History of a Drowning Boy

by Dennis Nilsen
The Autobiography


In 2020, the three-part show featuring David Tennant, ‘Des’, was ITV’s biggest drama launch in 14 years with 10 million viewers. In February 2021, Dennis Nilsen’s abridged autobiography will be published for the first time.

Seven years after his conviction in November 1983, Dennis Nilsen wrote more than 3.5 million words during his decades in prison. The Home Office banned the release of History of a Drowning Boy while Dennis was alive. He died in May 2018, leaving his memoirs to his next of kin.  

Dennis Nilsen is one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers, jailed for life after being convicted of six counts of murder and two of attempted murder. Nilsen’s (abridged but unedited 125,000 words) autobiography presents his life story in his own words alongside a foreword from criminologist Dr. Mark Pettigrew and an introduction from his friend and next of kin, Mark Austin. Advance review copies of History of a Drowning Boy are available.

History of a Drowning Boy includes:

• Expansion and detail on Dennis Nilsen’s early life, childhood abuse, and time in the military.

• Discovering (and trying to hide) his sexuality.

• Motives behind-and memories of-the murders.

• His relationship with alcohol.

• Insight into his 35 years inside the maximum-security prison system.

• The unravelling of a series of horrific events experienced by Nilsen during his childhood and through his life in the military and into adulthood.

• The details leading up to, and surrounding, his death.

Criminologist, Dr. Mark Pettigrew, writes, ‘As the reader will learn from these memoirs, a confluence of factors met to form Dennis Nilsen: the social and legal disapproval of his homosexuality during his early life; the long shadow cast by his grandfather and the sexual abuse he reports to have suffered as a child; the strained relationship he had with his mother; social isolation; the lack of supportive and long-lasting relationships; and alcohol abuse, they all played their part. Yet, these memoirs do not offer a neat answer as to why a boy from a fishing town in North East Scotland, a man who served in the police and in the military, became a serial killer. In all the academic and clinical research on the topic, there is no definitive answer as to why or how a person becomes a serial killer. Indeed, it is highly unlikely that any theory can or will account for all or even the majority of serial killers. Realistically, we can only identify risk factors. What this book offers though is an insight into how those killings are comprehended and understood by the killer in retrospect. In my own conversations with Dennis Nilsen, over several years, he did not try to excuse what he did, nor trivialise the devastating effect his actions had upon the families and loved ones of his victims. Instead, he sought to understand his actions in light of his particular circumstances. I cannot honestly say that he ever found a definitive answer as to why he became one of Britain’s most infamous serial killers, but if the answer is ever to be found it will be found within these pages.’

My Thoughts: I have read a couple of other books on Nilsen previously, one just recently, but to read one by Nilsen himself is another thing altogether. In the many years he was locked up, he had plenty of time to contemplate and to write his memoirs, and he revised them too. I was amazed at the number of pages he wrote during that time, just incredible. I’m not sure who he thought would have the time to read it all. With that aside, it is a fascinating story and he seems to have quite a detailed memory, as you can tell by how he describes his various stories throughout.

He reminds me of Jeffrey Dahmer, with how he really wanted to keep his victims with him longer, because he was so lonely. But he would eventually end up having to kill them when they wanted to leave, then he had the problem of disposing of their bodies. Dahmer had similar problems, but after he had made his visitors unconscious by drugging them and eventually tried different means to keep them that way indefinitely. That never worked out, and he ended up with another dead body to deal with. Nilsen’s autobiography is certainly a good read for most true crime fans as it gives an inside look at how they think and look back over their crimes. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Dennis Nilsen, and the publisher.

History of a Drowning Boy

Publisher: RedDoor Books – 336 pages
Publication: Feb 25th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up by Naya Rivera

Navigating through youth and young adulthood isn’t easy, and in Sorry Not Sorry, Naya Rivera shows us that we’re not alone in the highs, lows, and in-betweens. Whether it’s with love and dating, career and ambition, friends, or gossip, Naya inspires us to follow our own destiny and step over – or plod through – all the crap along the way.

After her rise and fall from childhood stardom on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Family Matters, barely eking her way through high school, a brief stint as a Hooters waitress, going through thick and thin with her mom/manager, and resurrecting her acting career as Santana Lopez on Glee, Naya emerged from these experiences with some key life lessons. Even with a successful career and a family that she loves more than anything else, Naya says, “There’s still a 13-year-old girl inside of me making detailed lists of how I can improve, who’s never sure of my own self-worth.” Sorry Not Sorry is for that 13-year-old in all of us.

My thoughts:
I enjoyed this audiobook narrated by the author a great deal. It was so impressive to hear her talk about her career that started so young, yet still sounding so very down to earth. It held my interest all the way through as she talked about growing up, and her family, being broke at times when she didn’t get a lot of acting gigs around her early teens, etc. I went into this not knowing a lot about Naya Rivera, as I’ve not really watched Glee, so this helped me to feel like I know more about her. Since she passed away this month by drowning, I wanted to make a point of reading about her in honor of her as a young mom lost too soon. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, and the publisher.

