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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Balance redressed in this outstanding account
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 1955. 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...
Published 16 months ago by Bookie

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag
This book shares many of the plusses and minuses of a recent number of lengthy books about true crime which are aimed at the general public.

Firstly it is extensively researched from archival sources and it is very detailed. It reads well and grips the reader, urging them to turn the next page until the end is reached. There are also end notes to indicate where...
Published on 16 April 2013 by Junius


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Balance redressed in this outstanding account, 5 April 2014
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Bookie (UK) - See all my reviews
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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 1955. 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 David 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.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another brilliantly researched book!, 15 Oct. 2012
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H. Garner - See all my reviews
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Once again the author has been meticulous in her research of the subject of Ruth Ellis. I have to say I found it very difficult to be fully sympathetic towards Ruth despite her tragic end, she seemed equally as culpable for the volatile relationship she found herself in with David and she seemed to have very little concern for her son. Obviously I am judging this 60 years later and times and her options were certainly different then. It was fascinating to read about life as it was then awaiting execution and the effect it had on her family and everyone else involved in her case. As a fan of Diana Dors I can only say her role in Yield To The Night really does mirror this case and is worth a watch. Once again well done Carol Ann Lee, keep up the good work x
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Day for a Hanging, 23 Feb. 2013
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Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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I knew very little about the Ruth Ellis case prior to reading this comprehensive and well written book and I found it a totally absorbing read. The first chapter is one of the most powerful pieces of non-fiction writing I have come across for a long time. Ruth Ellis was the last woman to suffer the death penalty in the UK. There was never any doubt about the fact that she shot David Blakely outside the Magdala Public House in Hampstead. What never really came out in the police investigation or at the trial was the full circumstances which led up to the shooting.

Ruth Ellis was ambitious and wanted the best of life for herself. She moved to London and obtained work in clubs as a hostess. She did well and was managing the Little Club in Brompton Road in her early twenties. She was the sort of person who was ideally suited to the job as she always made people feel welcome and could talk to anyone. Ruth was married to George Ellis and had two children - Andre (George was not his father) and Georgina - but the marriage was always troubled and Ellis was an alcoholic and beat Ruth up. They separated and Ruth was living in a flat above the Little Club with Andre when she met David Blakely.

David was the sort of person who would always attract Ruth - he was unreliable, had ambitions of being a racing driver and was above her in the social scale which was something which mattered more in the nineteen fifties than perhaps it does today. David and Ruth's relationship never did run smoothly and they frequently had rows and often split up only to be reunited a few days later. Ruth blamed David's friends Ant and Carole Findlater for many of their problems because they did not like her and, she felt, were always trying to split them up. Eventually David became so jealous of Ruth's job at the Little Club that she was forced to give the job up together with the flat which went with it.

Things never ran at all smoothly after that and in some ways it could be said that the death of one of them was always on the cards. But until Ruth shot David the odds would always have been on David killing Ruth because of the savage beatings he used to inflict on her. Even though the case was apparently clear cut - many witnesses saw Ruth shoot David and an off duty policeman was on the scene within seconds as he had been drinking in the pub - the police investigation left a lot to be desired. No one really investigated where the gun came from or who gave it to Ruth. The gun was not even checked for finger prints. Ruth's own movements were never really traced over the whole of the Easter weekend which led up to the shooting. The role played by her friend, and sometime lover Desmond Cussen in the events immediately before the shooting were virtually ignored by the police.

Ruth Ellis was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in a trial which lasted an incredibly short space of time and involved very little attempt by the defence team to try and explain Ruth's actions or the nature of her relationship with David Blakely. The case aroused a huge amount of controversy at the time and fuelled demands for the abolition of the death penalty. Today it is arguable that Ruth would have been able to plead diminished responsibility because of David's beatings and infidelities and would possibly have been convicted of manslaughter rather than murder. Ruth herself felt her sentence was justified and in spite of strenuous efforts on the part of her solicitor a reprieve was not secured.

The book raises some interesting questions about how a defendant's lifestyle, morals and appearance affect both a police investigation and the result of a criminal trial. Ruth's platinum blonde bleached hair was what people remembered about her not the abuse she had received at the hands of the man she killed or the way she was manipulated by people who were supposedly her friends.

I had not realised until I read this book that Stephen Ward, who later achieved notoriety in the Profumo scandal, was probably acquainted with Ruth Ellis as they moved in the same circles. The people involved in her trial are also famous names - Christmas Humphreys for the prosecution. Aubrey Melford Stevenson, Sebag Shaw and Peter Rawlinson for the defence and Mr Justice Havers the judge.

