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The Hartlepool Monkey

ISBN: 978-0385612531

22 November 2010

In 1386, in a small town in Normandy, a pig was convicted of murder. It was duly executed in the market square, dressed in a man’s jacket and breeches. The people of Europe have a long and ignoble history of punishing animals for their indiscretions, much of it recorded in EP Evans’ classic book, The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals, which was first published in 1906.

Evans doesn’t mention the curious, and possibly apocryphal, story of the monkey, who, at the time of the Napoleonic wars, was washed ashore from a ship wrecked off Hartlepool. The monkey was tortured and hanged on the beach because some local fishermen, unable to understand his gibbering, took him for a French spy. That story is the basis for Sean Longley’s rollicking debut novel. But the basis is all it is.

One curious feature of the unfortunate Hartlepool business, and possibly the reason the monkey met his grisly fate, is that he was dressed in military-style uniform. Longle...

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