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Unprepared To Die: Reviews

 
 
 
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Paul Slade “A dauntingly complete and fascinating piece of work.” Greil Marcus.

“A brilliantly simple idea, and a simply brilliant book.” fRoots.

“Captivating cultural history. As entertaining as it is educational.” Record Collector.

“Slade is a meticulous reporter. […] The pace of his narrative never falters.” Songlines.

“A major contribution to the annals of folk.” Goldmine.

“Slade’s passion for the music and a grisly crime tale soaks every page.” Spiral Earth.

“Pick it up once and you’re hooked.” Folkwords.

“A fascinating read from cover to cover.” Fatea.

“Delivers an emotional wallop.” Psychobabble.

“What a great read!” Zachary Mule.

“Expertly researched” R2.


“Many thanks for ‘Unprepared To Die’. It's a dauntingly complete and fascinating piece of work. I was especially struck by the chapter on the Lawson Family murders.”

This comment is extracted from Marcus’s e-mail to Paul Slade, 19 January 2016. Quoted with his permission.

“Slade not only unravels the truth from the numerous versions of Stagger Lee, Frankie & Johnny and the rest, but also examines the reasons for our enduring fascination with these (often horrific) ballads. […] So – a brilliantly simple idea, and a simply brilliant book, with revelations on every page.”

These comments are extracted from Steve Hunt’s article in the April 2016 issue of fRoots. You can read his full review here.

“The author’s skill lies in creating a seamless narrative in which the details of the horrifying murders […] are folded into the story of how and why they have lived on as a musical resource. We learn much about the historical issues of class, power, race and gender that underpin many of the stories.
“But the book also packs an emotional punch, not by cheap sensationalism but because Slade is a meticulous repirter who, for the most part, allows the facts to speak for themselves. That he deals with only eight songs in 300 pages is a measure of the thoroughness of his researches; but the pace of his narrative never falters and should send you back to the songs with fresh ears.”

These comments are extracted from Nigel Williamson’s article in the April 2016 issue of Songlines (number 116). You can read his full review here.

“If browsing for reading matter to occupy a long-haul flight, this may be money well spent – because you’ll be unfastening a thoughtful seat-belt on touchdown, having been lost for hours in a captivating cultural history. As entertaining as it is educational.”

These comments are extracted from Alan Clayson’s February 24 Record Collector article. You can read his full review here.

“Praise Slade […] for digging back through the newspapers and accounts that first set the murders down in print; and then listening to the multitudinous recordings that have carried the tale to the present day. He follows the threads, chases the revisions, and in many cases speaks with the revisers themselves.”

“A major contribution to the annals of folk, Unprepared to Die‘s cocktail of criminology, sociology, and musicology is guaranteed to keep you up all night… even if you are just hunting down the versions of the songs.”

These comments are extracted from Dave Thompson’s December 1 Goldmine article rounding up the best records and books of 2015. You can read his full review here.

“Slade’s passion for the music and a grisly crime tale soaks every page like the innocent victims’ spilt blood. What also comes out is the fascinating journey that folk song has taken from Britain to the Americas and back, a fascination with violent death often at its roots.”

This comment is extracted from Spiral Earth’s December 1 article. You can read the full review here.

“A fascinating, though obviously grisly, read. […] Unprepared To Die is entertaining, interesting and well-written. Naturally, there’s a prerequisite that you’re interested in such subjects, but for my money it belongs firmly in the camp of ‘pick it up once and you’re hooked’ books.”

This comment is extracted from Tim Carroll’s December 9 FolkWords article. You can read his full review here.

Unprepared To Die really is a fascinating read. […] Paul Slade can be rightly proud of book and research. It’s a book that’s well worth checking out or, in this season of goodwill, passing on to one of your musicologist friends. This is one of those tomes that will cut a way into your heart.”

These comments are extracted from Neil King’s December 18 Fatea article. You can read his full review here.

“Slade begins folding the ballads into the tale, analyzing their faithfulness as journalism and what they say about the culture of their times. This is particularly fascinating when race is an issue, as it is in Frankie and Johnny, Stack-o-Lee and Dylan’s deeply chilling The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.”

“The horrifying nature of these crimes […] and the beauty of the songs they inspired delivers an emotional wallop.”

These comments are extracted from Mike Segretto’s January 5 Psychobabble article. You can read his full review here.

“Paul Slade’s technique is to interweave the true stories of the events that inspired the songs and, equally interesting, the aftermath of the murders with the development of the songs. Both aspects have been expertly researched and Slade completes each chapter with ten recommended recordings.”

This comment is extracted from Dai Jeffries’ article in R2’s January/February 2016 issue (number 55). You can read his full review here.

“What a great read! […] Whether you’re a music fan, a history fan or a true crime fan, Unprepared To Die should be right up your dark alley.”

These comments are extracted from Darren Tracy’s April 14 article on Zacahary Mule. You can read his full review here.

“Great songs produce great performances. This book is riveting. The stories are amazing. […] This is a solid, academic work, but it reads like a best seller from the New York Times list.”

These comments are extracted from Gargoyle’s January 4 posting on the Mudcat Café message board. You can read his full review here.

“An incredibly impressive investigation into the grim murders that lie behind some of the most famous songs in the popular music tradition. […] I can't think of another book that blends true crime, musical history and storytelling as well as this.” – Diarmid Mogg, December 11, 2015.

“Great book. So much social history as well as the back stories. Recommend to all.” – P. Smith, December 15, 2015.

“This is a great book. Very well written. [It] sheds a light on some of those fabled song that I have grown up with.” – CSACHB, April 17, 2016.

“Very pleased with this book. […] Very, very pleased with purchase.” – Judy Williams, June 6, 2016.

“A tremendous read. […] Putting flesh on to the bones (and such recent bones) of Stagger Lee and Frankie and Johnny, allowing us to understand them as real people, not mere cyphers, is a great achievement. Highly recommended, and I can't wait for Mr. Slade's next book.” – PeeGee, February 24, 2017.

“Both meticulously researched and highly entertaining. […] The arc behind each story is incredible. If you are a musician interested in playing any of these songs, then you simply cannot afford to do without this book. For those of you who may not be musically inclined, but still enjoy a good crime story, then I highly recommend this book.” – Wooly, April 3, 2017.

These comments are extracted from reader reviews on the book’s British, American and Canadian Amazon pages. You can read their comments in full there.

“[The eight songs covered] yield results which are both enlightening and surprising. […] London journalist Paul Slade has uncovered much fascinating history behind these standard ballads.”

These comments are extracted from Barry Hammond’s May 16 article on Goodreads. You can read his full review here.



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