A number of classic true crimes have fascinated me for years. The Crippen case is the obvious example, and yesterday evening I was delighted to read some very positive commentary about Dancing for the Hangman on John Baker's very well-regarded blog. Awaiting me in the post was also a generous article in the Mensa Magazine, which I hope to be able to link to on the website before long.
Among my other favourite real life puzzles is the Maybrick case (especially interesting to me because of its Liverpool setting) and so when I chanced across Christopher Jones’ The Maybrick A to Z a week ago, I couldn’t resist buying a copy. And I've now dipped into it extensively, with pleasurable results. The book is published by Countyvise Press, a small but prolific outfit based on Wirral. The Press produced an anthology of northern crime writing that I put together in the 1990s, and later published my collection of short stories, Where Do You Find Your Ideas? and other stories. But I’d never heard of the Maybrick book until the other day.
Christopher Jones is a deputy head teacher based in Liverpool, the city that was home to James Maybrick and his young American wife Florence. He gives an account of how the couple met and married in 1881, and of the events leading up to James’ mysterious death in 1889. There is an account of the trial – at which Florence was found guilty of poisoning her husband, although she earned a reprieve from the gallows. After serving fifteen years in jail, she was released, and she lived to a ripe old age. But then, in the 1980s, came the sensational discovery of a diary, allegedly written by James, the author of which claimed to be Jack the Ripper.
The combination of these two classic, yet very different, murder cases makes for utterly fascinating reading, and Christopher Jones has done a good deal of research in putting his book together. The format of any A to Z book necessitates some repetition, but on the whole the concept is well-suited to such a complex story. An interesting and worthwhile addition to any true crime library.
Incidentally, this is my 500th post (in 502 days) since I started 'Do you write under your own name?' I'm glad I've kept it ticking over for so long, and I'm very grateful to everyone who has encouraged me to keep going.