karl shaw
Karl Shaw

KARL SHAW was a journalist for several years before working in the advertising industry and in marketing (at one time for the country’s largest manufacturer of stool sample jars). He currently lives in North Staffordshire, England, where he has channelled a misdirected education into several books including ROYAL BABYLON: THE ALARMING HISTORY OF EUROPEAN ROYALTY, 5 PEOPLE WHO DIED DURING SEX, CURING HICCUPS WITH SMALL FIRES: A MISCELLANY OF GREAT BRITISH ECCENTRICS and 10 WAYS TO RECYCLE A CORPSE. His book DEADLY DANGEROUS: KINGS AND QUEENS, a history of British Royalty through the ages to rival Horrible Histories, illustrated by Chris Altham, was published by Bloomsbury World English.           


THe FIRST SHOWMAN, The extraordinary mr astley, the englishman who invented the modern cirCus
first showman uk cover

'One of the most comprehensive and detailed account of Astley and the origins of the circus it has been my pleasure to read.' David Hibling, Creative Director Zippos Circus

A hugely entertaining, informative history of the man who created the modern circus: Philip Astley. There have been many books about aspects of the circus but never the story of its inventor. Here, New York Times bestselling author Karl Shaw draws on a huge amount of research to tell the story of Britain's Barnum. He brilliantly evokes the time, the place, the drama, pitfalls, successes, characters and passion behind Astley's rise to fame and place in the history books. Astley learned his horse-riding skills in the army, before becoming a brilliant innovator of equestrian tricks and spectacles. Astley’s Amphitheatre of Equestrian Arts - the world’s first circus - opened 9 January, 1768. In 1769 he put a clown and a strongman in his still-standard 42-ft sawdust ring and opened the world's first circus. He was invited to perform before King Louis XV of France in 1772, and built France’s first purpose-built circus building, the Amphitheatre Anglais, in Paris. In fact, he established circuses in 20 European cities. Astley’s Amphitheatre was mentioned in books by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, and his name is commemorated in popular songs of the time. He died on 27 January 1814 and was buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. His life is a wonderful story of perseverance and flair on the way to achieving fame.

'This highly readable book not only adds greatly to our knowledge of Philp Astley but also serves as an invaluable history of the development of the circus during the 19th century.' Graham Downie, journalist and Chairman of The Fairground Association of Great Britain

'The definitive work on this enigmatic showman and a wonderful insight into the lives  of people and popular entertainment of the late eighteenth century.'  Neil Calladine, writer and circus academic

'Far more than a mere 'history', since it brings the story and the period to life with so much background detail. Congratulations on a very readable and detailed work which is hugely informative to those who haven't previously studied the foundation of circus.' Chris Barltrop, circus historian

'The First Showman is highly readable and the ultimate research book for Philip Astley's life and legacy.' The Philip Astley Organisation, Staffordshire University


Amberley Publishing UK

Material: finished copies 287pp including 16 page colour illustration section

MAD BAD AND DANGEROUS TO KNOW: A History of British and European Aristocracy
Book image

In the same style as his mega bestselling ROYAL BABYLON, Karl Shaw gives us the real story behind the Downton Abbeys of this world.

The alarming history of the British, and European, aristocracy - from Argyll to Wellington and from Byron to Tolstoy, stories of madness, murder, misery, greed and profligacy.

From Regency playhouses, to which young noblemen would go simply in order to insult someone to provoke a duel that might further their reputation, to the fashionable gambling clubs or 'hells' which were springing up around St James's in the mid-eighteenth century, the often bizarre doings of aristocrats.

The cast of characters includes imperious, hard-drinking and highly volatile Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who is remembered today as much for his brilliant scientific career as his talent for getting involved in bizarre mishaps, such as his death as a result of his burst bladder; the Marquess of Queensberry, a side-whiskered psychopath, who, on a luxury steamboat in Brazil, in a row with a fellow passenger over the difference between emus and ostriches, knocked him out cold; and Thomas, 2nd Baron Lyttelton, a Georgian rake straight out of central casting, who ran up enormous gambling debts, fought duels, frequented brothels and succumbed to drug and alcohol addiction.

Often, such rakes would be swiftly packed off on a Grand Tour in the hope that travel would bring about maturity. It seldom did.


