Abbey's Bookshop Logo
Go to my checkout basket
Login to Abbey's Bookshop
Register with Abbey's Bookshop
Gift Vouchers
Browse by Category

Google Book Preview
Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City...
— —
Kate Winkler Dawson
Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City by Kate Winkler Dawson at Abbey's Bookshop,

Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City

Kate Winkler Dawson



True crime;
British & Irish history;
20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000;
Natural disasters


368 pages

In stock
Ready to ship
order qty:  
Add this item to my basket

London in 1952 was a still recovering from the devastation wrought by World War II: rationing was still in effect, rates of crime and unemployment were high, and the national economy was in shambles. In an effort to repay its massive war debt, the British government was selling its clean-burning coal to America, and Londoners were forced to make do with the cheap brown coal. That winter, as the weather turned bitter, buses, trucks and automobiles, and thousands of coal-burning hearths belched particulate matter into the air. But the smog that descended on December 5th of 1952 was different; it was a sulfurous type of smog that held the city hostage for five long days. Mass transit ground to a halt, criminals roamed the streets, and some 12,000 people, many of them elderly or ill, died. What would later be called the Great Smog of 1952 remains one of the greatest environmental disasters of all time. That same December, there was another killer at large in London. John Reginald Christie murdered at least seven women in his flat in Notting Hill--luring women to his home with the promise of a home remedy for bronchitis, instructing his victims to inhale carbon-monoxide laden coal gas until they passed out. He then raped and strangled them, burying two in the garden, stashing several more in a papered-over kitchen alcove, and his wife of 34 years beneath the floorboards of their parlor. The arrest of the Beast of Rillington Place caused a media frenzy; moreover, Christie's role in sending an innocent man to the gallows was the impetus for the abolition of the death penalty in the UK. The smog, meanwhile, was slow to be implicated. Indeed, the British government did their level best to disavow any connection between the death rate and the air quality, blaming the sudden spike in deaths on fictitious flu epidemic. Eventually, however, the media and one crusading Member of Parliament launched a fight that would be the beginning of the global clean air movement. The Clean Air Act of 1956 was a direct result of the Great Smog, and that legislation provided a model for the rest of the world, including the U.S. In a braided narrative that draws on extensive interviews, never-before published material and archival research, Kate Winkler Dawson captivatingly recounts the intersecting stories of the these two killers and their crimes.

By:   Kate Winkler Dawson
Imprint:   Hachette
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 202mm,  Width: 130mm,  Spine: 28mm
Weight:   300g
ISBN:   9780316506830
ISBN 10:   0316506834
Pages:   368
Publication Date:   January 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Kate Winkler Dawson is a seasoned documentary producer, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, WCBS News and ABC News Radio, Fox News Channel, United Press International, PBS NewsHour, and Nightline. She teaches journalism at The University of Texas at Austin.

