16 June 2021

Special Guest Post by Chris Wood, Author of Famous Last Words: Confessions, Humour and Bravery of the Departing

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Famous Last Words collects a fascinating selection of destinies culminating in their often flamboyant yet always captivating, final utterances before shuffling off this mortal coil. Revealed inside are tales of sangfroid bravery, astonishing ironies and overdue confessions often betraying grave miscarriages of justice, throughout British history. Revealed inside are tales of sangfroid bravery, astonishing ironies and overdue confessions often betraying grave miscarriages of justice throughout British history.

‘Famous Last Words’ is the result of an unwavering fascination with the themes of death and an individual’s passing to the ‘other side.’ How do people react and respond when approaching this inevitability that ‘greets’ us all? What do they say? This was of course a key aspect that I wished to explore in the book, by collecting a range of people’s last dying thoughts manifested in their final utterances upon this mortal coil as the reaper grimly approached.

Beyond this, I sought also to clarify exactly how the individual arrived at this point, so rather than the book being merely a listed collection of final words, there is, I hope, behind each case a ‘backstory’ which perhaps allows the reader to build some form of connection with the individual before the culminating final words. Whilst many of the cases involve final spoken words, included also is a host of written dialogue, some of which is clearly intended as a final act of humour or bravery, and of course, others that portray a more traditional and perhaps expected frame of mind - those paralysed with fear.

Also of importance in the book is the evolving nature of British society and how it deals with the often ‘taboo’ theme of death. Certainly, it was clear to see that in previous times the most important feature for many on their deathbed was to seek and gain repentance from God above anything else - as this would apparently ensure a ‘good’ death. Several cases in the book involve a final unburdening of sin, perhaps the confession to an act committed long ago for example, that, having unshackled themselves of such an affliction, would provide a repentance before God.

We are so fortunate to have so many wonderful resources, archives and libraries throughout Britain, and I should think that an almighty percentage of these were contacted at some stage in the researching process. Sadly of course covid emerged and enforced the closure of these, but I was thankful that I had utilised them, for the most part at least, prior to the pandemic. These wonderful establishments were all extremely helpful in helping me to unearth subjects for the book, and for this I am forever grateful. 

Of all of the documents that I had the pleasure of perusing throughout my research, I think one in particular - held in the vaults of Newcastle City Library - has remained with me. It involved the case of a man that was hung upon Newcastle’s Town Moor for the alleged murder of a security guard in an old pottery works. The document is a small pocket sized book which details the account of the murder, the subsequent trial, and also the felon’s death as he awaited the noose. His final words are documented within - largely a protestation of innocence - yet beyond this are also two leathery dark brown pages, which are said to have been made from pieces of skin extracted from the executed man following the surgeon’s anatomisation of his body. A rather ghoulish piece of ephemera perhaps, but wholly intriguing nonetheless - much as I hope readers will find ‘Famous Last Words’.

Chris Wood

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About the Author

Chris Wood was born in Northumberland, England, and remains happily there to this day. Chris is a student of criminology and psychology and possesses - perhaps unhealthily - a keen interest in most things of morbidity. In stark contrast to this, some of Chris’ previous roles have certainly instigated much debate, (and amusement!) not least when he masqueraded as an old woman on local radio stations, despite being a twenty odd year old man. He did eventually land a more ‘grown up’ job within the Probation Service which he thoroughly enjoyed, and was certainly better acquainted to his interests. Today, Chris loves to research and write with his second book due for release in 2022. He is happily married with a young daughter, who still refuses to sleep at conventional times, hence he does much of his writing in the dead of night. This being the case, his Twitter and Instagram accounts are aptly named, @hewritesatnight, where he would love for you to follow his journey, and his official website is at chriswoodwriting.co.uk

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