Because I write historical crime set in my birth county of Sussex I do love to read books on its bygone oddities and also feel I should acknowledge my research sources where possible.
My latest acquisition is a slim volume titled the A-Z of Curious Sussex: Strange Stories of Mysteries, Crimes and Eccentrics by Wendy Hughes published by History Press. £9.09 paperback, £4.74 Kindle edition.
A-Z of Curious Sussex covers some 72 towns and villages in its 151 pages, with b/w illustrations on most pages.
This is the type sort of book that you dip in an out of rather than read cover to cover but if I have one comment as a researcher it is my frustration at the lack of index. I suspect I may be asking rather a lot when 150 pages is not that many to riffle through but one would have been handy nevertheless. For those not familiar with the county a map might also have been useful.
None of the entries are extensive, but then this is not a huge book. The text itself is well researched and written in any easily accessible style and I did discover facts that were both fascinating and new to me.
In my ww2 crime novel Winter Downs I touched on The Society Of Dependents – and (very) loosely basing a witness on somebody I recalled attending their chapel in Loxwood where the sect were based. I grew up near there and in the 1950s/60s my mother used the village stores owned and run by them for her weekly shop. What I had not know and read in AtoZ of Curious Sussex was the origins of the sect’s colloquial name of Cokelers – coined because of the sect’s leader refusing beer when he preached in or near public houses, saying instead “No, but I will have some cocoa”.
A-Z of Curious Sussex is an introduction to and entertaining small volume about Sussex full of interesting facts.