But, here, he reveals another surprising talent – he’s a fine tour guide to the gruesome, grimy, grotty side of the country. Starting with a section exploring the history of our shops, restaurants and lavatories, he moves on to disasters, assassinations, murderers and other notable criminals before expanding his tour to include sport, music, literature, and broadcasting.
Donnelley’s research is meticulous and his stories are often unsettling – including, wherever possible, the precise number of gunshots or hammer blows our most vicious murderers used to despatch their victims.
He is also a source of intriguing trivia.
I was delighted to learn, among many other things, that Sherlock Holmes was originally called “Sherringford Holmes” and his companion Dr Watson was “Ormond Sacker”, and that the first public lavatories in London in 1852 were called public waiting rooms, charging 2d (tuppence) to spend a penny.
You’ll also find out where in Liverpool Adolf Hitler is said to have stayed in 1912.
Packed with remarkable facts, it’s a book that shows the seamy underbelly of this sceptred isle.
- The Notorious Guide To Britain by Paul Donnelley (Mardle, £12.99) is out now.