Friday, 28 November 2008

Forgotten Book - The Girl Who Loved Crippen

For this week’s entry in Patti Abbott’s series about forgotten books, I decided to make a choice that fits in with the Crippen theme of this week’s posts, to coincide with publication of my own bit of fictionalised Crippenology, Dancing for the Hangman.

The Crippen story has inspired a good many novels, as well as true crime books and essays. I’m especially keen on Peter Lovesey’s The False Inspector Dew, but as this one earned Peter a CWA Gold Dagger, I don’t think it quite counts as a ‘forgotten’ book – nor should it be.

One effort that has certainly sunk into oblivion is Ursula Bloom’s The Girl Who Loved Crippen. Bloom was a prolific and very successful writer of romantic fiction, and a freelance journalist who made quite a bit of money in the 1950s after discovering the true identity of Crippen’s mistress Ethel Le Neve. Le Neve took a different name, married a man called Smith and had a couple of children, and lived for more than half a century after she (unlike her lover) was acquitted of murder and escaped the gallows. She hid her true identity so well that her husband apparently went to the grave not knowing that his missus was one of Edwardian England’s most legendary ‘scarlet women’.

Bloom befriended Ethel and wrote a series of articles about her, while maintaining her privacy. She also turned the story of Ethel’s affair with the meek little doctor into a novel.

Unfortunately, The Girl Who Loved Crippen does not have much to recommend it other than as a historical curiosity. It’s a slushy romance which plays fast and loose with the facts and certainly does not get under Ethel’s skin. For once, I’m afraid, this is a forgotten book that probably deserves to be forgotten.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I guess I'll read some of your other recs first. Thanks, Martin.

Barrie said...

Well, then, I won't add this to my TBR list. Happy Weekend!

Clare Dudman said...

What an interesting story! Quite incredible that Bloom managed to keep the secret of Ethel Le neve's identity - I wonder if the same thing would happen today.

Martin Edwards said...

Clare, I think Ursula Bloom thought it was good business to keep Ethel's identity to herself. On the evidence of this book, she wasn't exactly Tolstoy, but I guess she was pretty shrewd. And I must admit, this concept of keeping a killer's identity secret has struck me as good material for a story idea. Maybe one day!