Kim Forester BA (Hons) was born in Berkshire and has lived and worked in several regions of the United Kingdom, but currently resides in East Anglia. A former employee of the Crown Prosecution Service she has developed a keen interest in amateur genealogy and has extensively researched her own family tree. Inside Broadmoor is her first book.
Kim was recently interviewed by Nicola McDonagh for her popular blog – Author Spotlight – the interview was published in two parts and both are shown below:
Author Spotlight – Kim Forester
In this two-part author spotlight, I would like to introduce Kim Forester who has just independently published her non-fiction book Inside Broadmoor (Secrets of the Criminally Insane – Revealed by the Chief Attendant) based on the journals kept by her Great Great Grandfather Charles Bishop Coleman who worked at Broadmoor Prison for the criminally insane in the last half of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century.
I have read it and it is a very interesting read indeed!
Who are you and what do you do? (Tell us a little bit about yourself)
My name is Kim Forester and I was born in the South East of England, although I now live in East Anglia. My early years were spent in Berkshire and my teens in the West Country. As an adult I moved back to Berkshire and amongst other jobs, worked and travelled for an American company in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and the USA. A further move, to West Wales, saw a challenging change of direction for me, working for the Crown Prosecution Service with Dyfed Powys Police in a joint unit assisting victims and witnesses of crime. For family reasons I recently moved to East Anglia, and continue to work full time at a power station in the renewable energy industry – for me, writing has to fit around the day job!
What is your book about?
A work of non-fiction, my book ‘Inside Broadmoor (Secrets of the Criminally Insane – Revealed by the Chief Attendant)’ is about the staff, patients and their crimes at the most famous hospital for the criminally insane in the world, between the years of 1873 and 1912. It has at its core, the starting point of my Great Great Grandfather Charles Bishop Coleman’s notebooks and diaries. He began as an Assistant Attendant and worked his way up to the top job of Chief Attendant during his 38 years service, during which he wrote about and recorded his time at the Hospital between those years. Each of the 180 entries I have included in the book is a ‘jumping off point’ for the sad, grisly, and sometimes redemptive tales of individuals who served time at Broadmoor during those years.
Why did you choose to write your book and who or what was the inspiration behind it?
The work did not begin as a book. I started researching on behalf of my Mother, purely from a shared interest in our family history. We knew very little about Charles before finding his papers and photographs following the loss of my Grandmother. We knew that several people in our family had worked at Broadmoor of course, but not what that really entailed. There is another book on the subject written by Berkshire Records Office Archivist, Mark Stevens, but his book finishes around the time my book begins. My family and I felt that by publishing, we would be able to open up this shadowy world further for others to explore should they wish. Sometimes, in genealogical research a small clue can take you in a whole new direction and Broadmoor continues to fascinate today. My Great Great Grandfather worked there during the crimes of ‘Jack the Ripper’ and today the Hospital holds the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’. We are endlessly intrigued by the darker side of human nature, probably because it is so alien to the vast majority of us.
What kind of research did you do?
Researching for this book was time consuming, detailed and required a lot of checking and double checking as you can imagine. When you are writing about the real lives of people (even those who passed away many years ago), it is important to do your best to try to get the facts as accurately recorded as possible. Where Charles’ notes helped me in this was because he listed dates, crimes and names. Once you have this information, you can work backwards and forwards through archives, court proceedings, contemporary newspaper reports, gaol records and any other ‘titbit’ of information you can find before bringing it all together to give a more rounded picture of an individual and their crime whilst not forgetting their victim(s). This has to be done for each individual and with 180 in the book you can see why it was such a big project and took several years.
What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?
The biggest challenge was probably to avoid temptation and also to know when to stop. One of my many research trips was to the Berkshire Records Office in Reading, but not to look at patients records. I used their files to double check what Charles Bishop Coleman recorded relating to his own service. I had contemplated asking to see certain individual’s records but ultimately decided that this would move me too far away from the core idea of the book, which was the viewpoint of Charles himself. The Medical Superintendent and his team of doctors of course recorded their opinions of patients at Broadmoor, but whilst fascinating, it seemed too much of an intrusion for me as a non-medical individual to expand upon this avenue of research.