Constable & Robinson UK (WEL)

Material: Finished copies (389pp)


Completely new material but the same winning formula and his best yet, Karl Shaw produces another irresistible volume of bizarre but true facts.

Nothing is too distasteful for this astonishing compendium, including scores of eclectic lists to amuse, astonish and appal your friends. Entries include: 10 Road-kill Recipes, 10 Historic Sex Toys, 10 People who Married Their Nieces, 10 People Killed by Falling Animals, 12 Elizabethan insults, and 10 Ancient Remedies Containing Body Parts.


Constable & Robinson UK (WEL)

Material: finished copies (485pp)

the mammoth book of tasteless jokes
The Mammoth Book of Tasteless Jokes

(written under the pseudonym E. Henry Thripshaw)

This is the ultimate collection of tasteless and sick jokes that just shouldn't be told. More than 3,000 off-colour jokes, covering every taboo from sex and death to race and disability, this book leaves no stone unturned in its search for the most dubious jokes known to humanity. Twice as funny, twice as outrageous, twice as shocking. From Anne Frank's drum kit to the correct use of wheelchairs, this is a fantastic new collection of bad taste and political incorrectness. It includes gems such as these: My father is in a coma. He's just living the dream. Why don't cannibals eat divorced women? Because they're very bitter. What do you do if a pit bull mounts your leg? Fake an orgasm. How do you stop a politician from drowning? Shoot him before he hits the water. The Beatles have reformed and have brought out a new album. It's mostly drum and bass. Remember, a doggy is not just for Christmas. It's a great position all year round.


Constable & Robinson UK (WEL)

Material: finished copies (574pp).

10 ways to recycle a corpse


10 Ways to Recycle A Corpse

Karl Shaw's follow up to his hugely successful FIVE PEOPLE WHO DIED DURING SEX. More bizarre but true facts presented in Karl's inimitable style - fascinating, informative, hilarious, often shocking, always entertaining. Find out who hated the Beatles; what happened to certain famous genitalia; which people who died on the toilet; who ate their neighbours; some bizarre rules of etiquette; the most dangerous jobs in popular music; 10 ways to recycle a corpse and much much more.

‘This book could be called magnetic. It pulls you in, the way a magnet pulls a paper clip, and it doesn't want to let you go.’ Wall Street Journal

‘Don't start 10 Ways to Recycle a Corpse at bedtime. You may lose a lot of sleep.’ San Francisco Chronicle


Three Rivers Press (Crown Publishing Group) UK & USA

Material: finished copies (312pp).

(and 100 other terribly tasteless lists)
Five People Who Died During Sex (And 100 Other Terribly Tasteless Lists)



Karl Shaw invites readers with a well-developed sense of the absurd, the extreme and the bizarre on a hilarious tour around the world and through the ages with his tasteless lists. 5 PEOPLE WHO DIED DURING SEX is a treasure trove of history's most repellent, idiotic, and outrageous customs and behaviours.

“In 1992 the Pennsylvanian judge Charles Guyer was sacked after a hidden video camera recorded him offering a novel form of plea-bargaining. He offered convicted men lighter sentences if they allowed him to shampoo their hair…”
(Criminal Judges, # 10)
“15 bowls of noodle soup, 100 pieces of sushi, 5 plates of wheat noodles, 5 plates of beef with rice and 5 plates of curry and rice in 2 hours (Japanese National Eating Championships).”
(Fascinating Food Records, # 1)


A celebration of the peculiar… a fascinating trawl through the dustbins of history…
This is an amazing collection of the most disgusting, outrageous and bizarre true historical oddities. Subjects covered in this comprehensive volume include Death and Sex, Saints and Sinners, Crime and Punishment and ‘Ad Nauseam’, including fetishes of the famous and several historically creative uses for formaldehyde.

In the lists appearing here you will discover:
Who was the first president of the United States to throw up on live TV
Which tune is the chart-topper in Britain’s crematoria
Who were history’s most gifted psychopaths
Which king owned a golf bag made from an elephant’s penis, and why
Which queen died of blood poisoning after sucking the pus out of her husband’s septic wound.
Prepare to be amazed, appalled, disgusted, and hugely entertained by this wealth of historical facts
– and all absolutely true!
This book reveals what the usual history books try to cover up… Twisted humour at its very best.


