History of a Drowning Boy By Dennis Nilson

History of a Drowning Boy By Dennis Nilson


Dennis Nilsen was one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers, jailed for life in 1983 after the murders of 12 men and the attempted murders of many more.

Seven years after his conviction, Nilsen began to write his autobiography, and over a period of 18 years he typed 6,000 pages of introspection, reflection, comment and explanation.

History of a Drowning Boy – taken exclusively from these astonishing writings – uncovers, for the first time, the motives behind the murders, and delivers a clear understanding of how such horrific events could have happened, tracing the origins back to early childhood.

In another first, it provides an insight into his 35 years inside the maximum-security prison system, including his everyday life on the wings; his interactions with the authorities and other notorious prisoners; and his artistic endeavours of music, writing and drama. It also reveals the truth behind many of the myths surrounding Dennis Nilsen, as reported in the media.

Nilsen was determined to have his memoir published but to his frustration, the Home Office blocked publication during his lifetime. He died in 2018 entrusting the manuscript to his closest friend and it is now being published with the latter’s permission.

Any autobiography presents the writer’s story from just one perspective: his own, and as such this record should be treated with some caution. An excellent foreword by criminologist Dr Mark Pettigrew offers some context to Nilsen’s words, and this important work provides an extraordinary journey through the life of a remarkable and inadequate man.

My Thoughts:

I watched the ITV drama that they did on Dennis Nilsen quite recently and found it fascinating but wanted to know more so was lucky enough to be asked to read and review the autobiography. It literally sent shivers down my spine but I just couldn’t put it down. Nilsen was a notorious killer and killed 12 men and tried to kill more, he was jailed in 1983 for life, here we learn about his time in prison where he served 35 years, it is a strange story as he admits to killing the men but what we don’t know or understand is why these particular men. There are parts about the murders that are gruesome but that is just how he did it, I feel as though this story needs to be told and it is one that has intrigued me for a very long time. I am glad I got the chance to read this book.

I received an ARC copy of this book for an honest review.

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