Murder Ballads
Secret London

Paul Slade Hello. My name's Paul Slade, and I've been a journalist here in London since 1982. During that time, I've written for The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian, The Times, The Observer, The Sunday Telegraph, The Independent on Sunday, The Sunday Times, Mojo, Fortean Times, The Idler, Time Out and a host of other publications. In 2005, I started making occasional documentaries for BBC Radio 4, covering subjects like a forgotten radio hoax of 1926 and the craze for "dirty blues" lyrics in pre-war America.

I've developed a taste for writing long essays, a form very few magazines will consider buying

Like any hack who's been working for that length of time, I've accumulated a fair number of pet projects over the years. These are subjects which I've become passionately interested in myself but which, for one reason or another, I've never managed to sell as a commercial proposition. It doesn't help matters that I've recently developed a taste for writing longer essays - running anywhere up to 15,000 words in length - which is a form very few modern magazines are prepared to consider.
Hence this website. Here you'll find my guide to some of the world's most fascinating Murder Ballads, a series of Secret London's forgotten mysteries and, in the section I've cunningly titled Miscellany, anything else I damn well feel like including. My aim is to combine the old-fashioned virtues of traditional journalism - proper research, clear writing and a habit of checking my facts - with the global distribution and ease of access which only the internet can provide. I hope you find something here to take your interest.

- Paul Slade, London, April 2009


Follow PlanetSlade on Twitter @PlanetSlade

PlanetSlade’s main Twitter account gives you announcements of all new additions to the site, a heads-up on significant aniversaries, capsule theatre reviews, tips on my cultural discoveries and anything I think might make people laugh. Join our merry band by clicking the button below.

STOP PRESS: Latest events, extracts etc

ITEM: Killer Songs, my hour-long radio guide to murder ballads, went out on London’s Resonance FM on January 28. You can hear the programme archived online here (Mixcloud).
    The show features audio clips from my book’s interviews with Billy Bragg, Ralph Stanley, The Bad Seeds’ Mick Harvey and a host of other leading musicians. We also play 12 of my favourite murder ballads tracks, including contributions from Steve Earle, The Handsome Family and Snakefarm.
    There’s a full playlist plus details of all my interviewees here.

ITEM: I’m giving a talk about murder ballads at The Old King’s Head in Southwark on January 14. It’s a South East London Folklore Society event. We’ll have copies of the book on sale there which I’ll be delighted to sign or dedicate for you. Details and tickets from the SELFS link above.

ITEM:Unprepared to Die really is a fascinating read,” says Fatea’s Neil King in his December 18 review. You can find Neil’s full comments here, together with your chance to win a free copy of the book in Fatea’s competition.
   Psychobabble feels the book is “particularly fascinating when race is an issue”, adding that it “delivers an emotional wallop”. And R2’s Dai James praises it for being “expertly researched”. You can find links to all the book’s full reviews here.

ITEM: Genevieve Tudor and I discussed Knoxville Girl’s UK roots on December 20’s edition of her BBC Radio Shropshire folk music show. We talked about my work to confirm the real killer and victim’s names, adding appropriate music from Waterson:Carthy and The Handsome Family to illustrate it all. The full show is archived here, and my segment starts an hour in.

ITEM: December 10’s Winston-Salem Journal carries Lisa O’Donnell’s account of the book’s North Carolina research trip in April and the Lawson Family work I did there. You can read the full article here.

ITEM: The book’s reviews have started coming in, with the three I’ve seen so far all giving it a resounding thumbs-up.
   Goldmine calls the book “ a major contribution to the annals of folk”, while Spiral Earth says my passion for the subject “soaks every page like the innocent victims’ spilt blood”. FolkWords adds: “Pick it up once and you’re hooked”. Links to the full reviews appear on this PlanetSlade page.

ITEM:Wayne Bledsoe of the Knoxville News-Sentinel devoted his November 20 music column to a piece about my book. He and I spoke last week about my revelation that Knoxville Girl’s real killer and victim can now be named, a bit of fresh information he was keen to pass on to the song’s home city audience. You can read the resulting article here.

ITEM: Blues and Roots Radio devoted a special hour-long documentary to my book on November 14. The show, hosted by Fatea’s Neil King, is archived for your listening pleasure on this Mixcloud page. As well as my own answers to Neil’s questions on murder ballads, you’ll hear some excellent examples of the songs we discuss from Steve Earle, Lloyd Price, The Handsome Family, Laura Cantrell, Dave Alvin, Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg, Estil Ball and Snakefarm.

ITEM: I’ve just posted a seven-minute YouTube video, based on the book’s introduction, explaining why it needed to be written and how I came to be so obsessed with these gory, fascinating songs in the first place. Watch it here, and please share the link with your friends.

ITEM: Sing Out!’s Murder Ballad Monday website has just posted a long interview questioning me about every aspect of the book. It’s the MBM blog entry dated November 9, 2015, and you’ll find it here.

ITEM: This month’s fRoots magazine carries an exclusive extract from my book, discussing the unexpected origins of Poor Ellen Smith’s ballad. Look for issue 390, cover-dated December 2015, with a picture of Andy Irvine on the cover. The magazine’s subscribers can read the full article online via this page of the fRoots website.