Broadway Books UK & USA


Metafora Czech Republic


Paloma Turkey


Rights reverted:

AST Russia


Material: finished copies (288pp).

A DELIGHTFUL MISCELLANY of Great British Eccentrics
Curing Hiccups With Small Fires A Short History Of Great British Eccentrics

The English aristocrat John ‘Mad Jack’ Mytton died a bloated, paralysed and penniless debtor in prison. His premature demise was partly due to injuries sustained while setting fire to his own night-shirt to try to cure hiccups. Just before the horribly burned Mytton slumped into unconsciousness he said, “Well, the hiccups is gone, by God.”


An 18th century French scholar once attributed the British talent for eccentricity to 'a mixture of fogs, beef and beer … aggravated by the tedium of the English Sunday’. Curing Hiccups with Small Fires is a fast, funny celebration of British otherness – a vast collection of anecdotes and profiles of more than 250 Great British aristocrats, inventors, artists and the just plain weird.


• Dr Samuel Johnson once shaved off all of his bodily hair just to see how long it would take to grow back.


• In order to demonstrate the ‘cultural inferiority of the United States’, Pogues lead singer Shane MacGowan once ate a Beach Boys album.


• Percy Bysshe Shelley once tied a cat to a kite in a thunder storm to see if it would be electrocuted.


'An entertaining collection of remarkable specimens' Daily Mail


‘There is not a dull page here.’ Bookbag


'If history had a sense of humour, “Mad” Jack Mytton would live somewhere like Titty Ho. He is one of the English eccentrics featured in Curing Hiccups with Small Fires, a quick and easy read by Karl Shaw; in fact, he gets the title role. A 19th-century Shropshire squire, Mad Jack agreed to attend Oxford ­University on the understanding that he would study only The Racing Calendar and The Stud Book. He was a keen sportsman who went duck shooting in winter in his nightshirt. On wet days, he knocked at cottage doors to ask if his one-eyed horse might dry off by the fire. If the cottagers were lucky, it wasn’t one of the days when he was hunting naked. He died at 38 after setting his nightshirt on fire to cure hiccups. Badly burnt, he just had time before losing consciousness to remark: “Well, the hiccups is gone, by God.” Magnificent, just like the book.' Sunday Times


Boxtree/Macmillan UK and USA


Material: finished copies (298pp).

The Giant Bathroom Reader
From elk-dropping earrings to radioactive watches, a wealth of information, completely incredible, much of it improbable, but all of it true. Be amazed, be appalled, but, above all, be enthralled by this cornucopia of craziness.

Constable & Robinson


Material: finished copy (396pp).

Royal Babylon




Queen Victoria warned that it was unwise to look too deeply into the Royal houses of Europe – that the ‘black spots’ were best kept from prying eyes. This unique book reveals all.


Since 1714 Britain has been ruled by a clan of inbred Germans with a history of mental instability and a talent for profligacy and debauchery. But, compared to their blue-blood cousins across the Channel, they are neither remarkable nor particularly mad. In the last three hundred years, Europe has been plagued by dysfunctional rulers – the insane kings of Spain, the psychopathic kings of Prussia, the sex-fixated French kings, the famously inbred Habsburgs of Austria, and, of course, the drunken, debauched and always dangerous czars of Russia. This unusual and amusing account of the great and the sordid will make even the most ardent royalist wonder whether Europe’s republics really miss this collection of madmen, philanderers, sexual misfits, sociopaths and tragic emotional cripples. (325 pages)


'A fascinating trawl through the dustbins of history.' Daily Mail


'A hugely entertaining collection of aristocratic excess.' Belfast Telegraph


'With a family tree like this, it’s little wonder that Prince Charles talks to plants… Karl Shaw chronicles the fluctuating fortunes of various personalities and dynasties which have made up European royal gene pool.' North-West Evening Mail


'Utterly irreverent account of Europe’s mad Royalt.' Nottingham Evening Post


'Good fun... a vigorous slap at monarchists everywhere.' Kirkus Review


'Anyone who loves scandal, particularly the juicy dish on royalty, will inhale this gossipy account by British writer Shaw... irreverent and amusing.' Publishers Weekly


Broadway Books UK & USA


Domino Czech Republic


Magyar Konyklub Hungary


MKZ Croatia & Slovenia


Nezarisimaya Gazeta Russia


Material: finished copies (325pp).