimps, prostitutes, conmen, garrotters and bareknuckle fighters. Brutality was common and death lurked down every alley. Ranged against the villains were an often overwhelmed police force, the courts and jails. Strangeways Prison embodied the most advanced thinking in penology but held no terror for the criminals: many if its inmates enjoyed a better life inside than out.

Joseph O’Neill has recreated the sights, sounds and smells of a lost milieu in fascinating detail. Here are the true stories of the legendary detective Jerome Caminada, the super-criminal Charlie Peace, street gangs like the Bengal Tigers and the Forty Strong, and myriad characters like One-Armed Dick, the infamous fence, set in the gin palaces, dance halls and cheap brothels that were as much a part of Manchester as its giant cotton mills.

Joseph O’Neill was born and educated in Moss Side, Manchester, and later attended Warwick University where he gained a BA and MA in Political Science. He taught history in high schools in the North-west of England for 35 years before becoming a freelance writer and since then he has contributed articles and features on social history and genealogy to numerous magazines and journals. Joseph currently lives in Bolton, Lancashire, with his family.


‘A rollicking tale, packed with characters and incident … and with a rich cast of characters that would put any fictional TV extravaganza to shame.’

‘Fascinating.’ IRISH POST

‘It’s a thought-provoking history and sociology punctuated by passages that would grace a well-written thriller. Highly recommended.’

‘This is a great collection of stories and fascinating social history.’

”A masterly survey…There are relatively few surveys of Victorian crime outside London. This is an important addition to the literature and an excellent read besides.’

‘A grim yet fascinating tour of a squalid underworld.’ PROFESSIONAL SECURITY MAGAZINE

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