Strange Exits from Hastings is a unique fusion of local history and true lives and deaths; a cornucopia of forty unsolved murders, bizarre accidents and inexplicable acts of self-destruction.

Each intriguing chapter is based on a true story from the newspaper archives, meticulously researched, diligently re-examined and expertly retold by an author with a passion for the past.

Click here for VOLUME 1

“The scholarship, compassion and narrative drive in these books is wonderful. Helena uses newspaper reports of ‘strange exits’ as a lever to lift the tarmac of the present and reveal the lives, attitudes and feelings of the ordinary folk of Hastings and St Leonards over two and a half centuries. Reading ‘Strange Exits’ has enriched my relationship with this town. Knowing my local history gives a pleasurable depth to walking familiar pavements.” Emily Johns.

"The author demonstrates her research and detective skills to put a name to the 'Mud Jack' murder; she excites with stories of exploding smugglers; horrifies with pitch forks in the face and children being beaten for stealing cucumbers and just when you thought she was done, she gives a superb potted history of our local rail links and chucks in a one-legged, decapitated navvy for good measure.

My personal favourite was the man who deliberately roasted himself on a public bonfire. There's nothing the author's gaze doesn't fall upon.

The exits are weird, wonderful and every bit as strange as the first volume. It's a must-have book." Tony Harris

"Beautifully written and packed with local flavour. As gripping as any crime fiction, the tales have the added piquancy and thrill of having really happened, and in local buildings and streets that still exist. Arranged chronologically, the book begins with a gruesome murder and gibbeting on Fairlight Down in 1740 and concludes with a baffling 'asphyxiation experiment' in a cellar in 1958. In between you will find a drowning in the Hollington farmlands, a poignant vignette about a depressed dog, a lady cyclist killed by X-Rays, a chimney pot disaster, a frenzied chopper attack worthy of the Chamber of Horrors, a deeply moving tale of a harmless, terrified, elderly 'alien' and a detailed account of the harrowing and tragic Ore starvation case of 1885 that shocked the nation to its core. Rounding off this varied collection a special report exposes a century of local infanticides, shining the spotlight on a grim subject that, although once a hot topic, has been hidden away like a dirty secret.

Despite the morbid subject matter the book is an absolute joy to read, because Helena has dug deep to find the human stories behind the headlines. She honours the victims by recounting their lives and deaths and giving them a kind of immortality by including them in the permanency of a book.

Although the two books are about death, ultimately they are more about life, focussing as much on the back-stories of this diverse bunch of unconnected people, as on what links them: their strange manner of exiting this world. Hastings in Focus

Published 1st February 2021. ISBN 978-1-904109-372

Paperback, 194 pages. Price £10 plus £2.50 P&P (UK)

Collect from the publisher's office in central St Leonards
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"Some of the tales are funny, some are gruesomely horrific, but all are intriguing and memorable. Under normal circumstances this would be a best-seller in bookshops in the local area and would make good presents." Hastings Online Times full review here

I confess I inhaled it in just one sitting. The characters are so fascinating they tumble out of the pages and jostle for position in the forefront of your mind." Elly Gibson, Hastings Independent Press full review here.

"A fascinating dive into the darker side of Hastings. A compelling and addictive read. Highly recommended."Amazon reviewer Paul Kennard.

"Absorbing from start to finish; the author has gone into superb detail and her research has been flawless. We've learnt heaps of things we never knew about Hastings & St Leonards. A must for those who have a passion for local history and mystery! The perfect marriage beautifully crafted and woven into this perfect gift of a book. You will not be disappointed!" Amazon reviewer Steve Dadson.

"Written with an elegance and panache rare in the field of popular history...painstakingly researched, lavishly illustrated... A more compelling read I have not come across in a long while." Eric Bond Hutton.

"Helena tells these stories with a researcher's eye for detail. She wastes no words and there are no fanciful passages, so every page is packed with detail. From the opening goat-attack (which gored a soldier through his scrotum) to gruesome deaths on the railway lines, it's a real gem of a book... a rattling little read and features some great photographs too, which allows comparison with our modern town." Tony Harris, Facebook

"Thirty three deliciously dark tales of murder, misery and misfortune befalling Hastings residents and visitors from 1804 to 1948...I read the book in one open-jawed, bug-eyed sitting...An entertaining and thoroughly researched book...I absolutely bloody loved it" Joel Griggs, proprietor of the True Crime Museum

"Serious social history told in an entertaining, informative, and thought-provoking way. With the skill of a pathologist, the author peels back the skin on these deadly stories to reveal the human dramas behind the 'strange exits'. There are several unsolved murder cases where the author turns sleuth, cracking mysteries like a fearless and groundbreaking Victorian lady detective. Her unravelling of the Bopeep Railway Tunnel murder of 1891 is breathtakingly good, and one of the many highlights of this superb book."Ripperologist magazine

"A gem of a book... full of detail and illustrated throughout with photos, maps and illustrations of the time. A highly recommended read." Amazon reviewer Stephanie


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