In 1955, former nightclub manageress Ruth Ellis shot dead her lover, David Blakely. Following a trial that lasted less than two days, she was found guilty and sentenced to death. She became the last woman to be hanged in Britain, and her execution is the most notorious of hangman Albert Pierrepoint's 'duties'. Despite Ruth's infamy, the story of her life has never been fully told. Often wilfully misinterpreted, the reality behind the headlines was buried by an avalanche of hearsay. But now, through new interviews and comprehensive research into previously unpublished sources, Carol Ann Lee examines the facts without agenda or sensation.
A portrait of the era and an evocation of 1950s club life in all its seedy glamour, A Fine Day for a Hanging sets Ruth's gripping story firmly in its historical context in order to tell the truth about both her timeless crime and a punishment that was very much of its time.
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Balance redressed in Ruth's story
It's a compelling account of real life and times and a gross miscarriage of justice.
One of Our Own by the same author is a further investigative account of a mass murderer, Myra Hindley. Different to the Ruth Ellis story, but meticulously researched
Drop the accents.
It's been done.
Carol Ann Lee wrote an outstanding account of Myra Hindley in One of our Own, so I was looking forward to this book. She investigates the life and times of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain in 1954. It's an authoritative and meticulously researched work. At times very moving, it brings the issues, times and those involved to life and I learned a great deal from the story.
The historical context, portrayed exceptionally well, is of particular importance. Post war Britain was still predominated by class. Mrs Ellis was her own worst enemy in many ways. From humble beginnings in Rhyl, she married 'above her station'. Her husband, George Ellis was much older and alcoholic, but a dentist by profession and Ruth gained a taste for good living. She became a night club hostess, a brassy, bottle blonde who enjoyed socialising and mixing with the well to do. And that was her downfall; as manageress of a London club which attracted wealthy motor racing enthusiasts, she fell for Derek Blakeley. He was a violent and abusive drunk, but from a privileged background. She murdered a man despite being a domestic violence victim herself.
And there's the rub; she was judged and condemned for her social status and appearance as much as the crime she committed. Her defence team was poor and missed numerous opportunity to present relevant evidence which would have influenced the outcome of the trial. In terms of so called justice, this case weighed heavily on the miscarriage scales. Ultimately it was a landmark case which contributed to the removal of the death penalty for murder in Britain.
The opening chapter was one of the most moving I've ever read. It starts with events immediately prior to her hanging, including dialogue exchanges with prison staff and Albert Pierrpoint, the executioner. Her dignity and self control was memorable and heartbreaking in equal measure. Carol Ann Lee has done her subject proud, put the record straight and written a truly evocative account.
This review is from an Audible version of the book. I hated the accents.
The ultimate book on Ruth Ellis