This book is an excellent example of true crime writing and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know about this case. There are comprehensive notes on each chapter, a bibliography and an index. In the e-book edition the illustrations are in a separate section at the end of the book and they display well on the Kindle screen.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good Read, 19 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: A Fine Day for a Hanging: The Real Ruth Ellis Story (Paperback)
This book is very well written despite the subject matter. The author, if the veracity of the research can be relied upon has done an excellent job putting the whole sad story together keeping to the known facts. It is obvious that Ruth Ellis was badly let down by her defense team especially her solicitor, who really held the key to the sorry saga. I remember the case at the time and always thought it was very straight forward. Simply a premeditated murder ruthlessly carried out. Well it turns out it was not so simple after all and one cannot help but feel sorry for the murderess. Commentators since the time, [1955] have argued that it was a crime of passion. One can understand such a view but many people would not subscribe to it. Comparisons have been made with other cases where the culprit was probably innocent but Ruth Ellis did actually commit murder, unlike such comparisons. {Timothy Evans & Derek Bentley, both of whom were executed.} As is common in most cases of this type the police could have been more thorough investigating the matter [origin of the murder weapon] where they might have come across an accomplice, although Mrs Ellis stood trial alone. It must be said that she certainly did not help herself and it is difficult to help those who will not help themselves. My only comment with the research is that Ruth was supposed to be in 33 Tanza Road looking opposite at 29 Tanza Road. Well 33 Tanza Road is not opposite 29 it is two doors away on the same side of the road. She is also quoted as stating that she was looking for people in number 28 Tanza Road. The author footnotes this as an error it should be number 29. Simple corrections which can change a story. Are there others? A good buy nonetheless.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Book for a Sad Story, 11 Sept. 2012
This review is from: A Fine Day for a Hanging: The Real Ruth Ellis Story (Paperback)
This book is a beautifully written and researched account of the life and death of Ruth Ellis. The chapter on the actual execution is one of the most moving and best arguments for getting rid of the death penalty. There have been other books such as Laurence Marks and Tony Van den Bergh's 'A Case for Diminished Responsability?' which have gone into well researched details on the case, this has used more information that has come to light since then which adds to our knowledge of what was one of the saddest cases of how a woman was executed, and is an inditement of the establishment and of the times when it occurred. There have been various allegations and unchecked stories that have been published which have tried to throw new lights on what was a cause celebre. Nowadays Ruth would not have been executed. Yes she did kill Blakely, sadly however much Monica Weller's badly researched and ghostwritten book - and however much and understandably Muriel Jacobait - Ruth's sister might like to put up stories of secret service manipulation and blame someone else for the murder, it was Ruth who fired the actual shots. The fact that someone else - Cussens - gave her the gun and pointed her in Blakely's direction is irreputable. The background to the murder if it had been fully known at the time should have led to her receiving a prison sentence and receiving the help she needed. Carol Ann Lee's book sets the case in the context of the time and portrays the end of an era of clubs, high and low society and the post trauma of war time in which Ruth lived.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for any historian of law and capital punishment, 1 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: A Fine Day for a Hanging: The Real Ruth Ellis Story (Paperback)
I have already read all the other books in English on the Ruth Ellis case and enjoyed them, but I'd confidently rate this one as the best. It's in-depth from start to finish, with the author's insights and comments upon the society of those days also being so penetrating. Highly recommended!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fine day for a hanging, 30 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: A Fine Day for a Hanging: The Real Ruth Ellis Story (Paperback)
Another fine book by carol ann lee. I thought the Ruth Ellis story was simple, had a lover, shot him, found guilty and hung. But life is never that simple, and through brilliant journalistic research Carol sets the story.the emotions of life in a condemed cell are fascinating and makes you feel like you are there. Then the whole story unravels through eye witness accounts and factual information that Carol has the knack of obtaining.there was certainly more to this story than i thought and i now feel i understand more the life and times of the last woman in britain to be hung. It is also a good insight into life in the 50s and 60s, an absolutely brilliant read, the kind of book you can not put down until its finished, and makes you look forward to the next book by this brilliant author. A fine day for a hanging, well worth the read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Day for a Hanging, 11 Jun. 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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From the very opening of the book, when the author takes us through the last day in the life of Ruth Ellis, this is a totally gripping account of a tragic life. Born in Rhyl in 1926, Ruth had a poverty stricken childhood, which left her with a sense of ambition and a drive to succeed. This book takes us through the years of WWII, when Ruth first enjoyed a level of freedom and the admiration of men. Unfortunately, the man she most admired and loved, a Canadian serviceman, turned out to be married and left Ruth a single mother. Undeterred, Ruth began to work in clubs and found that she was successful at what she did. After a failed marriage, she again picked herself up (this time with two children to support) and went back to work.

