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Handsome Brute: The True Story of a Ladykiller Paperback – 27 Feb 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (27 Feb. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1471101347
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471101342
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 47,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

O Connor restores [the] human dimension, using evidence and witness statements from previously restricted Home Office and police files - Sunday Times

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Dapper and deadly...One of the many virtues of this absorbing book is the detailed attention it gives to Heath s victim - CRAIG BROWN Mail on Sunday

In this fine book, balanced book, which spares no details but avoids any hint of salacity, O Connor has written something more valuable than a whydunnit . This is a fascinating portrait of a dreary, uncertain post-war world of drinking dens, cruddy hotels and hopes unfulfilled - BEN MCINTYRE The Times

Sean O'Connor's brilliance is to sustain the horrific dramatic tension of these murders while providing a rich and detailed context of place and period. His tone is careful and dispassionate, his research painstaking and extensive - DIANA SOUHAMI The Independent

The story of how this weak-willed conman and small-time fraudster turned from a former RAF playboy into a savagely sadistic sex killer makes fascinating reading in Sean O Connor s meticulously researched book - VIV WATTS Daily Express

An astute study... Sean O Connor s keenly intelligent book is essentially an attempt to fit these two Neville Heaths together... O Connor restores its human dimension, using evidence and witness statements from previously restricted Home Office and police files - JOHN CAREY Sunday Times

O Connor tells the whole story beautifully. It s the best true crime book I ve read for ages. His short description of Heath s execution at the hands of Albert Pierrepoint, is superb - WILLIAM LEITH Evening Standard

Drawing on previously unreleased official files, debutant biographer Sean O Connor provides fresh insight into Heath s mind and motivations DAVID CLACK Time Out

O'Connor allows a real sense of Heath's character to emerge without resorting to assumption. It is a fine read and a thoughtful investigation into the effects of war, sex and class on human behaviour



Just finished reading Sean O'Connor's excellent 'Handsome Brute', the story of the infamous killer Neville Heath. Highly recommended
@markgatiss, www.twitter.com

'This brilliantly researched study of the brutal, sexually deviant murderer Neville Heath is chilling and mesmerising in equal measure. The portrait of a wartime hero-turned-vicious killer is compelling. This is an important book.' Sally Morris's Must Reads, Daily Mail

'This is a story about a killer, and also about a nation in post-war turmoil. It s one of the best true crime books around' --Evening Standard

About the Author

Sean O'Connor is a film producer and writer, and this is his first book.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 Feb. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Heath was an enigma.He cannot be explained by the school that looks for the roots of criminal behaviour in deprivation and an unloving background.

In this interesting account O'Connor makes clear that Heath was born into a loving middle-class family, educated at a public school and gave no indication as a teenager that he was capable of two terrible crimes-but then this is not all that unique.

Conceited and charming he took advantage of a society that was easilt taken in by a nice accent and good looks.

Obsessed with flying he joined the RAF but was sacked for stealing. He then joined the South African Air Force but was again kicked out. Umbelievably, he was able to rejoin the RAF (they were desparate for flyers) and he took part in Bomber Command's war time exploits. He displayed outstanding bravery on one sortie when he rescued his navigator in their burning aircraft.For this he should have been awarded a medal.

This was the same man that sadistically murdered two women after the war.
He never tried to deny the murders claiming that he had blacked out on each occasion.

Sensibly, the author does not try to explain why Heath committed these gruesome murders. No one will ever know. Those who blame his war time experiences are on very thin ground. I know many ex service personnel who went through every form of hell in battle but lived perfectly normal lives after the fighting ended.
We should also remember that between 1940 and 1945 thousands of 'normal' Germans slaughtered in camps and on the battlefield millions of innocent civilians.

What this book demonstrates is that despite advances in psychiatry we are still a very long way from being able to fathom the workings of the mind.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book gives a wonderful picture of wartime England and the emotional as well as the material impact it had on the people . I had some small knowledge of Neville Heath, mostly glamourized, but this book puts me right in a truthful yet compassionate way. without any sense of melodrama the Heath appears to have been doomed in spite of his supportive background. More a case of Nature rather than Nurture. The same is true of his victims to a lesser extent.
All three were victims of the time in which they lived. A documentary but a real page turner.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is very well written in an unsensational way. I already had a copy of Notable British Trials dealing with this case but they, of course, do not give an idea of the psyche of the murderer. I was so wrapped up in this book I felt I was at the cinema and it was being played out before me. What a terrible tragedy, apart from the dreadful crimes, the whole thing was ruining many peoples lives for ever. Sean O'Connor has written a brilliant, in depth, analysis of this case without resorting to cheap sensationalism which so often happens. Too complex a character for any but the trained psychoanalyst to be able to start to fathom. Only one gripe, I would have like an index that would have been the icing on the cake.
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Like the North London serial killer Denis Nilson, the 'handsome brute' Neville Heath was widely seen as a likeable guy. Author Sean O'Connor goes into a fascinating exploration of the charmer's background to find out what could have turned him into the sadistic killer of two women in 1946 when he was 29. But there is no obvious explanation in his family: he and his parents and brother were very affectionate towards each other. His character gives more clues as he develops into a fantasist and liar, turning to low level crime to finance his drinking and expensive tastes, becoming someone who runs away from problems (such as the court martial which halted his promising RAF career in 1936) and who expects always to be let off for his errors. But Heath was also a product of his time, his Old Bailey trial capturing the attention of the nation which was dealing with the return of "millions of soldiers, sailors and airmen - many of them trained killers". The book, very well-written and letting the facts speak for themselves, paints a time and a place, London just after the war, which was ill at ease with itself as people tried to find sense of purpose for themselves after the violence and horror of prolonged battle.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Truth, they say, is often stranger than fiction. Perhaps so, in many ways Neville George Clevely Heath's life was at least as strange as Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Was Heath as mad as a box of frogs? Surely no sane person could have committed the heinous sex crimes he undoubtedly did.

But wait. There was something else about Heath: the handsome, brave fighter pilot and `clubbable' rogue, that caused court after court, and woman after woman, to give him `just one more chance'. Even the women he had deceived by an empty promise of marriage forgave him.

So was he simply a callous and brutal con artist, or a sex-maniac and murderer? Or perhaps like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - both. Did he suffer the mental condition often called `split personality', referred to in psychiatry as dissociative identity disorder where within the same person there exists more than one personality?

These were questions that were never properly debated at Heath's all-too-brief appearance at the Old Bailey. Unfortunately for him, his barrister called a drug addict as an expert psychiatric witness and failed to call other witnesses who could have testified to Heath's mental condition; his defence of legal insanity failed and he was hanged.

Arguably however, that may have been just what Heath wanted. Sean O'Connor's well-written and well-researched account of Heath's life left me with a nagging feeling that Heath may have had a death wish.

Did he commit the murders because he wanted to die? Was that why he walked into a police station as a wanted man, to gamble his wits against the police? He knew that if he was caught he could never be acquitted and that the alternative was a life in Broadmoor.
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