It’s been a long time coming, but my *ninth novel will be released in eBook format on 13 July. To be among the first to have it delivered to you, you can pre-order now at the special price of £1.99/$1.99. (The cost will be £4.99 on release). The universal link is https://books2read.com/u/brWppZ. When you use the link, just select your store of choice.
* At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock is actually the tenth novel I’ve written, but it is best for all parties concerned that my first attempt remains in a dusty bottom drawer.
My inspiration for the book was the discovery that the subjects of three biographies I read back to back each had a connection with Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Great Britain. My fascination with Ruth Ellis stems from my teens, when I first saw the same photographs that were splashed across the front pages that spewed from the presses when production resumed in 1955 after a month-long newspaper strike. (You may like to visit my Pinterest board to see some of those photographs.) With a four-million-pound loss to recoup, the papers needed something sensational to fight back with, and Ruth’s story was newspaper gold. ‘Platinum blonde ex-model shoots racing-boy lover.’ By the end of the day, in every pub and Lyon’s Corner House, around every dinner table, on front doorsteps and over garden fences, talk was of one subject and one subject only.
The reason for my initial fascination with Ruth Ellis is almost as complicated as she herself was. It’s difficult to accuse those who paid £30 for a seat in the Old Bailey’s public gallery of treating personal tragedy as entertainment, without acknowledging something of the same motivation. At the same time there was something truly shocking about the fact that the last hanging in Great Britain took place as recently as 1965. This was the world I inherited.
It was only recently, when reading The Five by Hallie Rubenhold that my thoughts finally crystallised. Learning the untold stories of Jack the Ripper’s victims, I saw clear parallels with Ruth. The Five had blighted, messy lives. They made bad choices (arguably, decisions made of out necessity, when options were limited). They too abandoned children, turned to alcohol and took up with men they wouldn’t have considered taking up with had they been able to support themselves. The difference is that, while those choices landed The Five in the path of the Ripper, Ruth herself turned killer. Her subsequent treatment in the press was not dissimilar to that of The Five, whom journalists referred to collectively as prostitutes. In the 1950s ‘glamour model’ or ‘nightclub hostess’ would have implied much the same thing. For me, the tragedy of the Ruth Ellis story is that, because she admitted that she intended to kill David Blakely, there was little interest in why she did it, the very question that has had me gripped. To a writer, cause and effect is everything.
I didn’t want to put myself in Ruth’s head, so instead I explored some of the same issues she faced through three characters, who all have a very personal reason to say, ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ when they learn of Ruth’s fate.
My copy-editor was kind enough to say, ‘It’s your best yet.’ It’s too early for reviews, but here’s what some of the book’s first readers had to say:
‘At the Stroke of Nine O’clock is a powerful book. Insightful and always surprising, it transports us back to a world where women are lied to and exploited by men in so many different ways – and where three of them search for ways to fight back.’ Clare Flynn, author of The Pearl of Penang
You have a way of pulling me into your books. Your world building is a real talent. I don’t know London at all yet I could picture the places so clearly.’ Bronwyn
‘Absolutely riveting, with a slow burn, and (this is excellent) a low level of dread / anticipation as I waited for something terrible to happen.’ Dawn
‘It’s a feminist treatise against men. It is a battle in the class war against noblesse oblige and inbred rights. It’s a plea for the understanding of women everywhere. But it’s all of these things and more.’ Perry Iles
I really look forward to your feedback. Fingers crossed, you’ll love it too!