Written and Narrated by Naya Rivera
Publisher: Highbridge, a division of Recorded Books
Format: Digital Audiobook
Run Time: 5 hours 45 mins
Publication: Oct 11th, 2016
My rating: 4/5 STARS

About the Author– Naya Rivera is an actress and singer from Valencia, California. As a child, she appeared on Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and The Royal Family. For six seasons, she played Santana Lopez on the hit show Glee. She lives with her husband, son, and two dogs in Los Angeles. EDIT– Naya Rivera’s body was recovered on July 13, 2020 from Lake Piru in Ventura County after a boating mishap. Her son, Josey was found safe on the boat sleeping. Her former husband is now raising their son.


Cali Girl how did you make it in the Treacherous Streets of Detroit

Description: Through the eyes of the author, this Autobiography is a very inspirational read.
A young woman shares her journey with the world, to help them relate to her experience. She took a chance and wore her heart on her sleeve. This stories unique twist involves a young woman who crosses the country as a “Cali Girl” and then steps in the treacherous streets of Detroit. There she finds herself living different life styles that are similar to millions of reader’s stories. The similarity will help connects the world with this beautiful woman’s testimony.

At first she couldn’t see what her journey had in store for her. It wasn’t until her life changed for the better, a young woman started to see the truth from her experiences. This woman’s started to see the truth from her experiences. This woman’s true story helps people heal from sexual, physical, mental, verbal abuse, as well as death loss, addiction issues, abandonment issues, and any transitional change that may affect a person.


My thoughts: This is a different kind of biography that follows this young lady as she goes from one place to another, one city and state to another, trying to find where she fits in and belongs. Never really feeling wanted, because of her childhood, she moves herself on at times, after she’s an adult if things don’t feel comfortable. It’s a tough way to live, especially when she goes to Detroit, Michigan to meet a female, hoping for a relationship to blossom. One did for a while, but ultimately it doesn’t work out and she has to find somewhere else to stay.

Once again, she finds herself where she really knows almost no one, and is unfamiliar with the streets, the bad areas, etc. I enjoyed the book as I’m from Michigan (near the Flint area) and wanted to see how her time went in Detroit of that time. I found it interesting of course, as a snapshot of her experiences of that time and place. The writing needs the guiding hand of an editor to do a bit of massaging, but it is an honest read.  Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Tianna Jones, and the publisher.




Publisher: URLink Print & Media – 264 pages
Publication: Oct 8th, 2019
My rating: 4/5 Stars


Dead Boys

I came across this as an Amazon Short and was intrigued by it. It’s a quick read obviously but I felt it was moving and thought-provoking in its way. The author, Adriana E. Ramirez relates losing her brother at a young age when she was five and he was six in 1989 when he was violently killed in a horseback riding accident she witnessed. She describes it as breaking her family, which I can understand as things like that can tend to have that effect on families, regardless of how they are handled afterward.

Ramirez then talks about other dead boys/men she comes across in her life in other circumstances and then put into stories, she explains her Colombian and Mexican background and how her family has traveled between those countries and the US, coming from Mexico to the US when she was just a few months old. I liked her use of quotes leading off the different essays and have given a couple of them below. I look forward to seeing more of her work. She won the inaugural PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Award in 2015 for an early draft of this work.

The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust

Violence isn’t always evil. What’s evil is the infatuation with violence.
Jim Morrison

I recommend this until a full-length work comes out.

Little A 49 pages
Pub: Nov 1st, 2016

RATED: 4/5 Stars

Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper Lady Death by Lyudmila Pavlichenko

I found this to be an engaging read for its time, and the timing was perfect coming right after my book about Eleanor Roosevelt because she turns up in this book too. Lyudmila as a good young Soviet took a couple of courses in being a sniper and it was found that she had a talent for it from the first time she picked up a rifle. Later, when she was nearly finished with her advanced schooling, war was declared against Germany. She got her sniper certifications out and went down to join the military, turning her back on her schooling. Her country needed her. Her young son would be taken care of by her family. Her ex-husband, she hadn’t seen in a long time and was of no consequence.

She was known as Stalin’s Sniper, Lady Death and other various names. She was the most successful female sniper in history with 309 kills. In 1942 she and two male soldiers were sent to the United States as part of a delegation to try and gain cooperation in getting the US to join in opening a 2nd front in the war with the Germans. It was there that she met the President and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She and the other soldiers spent time at the White House and a week at their private home, Hyde Park.

Lyudmila was later removed from the front after being wounded 4 times and suffering from shell shock.  She was given a rest and allowed a bit of time to heal, then she was used in training other snipers, but really wanted to return to fighting.  She had to be convinced her skills were better served in training hundreds like her instead.  After the war, having reached the rank of major, Pavlichenko finished her education at the University of Kiev and became a historian.  She also saw First Lady Roosevelt again in 1957 when she was touring Russia, as they had remained in contact with letters as friends.

Lyudmila Mykhailovna Pavlichenko (July 12, 1912 – Oct. 10, 1974)

An advance digital copy was provided by NetGalley,  author Lyudmila Pavlichenko and the publisher for my unbiased review.

Greenhill Books               Publication: May 19, 2018