Skip to main content

CrimeCon book club: 'History of a drowning boy' by Dennis Nilsen

Crime+Investigation brand logo

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 Mark Austin.

History of a Drowning Boy - Dennis Nilsen The Autobiography

In February 2021, Dennis Nilsen’s abridged autobiography was 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, Mark Austin.

Mark Austin - Editor of History of a Drowning Boy

Mark first met Dennis Nilsen in 1992 following a year-long correspondence. Curiosity was his initial motive for contact (Mark had previously lived close to one of Dennis’ flat in North London) but they soon became friends. Over the years, Dennis handed Mark all of his writings, notes, documents, poems, received letters, official prison papers and reports, clothing, audio cassettes and artefacts etc, in fact, all his possessions – as they accumulated – for safe keeping. In 2009, he was registered as his next of kin and, in 2018, he was the only ‘civilian’ to attend Dennis’ funeral.

Mark Pettigrew - Researcher and Criminologist

Dr Mark Pettigrew (BA Hons; MA; PhD; FHEA) is an award-winning researcher and criminologist. After completing his doctoral research on capital punishment and death row incarceration in the United States, Mark began his career researching the use of whole life imprisonment in England & Wales and the crimes that give rise to the sentence. Since then, Mark has published extensively on sexual paraphilic disorders and their role in homicide and serial killing. His current research interests include sexual paraphilic disorders, homicide dynamics, and the crime scene behaviours of sexually motivated killers.


History of a Drowning Boy will be discussed atCrimeCon BookClub hosted by Geoffrey Wansell, if you would like to join the discussion then you can attend for free at GMT 20:00 on Tuesday 13th April on Instagram Live, just follow @crimecon_uk.

Directly after Bookclub at GMT 20:30 there will be a unique

CrimeConVersation on Instagram Live, again free to attend, with Mark Austin and Mark Pettigrew to delve deeper into the Nielsen case offering first-hand opinion from two people that met Nelson.

We look forward to welcoming you to the session on Tuesday, for those not familiar with Instagram live you won’t be live personally but you can view the conversation and type comments should you want your burning questions answered, alternatively email your questions over to and CrimeCon will be sure to ask them.