It is my great pleasure to welcome Peter Bartram to Me and My Books today. Author of the “Crampton of the Chronicle” series. I read “The Morning, Noon and Night Trilogy” earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed. Peter now has another book called “Front Page Murder” out in paperback and also eBook.
So read on for Peter’s guest post on Ruth Ellis……
THE WOMAN WHO CAUSED THE DEATH OF HANGING
By Peter Bartram
Ruth Ellis could have become a film starlet. Instead, she ended up dangling from the end of rope in Holloway Prison, London – the last woman to be hanged in England.
Ellis had been working as a nightclub hostess when she landed the part of a beauty queen contestant in the 1951 film Lady Godiva Rides Again. (It was released in the United States as Bikini Baby.) It starred some well-known British actors of the time, including Diana Dors, Stanley Holloway, Kay Kendall and Dora Bryan.
In later years, Dora lived in Brighton, where my Crampton of the Chronicle crime mysteries are set. When I travelled back and forth to London in my work as a journalist I would occasionally see her in the train’s buffet car. She invariably had a fag hanging out of the corner of her mouth and was ordering another whisky. A great character.
But we were talking about Ruth Ellis. She used a .38 calibre Smith & Wesson revolver to pump five shots into her sometime lover racing driver David Blakely. It was what the French would call a crime passionnel. Blakely made her pregnant twice. She aborted the first child – illegal in Britain at the time – and lost the second after he’d punched her in the stomach during one of their regular rows.
At her trial, Ruth was found guilty and sentenced to hang. There had been a growing campaign in Britain to abolish the death penalty for several years, but after Ruth was hung on 13 July 1955 the clamour increased in volume. Bill Connor who wrote his Daily Mirror column under the pen-name Cassandra thundered: “The one thing that brings stature and dignity to mankind and raises us above the beasts of the field will have been denied her – pity and the hope of ultimate redemption.”
And Raymond Chandler, whose Philip Marlowe detective novels had already conquered the world, wrote from his then British home to the London Evening Standard to complain about “the mediaeval savagery of the law”. But it was another 10 years before hanging was finally ended in England.
So Ruth Ellis never became a starlet. But she lit one of the flames which led to the abolition of the death penalty in England. When I was researching Front Page Murder, I spent many hours looking at how hanging was carried out. It was a gruesome business – especially for women who were forced to wear thickly padded calico knickers.
But for the crime writer, hanging had the potential to add an extra frisson of tension to a murder story. After all, the penalty is irreversible. So if the accused is really innocent of the crime, there is not much time to assemble the evidence to prove it.
That is the premise behind the story in Front Page Murder. And to add some extra seasonal colour, it all takes place in the 10 days leading up to Christmas 1963.
ABOUT THE BOOK…
FRONT PAGE MURDER
A Crampton of the Chronicle mystery
It’s December 1963 and Archie Flowerdew is sitting in a cell at Wandsworth Prison waiting to be hanged. On Christmas Eve. It’s not exactly how he planned to spend the festive season. But, then, Archie was found guilty of murdering fellow comic postcard artist Percy Despart.
It seems there’s nothing that can stop Archie’s neck being wrung like a turkey’s. Except that his niece Tammy is convinced Archie is innocent. She’s determined he will sit down on Christmas Day to tuck into the plum pudding. She persuades Brighton Evening Chronicle crime reporter Colin Crampton to take up the case.
But Colin has problems of his own. First, that good turn he did to help out Chronicle sub-editor Barry Hobhouse has come back to bite him on the bum. Then Beatrice “the Widow” Gribble, Colin’s trouble-prone landlady, needs him to sort out her latest faux pas – she’s accidentally sent a Christmas card to her local butcher suggesting she’s available for hot sex. And that’s before Brighton cops clap Colin and girlfriend Shirley Goldsmith in jail on the charge of harbouring a fugitive from justice.
And, anyway, the more Colin investigates Archie’s case, the more it looks like he is guilty… Pick up the third full-length novel in the Crampton of the Chronicle mystery series to get you in the mood for a murderous Christmas!
Front Page Murder e-book is on special offer until the end of December for 99p/99c
For readers who want to start the series at the beginning, there’s a deal which includes Headline Murder, Stop Press Murder and Front Page Murder in e-book formats for £4.97/$4.97. This offer also closes on 31 December.
Front Page Murder on : Amazon US
Front Page Murder on : Amazon UK
Crampton of the Chronicle 3-book series on Amazon US
Crampton of the Chronicle 3-book series on Amazon UK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR…Peter Bartram brings years of experience as a journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle crime mystery series, which features Colin Crampton, crime correspondent of the 1960s fictional newspaper the Brighton Evening Chronicle. Peter began his career as a reporter on a real-life local newspaper not far from Brighton. Then he worked as a journalist and newspaper editor in London before becoming freelance. He has done most things in journalism from door-stepping for quotes to writing serious editorials. He’s pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700 feet down a coal mine and Buckingham Palace. Peter’s “Swinging Sixties” murder mysteries combine clue-solving with comedy – the laughs are never far from the action. Other books in the series, which has already logged more than 100 5-star reviews on Amazon, include Headline Murder and Stop Press Murder.
You can also see my thoughts here for Crampton of The Chronicle a 3-book series.
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Better still go and buy the books!