Here is part two of my author spotlight on Kim Forester who’s independently published non-fiction book Inside Broadmoor (Secrets of the Criminally Insane – Revealed by the Chief Attendant) about inmates at Broadmoor Prison in the last half of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century, has recently been released. Based on the journals kept by her Great Great Grandfather Charles Bishop Coleman who worked at Broadmoor Prison, it is a truly fascinating account of the plight of inmates interred. Including a section about a prisoner who many believed to be the real Jack the Ripper.
You can read part one of the interview here: https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/author-spotlight-kim-forester/
I asked Kim what was the best part of writing your book?
The part I enjoyed the most was the research itself. The amateur detective in me enjoyed collating the facts of what happened in each case, bringing them all together and then trying to convey them in a way that was clear, concise and dispassionate. With such evocative events, I did not want my own emotions to cloud the book. Taking a look into the lives of others is always fascinating and often surprising. Everyone has a story, no person is truly alike despite superficial similarities and we all face the same challenges, temptations, and joys. How we deal with those is what gives us the outcome to each story.
What, if anything, have you learned from writing your book?
How lucky I am.
I have a fantastic and loving immediate and extended family; I’ve always been in work and I have a great job and colleagues now; I enjoy good health; I’ve benefitted from an excellent education and I have wonderful friends. I’m generally a positive person and I have been fortunate to have the life and opportunities I have enjoyed so far. The chance to travel and meet so many different people has broadened my outlook and given me empathy towards others. I’m not superhuman, of course, I have my moments, but in the grand scheme of things I really have nothing to moan about and if I had to choose a trait I like best in myself and in others, it would be kindness – the world is cruel enough without unnecessarily hurting those around us.
Do you have any advice to give authors who wish to write non-fiction?
I don’t really think I am qualified to offer advice, but I can offer encouragement – if you want to do something then have a go. You lose nothing in the trying. I originally wrote my book in a completely different format, which didn’t work, but I learned something from that experience and I simply had another crack at it – hopefully more successfully this time. I use a couple of pertinent quotes in my book and I’ll finish my answer here with one of my own favourite quotes from the late Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin….”You are the one who can stretch your own horizon.”
Do you have a favourite author? If so, what is it about their work that you like?
I would struggle to choose just one author. From a small child, I have been an avid reader and enjoy many different genres. I have a deep interest in history, both fiction, and non-fiction and am particularly fascinated by early Welsh history and the Plantagenet era from King Henry II through to Richard III. A few years ago I found American writer Sharon Kay Penman and eagerly anticipate each new release – she writes extremely good novels about the era in which I am most interested. From the classics my favourite book would have to be non-fiction ‘Goodbye to All That’, the autobiography of Robert Graves, a deeply moving book and less well known than ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’. More recently I have discovered ‘Indie’ writer Nathan Dylan Goodwin and his genealogical detective stories about Morton Farrier, which I think are getting better and better as the series moves on. However, the story I find completely unforgettable is ‘The House on the Strand’ by Daphne du Maurier. One of her later books, it is an imaginative mix of mental time-travel, murder, addiction, and temptation – the open ending of the tale is haunting, leaving you to reach your own conclusions.
Do you plan to write more non-fiction, or perhaps, fiction?
I am keeping an open mind on further writing. I am tempted. I would like to have a go at something (maybe something different) in the future, but time is the enemy. Charles wrote over 700 entries in his diaries and I may decide to explore more of those. I took his documents along to the Antiques Roadshow at Audley End House in Saffron Walden recently and their expert considered them a ‘find’, so they were filmed and if I don’t end up on the cutting room floor, I hope you may get to see some of his items for yourself in the forthcoming series in the autumn.
I hope you found Kim’s interview interesting. If you did, you might like to know more and also grab a copy of her book at the contact links below.