The A-Z of Punishment and Torture
It is a difficult task to conveniently, or comfortably, arrange a catalogue of cruelty to document the full extent of man's inhumanity to man.But author, journalist and researcher, Irene Thompson, has accomplished just that in her bibliography of barbarity, The A-Z of Punishment and Torture.Despite the often graphic nature of content, Thompson skilfully sweetens the bitter pill with her trade-mark humour and homely folklore, while pulling no punches with her accounts of the hell-on-earth life became for countless millions of victims.The events her book describes in stark facts and disturbing descriptions are, though, less easy to comprehend than to imagine. It's hard to believe that our fellow humans could inflict such pitiless savagery on others, and we shudder at the callous indifference or even pleasure of the mobs who witnessed their atrocities.Unpalatable though most are, we need to know the truth of these appalling practices as a reminder of the depths to which humanity can sink in the name of perceived justice and morality, not only to prevent us forgetting them but to identify their continued use today. Punishment by public stoning, beheading, flogging and secret torture, for instance, is current.In this voyage through the centuries, gruesome scenes from Medieval times sit side by side with incidents from contemporary life (sometimes humorous, sometimes sinister), while the inclusion of true-life stories turns bland statistics into heart-felt human interest.This is an important book, both fascinating and frightening, which vividly documents many of history's most shameful moments. Thompson succeeds in enabling her reader to feel the pain of the tortured, the despair of the condemned, the misery of the wretches left to rot in prison. It is sobering and shocking, and a powerful record of a bloodstained past we should never forget and a present that too often echoes the screams of the damned.