Friday, 11 November 2011

First things first

Those who know me personally are aware of what working on this book has meant to me, and they also have an idea about the ups and downs that I've encountered while seeing it through.

Thus, it is a great pleasure to be able to say that the final manuscript of my second book, The Most Remarkable Woman in England: Poison, Celebrity and the Trials of Beatrice Pace, left my desk a few months ago and is now very definitely wending its way through the production process at Manchester University Press. Last week I returned the first batch of responses to the copy-editing queries and, if all goes well, the next couple should be coming through this month. (According to my copy editor, I haven't made many of the 'usual' mistakes. This, of course, has not kept me from making some rather unusual ones. Ah well.)

For specifics about the book and the case it was written about, you can consult the links just below the title. In short: it's about a mysterious death and a trial for arsenic poisoning in 1928 that turned into one of the most remarkable--though today almost forgotten--press sensations of early twentieth-century Britain. 

Given the book's likely appearance in MUP's Spring/Summer catalogue, I thought it was a good time to begin introducing it not only to other historians but also to a wider public. This is because--although the book is certainly of high-grade academic quality--I have definitely aimed from the beginning to write a book that would appeal to people who are not historians but who are interested in the history of crime, the media, and the culture of the 'inter-war' period in general and that of Britain in particular (i.e., the 1920s and 1930s).

This was, as is well known, the 'golden age' of British crime fiction associated with Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Edgar Wallace, Margery Allingham and many others, and the story of the 'Pace case' (also known as the 'Fetter Hill Mystery') had more than a touch of some of the creations of such authors. This period was also an era of relentlessly sensationalist press reporting and a time in which issues such as women's roles, the nature of marriage and threats to civil liberties were incessantly discussed.

I've aimed to use this specific case--the trial of Beatrice Pace for the alleged murder of her husband Harry--as a way into understanding various aspects of the late 1920s: the worlds of Scotland Yard, the courts, Fleet Street, and Parliament. For the amazing thing is that the death of this otherwise obscure man and the tribulations of his impoverished widow became a matter of pressing interest in all these contexts. The late 1920s already had an extensive and well functioning 'celebrity culture' that--often in the context of crime and justice--transformed 'ordinary' people into household names within a matter of days.

This book is about many things, and I hope, over the coming months, to introduce you to some of those things. Furthermore, I'll be using this blog to post other things related to the themes of the book, particularly about the inter-war period, whether with relation to crime, media or the broader culture of the time, things that have come to fascinate me since I (almost literally) stumbled over the Pace case several years ago.

I hope you will find it as interesting as I do!

No comments:

Post a Comment