A Very English Hangman: The Life and Times of Albert Pierrepoint Hardcover – 1 Oct 2006
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Fascinating, macabre...a vivid picture of a culture in transition
from the Victorian to the modern Elizabethan age.
-- Irish Independent, October 2006
Well-written and intelligent. -- The Financial Times, October 2006
About the Author
Leonora Klein won the PFD Life Writing prize at the University
of East Anglia's prestigious School of Literature and Creative Writing.
Before taking up writing she practised as a barrister for ten years. She
lives in London. A Very English Hangman is her first book.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author makes clear her intentions of what the book is about, but part way through it I realised that it seemed to have lost its way completely. The book critcises the autobiography, but also gives a lot of detail about the cases of some of the people that Pierrepoint hanged, eg. Bentley, Amery, Evans and Christie, Ruth Ellis. After he resigned, he became a man that many people were fascinated by. Memorabilia to do with his work, what there was of it, was much sought after. The author goes in search of some of the people who have some of these items - and finds them. For me, the best part of the book comes right at the end when she finds herself face-to-face with Pierrepoint's rope, amongst other things, and her reaction to them. For a moment, she stared into the abyss of execution, and felt it. Full marks there to the author - I was almost there with her.
However, overall the book is spoiled because it is very subjective to the author's opinion of Pierrepoint, instead of being objective. It is easy for us to sit here in the 21st century and criticise the gov't of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s. Britain had been hanging people for 100s of years and hangmen were an accepted part of the picture. Pierrepoint did not sit on a jury or be a judge. Plenty of people applied for the job of hangman - even women. And hanging continued for 8 years after Pierrepoint's resignation. If Pierrepoint had not hanged these people, someone else would have done instead. But at every opportunity the author nit-picks at everything he does: she says that he was "unmoved by..." How does she know? She doesn't.Read more ›
What we do get are the author's opinions. Writing as a barrister, not a historian, the author fails to have much sympathy or understanding of values of a previous age, and tends to scoff at those who have different views to her (a late twentieth century liberal). And why we need her opinions about the journey to Kew by train and the National Archives is unclear - but her unstinting praise for that worthy institution might be less than it is had she tried to obtain access to certain murder files in the 1940s and 1950s (and onward), because its a case of data protection overriding FOI.
The murder cases chosen for selection - Evans/Christie, Ruth Ellis, Bentley/Craig are all well known and the author makes little, if any, original contribution to the discussion of these. She is happy to accept Ludovic Kennedy's interpretation of the first of these at face value, without consulting original sources (easily available at the National Archives) and is aware of differing interpretations of this case. She does not mention that Ellis wounded an innocent bystander in her murder of her lover, which did much to reduce sympathy for her. Nor does she mention the case of another woman hanged for murder in post war Briton, for which there was no public sympathy (perhaps because she was Greek and middle aged).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
this women made not the slightest attempt at putting herself into pierrepoints shoes, nor trying to understand society of the time,she sneers in disbelief that albert never spoke... Read morePublished on 30 Jan. 2012 by blue bear
Bought as a gift for a person very interested in the life and times of pierrpoint, very different from other books produced about him, would reccommend it to anyone interested in... Read morePublished on 14 Aug. 2010 by S. James
If you're as interested in Leonora Kleins opinions as she obviously is, then you'll love this book. Everyone else BEWARE! Read morePublished on 10 May 2009 by Bookmole
If,like myself, you do a bit of reading and research into the executioners of former times....and you want to know about 'the life and times of Albert Pierrepoint' give this book a... Read morePublished on 2 April 2008 by SHOWMAN
If you are interested in Pierrepoint DON'T buy this book.
If you want a history of the abolition of capital punishment then this is a potted version. Read more