The Faithful Executioner

Happy New Year everyone!

After hardly reading any non-fiction last year, the first book I finished this year was a non-fiction book!  Back in October, I went to the Southern Festival of Books.  While waiting on the Sherlock Holmes panel, I decided to see a Vanderbilt professor, Joel Harrington, speak about his book The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century.  

The details about Franz Schmidt (the executioner of the title), his life and profession were absorbing.  Yes, there's a bit of blood and guts involved but it isn't sensationalized. It is really interesting.  Nuremberg, where Schmidt worked most of his life, was actually one of the more progressive cities in Germany.  It avoided almost all of the witch craze and had a big emphasis on laws and order.  At that time there were no prisons, just jail for temporary things (like pretrial or between trial and the execution).  Most of the people executed were longtime offenders and many had killed people themselves.  But it's the story of the executioner's life that really involves the reader. It is noble and tragic and real.  Definitely worth a read.  a 6.


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