Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Preface Publishing (4 Aug 2011)
We live in a twenty-four hourtelevision news and internet culture. Events are on air and online withinhours, sometimes minutes or seconds. This is especially true when it comes tocases of murder, the dark fascination and sensational details of theseextraordinary actions and sad misfortunes keep viewers and surfers gripped.This appetite has in turn encouraged the tabloid press. Pages and pages aredevoted to gruesome stories, sometimes with a level of detail that is trulychilling.
Murder has transfixed thepopular press for centuries. But it was only in the second half of thetwentieth century that murder began saturating front pages and making thesemonsters what we today recognise as modern celebrities.
It was three serial killers,caught and executed in the few years after the end of the Second World War, whoprecipitated a level of furore never seen before. Neville Heath, a ‘charming’sadist who killed two women; John George Haigh, the Acid Bath Killer who killedbetween six and nine men and women; and John Christie, the ineffectualnecrophile, who killed between six and eight women. The modern news coveragefinds its roots with these three men whom the crime historian Donald Thomascalled the ‘Postwar Psychopaths’. Their crimes were the first to generate atabloid frenzy the like of which is all around us today. It was not only themurderers who captured the public’s imagination. It was the detectives whohunted them down, the judiciary who tried them, and the man who executed them,the legendary hangman Albert Pierrepoint.
This book tells the stories ofthese three infamous serial killers against the backdrop of the tabloid frenzythat surrounded them.
The three British serial killers were caught and executedafter WWII (1946 – 1953) and although covered in the past, the book tells usthat new material has been released. I had no previous knowledge of the threemurderers Neville Heath, John George Haig, or John Christie so Frenzy! for me,was new information.
I found it thought provoking that ‘the chaos and savagery ofwar had desensitised people and in many ways cheapened human life.’ Another side of war I would imagine is noteven thought about by many.
When you read or hear news like this I think it crosses yourmind how the perpetrators can be so distanced and seemingly unaffected by whatthey’ve done. I’ve always thought there must be mental illness or a chemicalimbalance. It was interesting to readthe murderers had in common domineering fathers and were psychologically ableto compartmentalise their lives. Notthat there should be an excuse! But I do look for reasons.
I was intrigued by the premise ‘modern news coverage ofmurder finds its roots with these three men ……………..’ Certainly there are payments made from the press to help themurderers out when they’re on the run. The book highlights the power of the media (choosing what they published– knowing what the public wanted to increase sales) and the parts they played.
The murders did change laws on how the media covered suchcrimes and the killers were paid for their stories while they were in custodyso their families benefited after they were executed.
Our judiciary system flaws were highlighted by the mistakenexecution of Timothy Evans – what use a pardon after taking a life?
I was surprised to see one of Heath’s murders took place inBournemouth where I live. I can justimagine the panic and fear of residents in 1946 at Branksome Chine! I feel I might just have a look through oldnewspapers in the library ……………..
Frenzy! is not a bland read. It is well-written in the third person. The biographies read like stories and it is interesting to readabout the investigations. In places theauthor crosses over stories (ie; while this is happening here, over there inLondon at the same time).
I think this book will appeal to people who are not onlyinteresting in criminal or reporting/newspaper history but also to thoseinterested in family history/places where there families lived.
The introduction asks (based on the level of detail reportedin newspapers) ‘Just how did we get to this incredible level and detail ofmurder coverage?’ and my response is …………….. to fulfil the needs of what the public wants!
I would like to thank the publisher Preface Publishing
forproviding me with a copy to review.