As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Published by Hookline
Books, 5 April 2016. ISBN: 9780993287466
Writers of first novels generally play safe. Later
in their careers, when they are well known, they may take risks with style,
structure and content. Here is a striking exception. After a lifetime in the
book trade as a salesman in Foyles, a rep with Macmillan and Gollancz, the
founder of Post Mortem Books and a graduate of the creative writing course at
Sussex University, Ralph Spurrier knows crime fiction well enough to subvert it
– and with assurance. For starters, the author is in it. We learn in the first
few pages about a find made in 1987 in a book collection – bought by Ralph Spurrier.
He picks up the autobiography of the famous hangman, Albert Pierrepoint, and finds
an inscription to the now deceased owner of the collection, Reginald Manley,
one of the last public hangmen. From there a quest begins to learn more about
Manley. His box of equipment is located and inside it along with straps and head-covering
a mysterious journal apparently written by one of the last men to hang. Was
Henry Eastman wrongly convicted and executed in 1953?
premise, then, and you may think you know how the story will unfold. But then the
persona of Ralph Spurrier steps back from the action and the plot is developed
through a rapidly shifting chronology and setting: Southern Bavaria in 1939;
Bradford on Avon in 1953 and at intervals through and after the war; the
Normandy landings in 1944; Reg Manley’s East Dean home in 1953; Bergen-Belsen in
1945; postwar Bavaria. Even within the chapters there are frequent flashbacks.
Bewildering at first, by stages the structure makes its impact through
cross-references with a technique as effective as Kate Atkinson’s in Life After Life. Through it all, a
strong story based on beautifully drawn characters emerges. As you would expect
from an author so well-versed in crime fiction, there are some delightful
asides about the books being read by the protagonists. Ultimately the
time-scheme settles to the process of arrest, trial and execution. Worrying
questions have emerged about the guilt of the prisoner – and this isn’t a
spoiler, because we have known from the start that a miscarriage of justice may
have taken place. Just as I hoped, surprise after surprise is sprung in the final
Be warned: this
impeccably researched, compelling novel has some troubling scenes. But it’s a
remarkable debut, rich in detail, strong in character and with a devious plot
that will linger in the memory long after other crime stories are forgotten.
Ralph SpurrierStarted Post Mortem Books in 1979 as a way of financing his own
collection, soon Post Mortem Books took on a life of it's own and by 1985 Ralph
was in a position to go full-time into the second-hand book business. The
business expanded to include new and all
forthcoming books within the crime and mystery fiction field as well as
military fiction. A Coin for the Hangman
is Ralph’s debut book.
Loveseywas born in 1936, and attended Hampton Grammar School
before going to Reading University to study fine art. He soon switched to
English. National Service followed before Peter qualified as a teacher. Having
already published The Kings of Distance, named Sports Book of the Year
by World Sports, in 1969 he saw a competition offering £1,000 for a
first crime novel and decided to enter. Wobble to Death won and in 1975
Peter became a full-time crime writer, winning awards including the Cartier Diamond
Dagger in 2000 in recognition of his career in crime writing.