Ms. Dawson, a journalist and documentary producer, is an assiduous researcher...her portraits of the ordinary people confronted by the depredations of the fog and Christie are moving. Ms. Dawson cogently argues that the Conservative government's response to the crisis was shameful: It did everything it could, seemingly, to cover up the extent of the catastrophe and avoid addressing the emergency. --Wall Street Journal In her debut book Death in the Air, University of Texas journalism lecturer and Austin native Kate Winkler Dawson weaves together two terrifying events: the Great Smog that settled over London for five days in 1952 and the gruesome discovery that a serial killer, John Reginald Christie, had been living coincidentally in the city at the same time. Dawson spent two years researching the book, delving into everything from autopsy reports and trial transcripts to eyewitness accounts by people who survived the fog. --Austin Monthly In 1952, post-World War II London was battling more than reconstruction, and Kate Winkler Dawson's Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, The Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City is a stellar examination of a turbulent time in the city's history. . . . Dawson's background in documentaries and journalism makes this journey more than just a retelling of the facts. She tracked down people who lived it, and now readers will vividly experience that period as well. --Associated Press Death in the Air is an enlightening look at two lesser known but important events in British history, for both had far-reaching consequences. --Minneapolis Star Tribune What's scarier: A murderous madman (now known to be John Reginald Christie) or an environmental disaster? -- Los Angeles Times For five days in December of that year, London was blanketed by a yellow toxic vapor that smothered its inhabitants. Journalist Kate Winkler Dawson has written an intriguing book about this silent disaster, which was borne out of a perfect storm of freak weather patterns and environmental ignorance. . . . The lessons for the present, Dawson suggests, are as clear as the air in front of our eyes. --Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air A gripping read that illuminates two dark crimes: The political scandal of London's Great Smog of 1952, which killed an estimated 12,000 people; and the frightening deeds of a human killer both demented and mundane. --Dallas Morning News Deeply researched and densely atmospheric. --New York Times Book Review Kate Winkler Dawson's Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, The Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City is a stellar examination of a turbulent time in the city's history. . . . Dawson's background in documentaries and journalism makes this journey more than just a retelling of the facts. She tracked down people who lived it, and now readers will vividly experience that period as well. -- Associated Press Journalist Dawson writes the parallel, shocking histories of the suffocating smog that menaced London, ultimately killing thousands, in December 1952, and a serial killer's salacious murders and trial the following year. Focusing on the powerful press' response to both killers and offering food for thought on what constitutes crime, responsibility, and progress, Dawson delves into heated parliamentary debates between Churchill's Conservative cabinet and Laborite agitators; first-person accounts from doctors, policemen, and other smog survivors; court records; and Christie's own, jaw-dropping account of his murders. --Booklist Tendrils of sickening fog creep everywhere in this book, and terror lurks in the shadows. Dawson skillfully weaves these two events into a substantial narrative that will appeal to all types of readers. --Library Journal (starred review) Evocative . . . vividly atmospheric . . . The narratives add up to a grim, Dickensian portrait of postwar London: broke, grimy, dejected, deranged around the edges, and gasping for breath. --Publishers Weekly What's great about Death in the Air is not just its stunning premise, but also its deep reach into the life of London in the mid-twentieth century. It's a wonderful read. Welcome to the metaphysics of fog. --S. C. Gwynne, New York Times bestselling author of Empire of the Summer Moon and Rebel Yell This dark and disturbing tale of murder, deception, and killer smog in 1952 London serves as a vivid warning about what can happen when we destroy the environment, systems break down, and, well, a couped up, dormant serial killer feels the need to act out his twisted fantasies--again. --Dean King, bestselling author of Skeletons on the Zahara and The Feud Dawson has reached deep into the past and pulled forth a spellbinding, darkly gothic tale of two serial killers--only one of which was human. Death in the Air surprised me, entranced me, and changed the way I see one of the most urgent issues facing the world today. --Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body Kate Winkler Dawson has a born storyteller's gift for building suspense and momentum and a keen eye for telling details, and her narrative poses a powerful moral question: who's the worse killer--a madman who strangles seven women and a baby, or government officials whose staggering indifference allows thousands to die in the great London smog of 1952? Dawson captures the whole sad mess in a heartbreaking, page-turning account that almost literally grips you by the throat as the government, the police, the press, and the medical profession all fail in their fundamental duty to preserve and protect the city's most vulnerable residents. --Glenn Frankel, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of High Noon and The Searchers Just when you think true crime can't get more interesting, here comes Kate Dawson with her imaginatively conceived and meticulously researched tale about Reg Christie, the fastidious, soft-voiced London clerk who embarks on a vicious killing spree in 1952 just as a deadly fog descends on London. But Death in the Air is hardly another study of a depraved serial killer. It's also a riveting history of London in the years after World War II--a city beset by political cover ups and misguided police investigations. Dawson's ability to weave together so many separate strands of one story is simply magnificent. --Skip Hollandsworth, author of The Midnight Assassin: The Hunt for America's First Serial Killer A deranged maniac plays Fleet Street's reporters like a fiddle at the same time that an industrial-age climate disaster explodes into a full-blown humanitarian crisis. Richly detailed and shrewdly told, Kate Winkler Dawson's Death in the Air is as suspenseful as it is chillingly relevant. --Robert Kolker, New York Times bestselling author of Lost Girls Dawson deftly weaves the tales together in an engrossing narrative that reads like a thriller.... readers will remain hooked on this compelling story and will eagerly await Dawson's next book. --Kirkus I was seven, and living in London, when these two dreadful and murderous events uncoiled, and I--asthmatic as a result--remember them still. It seems to me that only an outsider, a non-Londoner, could possibly bring them so vividly, so excruciatingly and so unflinchingly back to life. Kate Winkler Dawson has done the history of my city a great service, and she is to be commended for telling a terrible tale memorably and brilliantly. --Simon Winchester, New York Times bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman A London peasouper hangs over the city as a serial killer stalks its streets! This is a true tale of criminal violence against the backdrop of one of the worst environmental disasters of all time, one that led to the death of 12,000 people. It is a narrative that has relevance to the world's pollution problems of today and is also an engrossing read. --Christine L. Corton, author of London Fog: The Biography A killer fog. A killer loose amidst it. Dawson does what skilled storytellers do: drops you in a London peopled by finely etched characters and keeps you turning pages through the twist and turns of a harrowing case. --Joe Drape, New York Times bestselling author of American Pharoah and Our Boys How have we forgotten this incredible story? A deadly environmental disaster visited upon modern London, a serial killer stalking women at its zenith--this is a tale dying to be told. Death in the Air is a stunning debut by a writer you will be hearing about for years to come. It's just a great book.''--Bryan Burrough, New York Times bestselling author of Public Enemies and Barbarians at the Gate Death in the Air by Kate Winkler Dawson is a fascinating, beautifully researched, and compulsively readable book, which tells the entwined stories of the Great London Smog of 1952 and a serial killer, John Reginald Christie, who exploited the fog as a cloak for murder. This is a portrait of London at one of its darkest and most desperate times. Not since The Devil in the White City has a book told such a harrowing tale. --Douglas Preston, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Monster of Florence and The Lost City of the Monkey God

My Shopping Basket
Your cart does not contain any items.