It is obvious from reading the life of Ruth Ellis that she was clearly the life of the party. She was soon not only working in a club, but managing one. However, she was also volatile and jealous. She began 1953 with a successful job; gregarious, ambitious and in control. Yet, this was the year she met David Blakely and her extreme love for him overshadowed her life from that point on. Carol Ann Lee gives us not only the biography of Ruth Ellis, but also that of David Blakely, and is always scrupulously fair in her account about both. Blakely was from a far more privileged background - his idea of 'being broke' was certainly not the real fear of poverty which Ellis knew all too well. Although Blakely was happy to move in with Ellis and to spend her money, he was also physically abusive and both his friends, and family, did not consider Ellis suitable for him.

This fascinating account of a crime which caused divided opinions and a huge outcry, both at the time and after, is related in great detail and with obviously meticulous research. We read of the crime itself and of the aftermath - the trial, how Ruth Ellis was viewed by the public and press and of how her death sentence helped change the law. There is no doubt that Ruth Ellis killed David Blakely, but certainly there are aspects of the case which would be viewed differently now. The author shows that this was, ultimately, a tragedy between two very damaged people and you can only view the unfolding events with both horror and sympathy. If you enjoy true crime books, then this is one of the best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A WOMAN SCORNED, 5 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: A Fine Day for a Hanging: The Real Ruth Ellis Story (Paperback)
Although a True Crime enthusiast I have never taken an overly keen interest in the Ruth Ellis case, having always considered it more of a woman's story than a man's. However I decided to give Carol Ann Lee's book a go and am glad that I did. I was hooked from the first page. Like her previous True Crime tomes, 'One Of Your Own' and 'Witness', she starts off with a key moment in the story and then tells the rest in 'flashback'. In 'A Fine Day for A Hanging' that key moment is the execution of its main protagonist, Ruth Ellis. We're given an almost voyeuristic account of her final days in the condemned cell and of the hanging itself. Later in the book we're even told how the executioner, Albert Pierrepoint, and his assistant hauled her body up on the end of its rope so that Pierrepoint could manipulate her head from side to side to make sure her neck was broken. Whether we need to know this is debatable but we're told it anyway. Fascinating stuff.

The main body of the book is taken up with Ruth's rather sordid life as a night club 'hostess', encouraging clients to spend money on drinks, indulging in a little prostitution when the mood took her, and getting involved with the spoilt, rich, Mummy's boy, David Blakely. He, as is well known, used her as his sex toy, gave her the occasional good-hiding and treated her so abominably that she eventually decided that enough was enough, waited for him to come out of a pub, and shot him. It was a carefully planned, cold-blooded murder. She pumped four bullets into him and never showed the slightest remorse. (She would have pumped six but the other two missed.) She even had a practice shoot in Epping Forest the day before. However, while awaiting trial she told the prison staff that she wanted to hang "So that I can be with him." (?? You work it out. I shall never understand the functioning of a woman's mind as long as I live.)

My one criticism of the book is its lack of an index. For a work that will probably become the definitive authority on Ruth Ellis this is a grave omission. Time and again I wanted to refer back to something I had read but was unable to locate the page. Irritating to say the least. That being said, however, this is still an absorbing read and a book which I highly recommend.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you only read one book on Ruth Ellis, pick this one, 18 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: A Fine Day for a Hanging: The Real Ruth Ellis Story (Paperback)
I am a great admirer of Carol Ann Lee's previous books; she has an intelligent ability to tell the story of people caught up in criminal situations with balance, sympathy and respect. This book is no exception. It does Ruth Ellis huge credit. It takes no particular standpoint about the case, not does it try to prove one theory or another. It is a comprehensive account of all the events leading to Ruth's tragic execution. The author brings her own, nicely judged, empathy to Ruth's situation and that of her family, and paints the context of 1950s restrictions, prejudices and priorities to provide an informative backdrop as to how her story ended so tragically. The line between true crime and biography can be hard to draw, but in this case I would say that the author has managed to produce a respectable biography for a wider audience of a complicated woman who felt trapped by circumstances into doing what she did.
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A Fine Day for a Hanging: The Real Ruth Ellis Story
A Fine Day for a Hanging: The Real Ruth Ellis Story by Carol Ann Lee (Paperback - 6 Sept. 2012)
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