Famous Trials: Selection Hardcover – 30 Aug 1984
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About the Author
John Mortimer is a playwright, novelist, and former practicing barrister who has written many film scripts as well as stage, radio, and television plays, the Rumpole plays, for which he received the British Academy Writer of the Year Award, and the adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited." He is the author of twelve collections of Rumpole stories and three acclaimed volumes of autobiography. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
For any lover of true crime, and anyone who is will already know that truth is much stranger than fiction, this series is a must-read. Greenwood and Wood were both defended by the great defender Marshall Hall (see my review of his biography). Whilst he didn’t succeed in the case of Greenwood, the neon-lit trail of circumstantial evidence leading to Wood took his every effort to defeat. William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) may well have given propaganda broadcasts for the Germans quite willingly, but the case exposed an interesting dichotomy in law: had he refused to carry out the broadcasts for the Germans he would have been shot; having carried them out he was hanged by the British.
Published in 1954, the language is looking rather dated by now of course. But for all its faults and harshness, it seems the judicial process of the time was more consistent and better understood than the seemingly softer, more arbitrary and politically influenced decisions of today. I have no hesitation in recommending the book to anyone seriously interested in the history of true crime.
The Notable British Trials books are unabridged and form individual (and extremely interesting) books; whereas the cases in this book have been abridged from them by author and former barrister John Mortimer (famous for his Rumpole of the Bailey novels).
This book contains 9 historical true crimes trials between 1857 and 1945. Many of these defendants are loosing their notoriety as time passes.
The cases are:
Alma Victoria Rattenbury and George Percy Stoner - 1935
Alma Victoria Rattenbury and George Percy Stoner (Notable British Trials)
Hawley Harvey Crippen - 1910
Hawley Harvey Crippen (Notable British Trials)
Oscar Slater - 1909-1928
Madeleine Smith - 1857
Madeleine Smith (Notable British Trials S.)
Robert Wood - 1907
George Joseph Smith - 1915
George Joseph Smith (Notable British Trials)
Ronald True - 1922
Ronald True (Notable British Trials)
Herbert Rowse Armstrong - 1922
William Joyce - 1945
Buying this abridged book means that you still get the cases but in a more condensed form and significantly cheaper than buying the full set of Notable Trial books to cover these cases. I have added the links to the Notable Trial books available above so that you can see for yourself.
If you can find them cheap or in "like new" condition and you have the cash to splash the Notable Trials versions are well worth getting, but if you want the overview of the cases with some detail and less of the trivial court based arguments then this book is a great option.
The trial of William Joyce, alias Lord Haw Haw, set a legal precedent, Harold Greenwood was convicted of poisoning his wife - mostly because he married a young woman within four months of his wife's death. Ley and Smith carried out the chalk Pit Murder and Robert Wood was convicted of murdering a prostitute in London in 1907; finally, Dr Pritchard
who poisoned his wife and her mother, was the last man to be publicly hanged in Glasgow. How could you not love the book. The seller was excellent too.
Different authors for each case, but all are well-written - academic, but very readable.
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