Dorothy Sayers called William Roughead the best showman who ever stood before the door of the chamber of horrors, and his true crime stories, written in the early 1900s, are among the glories of the genre. Displaying a meticulous command of evidence and unerring dramatic flair, Roughead brings to life some of the most torious crimes and extraordinary trials of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England and Scotland. Utterly engrossing, these accounts of pre-meditated mayhem and miscarried justice also cast a powerful light on the evil that human beings, and human institutions, find both tempting to contemplate and all too easy to do.
William Roughead (1870-1952) was born in Edinburgh, where he studied law and became an expert on criminology. Between 1889 and 1949 he attended every murder trial of significance held in the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, publishing his accounts of them in a series of best-selling books. He held the legal title of Writer to His Majesty's Signet and was an editor of the Notable British Trials Series. Luc Sante is the author of Low Life, Evidence, The Factory of Facts, and, most recently, Kill All Your Darlings: Pieces 1990-2005. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and teaches writing and the history of photography at Bard College.