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A Proper Person to be Detained


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The story of a murder and its aftermath

On Christmas Night in 1881, John Manley, a poor son of Irish immigrants living in the slums of Leeds, was fatally stabbed in a drunken quarrel. The frightened murderer went on the run, knowing that capture could see him hang.

A few generations later, author Catherine Czerkawska begins to tease out the truth behind her great-great-uncle’s tragic death. But she uncovers far more than she bargained for.

In a personal family story that takes us from Ireland to the industrial heartlands of England and Scotland, from the nineteenth century to the twentieth, Catherine gives voice to people often maligned by society and silenced by history – immigrants, women, the working classes.

She unearths a tale of injustice and poverty, hope and resilience, and she is both angered and touched by what she finds. Catherine is driven to keep digging, to get to the very heart of life – and death – in the not-so-distant past.

REVIEWS OF A Proper Person to be Detained

“An emotional journey into a family’s past … This is a touching family memoir-cum-true crime story and far-reaching social history written with empathy, insight and warmth for those hardy souls who came before.” Family Tree magazine

“Stands out from the crowd for all the right reasons … [a book] clearly destined to be remembered … Catherine Czerkawska takes us on journeys that are deeply revealing about the lives lived only a few generations ago … a fine example of microhistory.” Undiscovered Scotland

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A Proper Person to be Detained

About the author

Catherine Czerkawska

Catherine Czerkawska is a multi-award-winning historical novelist and playwright based in Scotland. She has written plays for the stage, ITV and BBC Radio 4, and has published numerous short stories. Her eight novels include The Curiosity Cabinet, shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize and serialised on BBC radio.

Praise for Catherine Czerkawska:

Runner Up – Dundee International Prize

“Elegant, restrained prose…compelling.” – Sunday Times pick of historical fiction

“Historical fiction at its most luxurious.” – Authors Electric

“A powerful story of love and obligation.” – John Burnside

“Moving, poetic and quietly provocative.” – The Independent

“Heart-warming, realistic and page-turning.” – Lorraine Kelly

“Beautiful – lyrical and sensual.” – Hilary Ely

“Blisteringly eloquent.” – The Scotsman