#GuestPost : Veronica’s Bird by Veronica Bird & Richard Newman : @AuthorightUKPR @Authoright @gilbster1000

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I am delighted to be sharing a guest post for “Veronica’s Bird”.  Published by Clink Street Publishing and available in paperback and eBook formats.  Available to purchase now at Amazon UK 

When this book was offered to me by Rachel at Authoright I knew immediately that it was one I wanted to read, but also knew that I was already booked up.   There were many questions I would like to pose to the author regarding her time working in a male prison.  So my focus was regarding the changes in prison over the years.  I have a wonderful post that is honest and insightful to share with you.  It has made me more determined than ever to read this book soon.

Guest Post:

Question: How has the prison service changed in the time Veronica was there?

Veronica’s Bird by Veronica Bird and Richard Newman 

It is a commonplace today to criticise the lives of prisoners: ‘too soft’, ‘too cushy’, they say. Choice of menu, carpets in cells, television and radio, ensuite facilities, own door key. What, is going on? So, are these not the good things we all aspired to in a caring society?

Let us make a comparison between a modern prison today with Dartmoor Prison when Veronica entered the Service. Prisoners in those days wore canvas uniforms printed with arrows (even their boots had studs in the shape of an arrow) no television of course, or radio, often deliberately awful food, flogging, no human rights and too far for families to travel and visit, being on the edge of the world, or at least, hidden away in the heavy moor mist. Hard labour was just that: breaking up stone (granite) in a quarry in a chain gang. The men had no rights at all and if a prisoner happened to be mentally ill they were placed under even greater hardship.

No-one, surely wants to see a return to those days, but many of the public still seek an eye for an eye, that the prisoner must feel the lash of the cat ‘o nine -tails albeit if only in a virtual world of his own making. And so, we moved away from chain gangs and, gradually, conditions improved, propped up massively by the European Court of Justice. A balance seemed to have been found. Prison was hard, boring and a huge waste of time – and treasure – but the punishment was fitting the crime in people’s minds. Canvas uniforms with arrows disappeared, there was better food, better on-site hospital care, prison visiting groups could report inconsistencies. We all felt Britain was moving towards being a member of this much espoused, caring society.

Then the pendulum began to swing. Drugs began to rear their ugly head and the snag of importing it into prisons became easier. Now, under organised crime and despite visitors having a rub down and being obliged to open their mouths at the prison gate, the drug flow continues. Drugs can be mixed with children’s paints in a picture brought in ‘for daddy’. It is hidden in kids’ nappies or it can be thrown over prison walls. With thirty-five percent of prisoners already addicted a further two thousand non-drug-takers each year will be addicted before they end their sentence.

And now, with potent drugs such as spice, while we have a prison population living within their ‘rights,’ we are also converting our youth into addicts who will steal and maim in their effort to get their ‘fix’ once they are released. Something is radically wrong here.

Today, staff are better equipped, better trained and unionised. They have to work to strict rules which protect them as well as their charges. They are though, under pressure as budgets are cut, leading to a frightening increase in assaults often triggered by the drug-taking by prisoners who know their rights and use them as a shield. Working in the Prison Service has never been easy but without radical and courageous change, something which successive governments are fain to consider, things will only get worse.

Veronica’s book continues the debate on the vexed subject of how to deal with the varying categories of prisoner. With the death penalty gone and prisoners handed the keys to their cells, we all need to think carefully what is really implied as an eye for an eye.

Veronica’s Bird   –   Copyright © Richard Newman 2018.  Authors Veronica Bird and Richard Newman. Published by Clink Street Publications 23rd January 2017

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Synopsis:

Veronica’s Bird: Thirty-five years inside as a female prison officer 

Veronica Bird was one of nine children living in a tiny house in Barnsley with a brutal coal miner for a father. Life was a despairing time in the 1950s, as Veronica sought desperately to keep away from his cruelty. Astonishingly, to her and her mother, she won a scholarship to Ackworth Boarding School where she began to shine above her class-mates. A champion in all sports, Veronica at last found some happiness until her brother-in-law came into her life. It was as if she had stepped from the frying pan into the re: he took over control of her life removing her from the school she adored, two terms before she was due to take her GCEs, so he could put her to work as a cheap option on his market stall. Abused for many years by these two men, Veronica eventually ran away and applied to the Prison Service, knowing it was the only safe place she could trust. This is the astonishing, and true story of Veronica Bird who rose to become a Governor of Armley prison. Given a ‘basket case’ in another prison, contrary to all expectations, she turned it around within a year, to become an example for others to match. During her life inside, her ‘bird’, she met many Home Secretaries, was honoured by the Queen and was asked to help improve conditions in Russian Prisons. A deeply poignant story of eventual triumph against a staggeringly high series of setbacks, her story is led with humour and compassion for those inside.

About the Authors:

After thirty-five years working for the Prison Service, Veronica Bird is now retired and living in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. She is still an active proponent of the justice system and continues to lecture across the country and is a supporter of Butler Trust, which acknowledges excellence within the prison system. A qualified architect and Swiss-trained hotelier, Richard Newman enjoyed a forty-year career designing and managing hotels worldwide before retiring in 2001. Since

then he has gone on to publish a number of novels: The Crown of Martyrdom, The Horse that Screamed, The Potato Eaters, The Green Hill, Brief Encounters and most recently The Sunday Times bestseller, A Nun’s Story. He is currently working on a new novel about retirement and an autobiography of his time in the Middle East. He lives happily with his wife in Wetherby, West Yorkshire where he enjoys being close to his family.

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I will be reading this book in the near future and will then will add my thoughts also.

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#GuestPost by @PeterFBartram author of “Crampton of the Chronicle” mystery series.

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It is my great pleasure to welcome Peter Bartram to Me and My Books today. Author of the “Crampton of the Chronicle” series.  I read “The Morning, Noon and Night Trilogy” earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed.  Peter now has another book called “Front Page Murder” out in paperback and also eBook.

So read on for Peter’s guest post on Ruth Ellis……

THE WOMAN WHO CAUSED THE DEATH OF HANGING

By Peter Bartram

Ruth Ellis could have become a film starlet. Instead, she ended up dangling from the end of rope in Holloway Prison, London – the last woman to be hanged in England.

Ellis had been working as a nightclub hostess when she landed the part of a beauty queen contestant in the 1951 film Lady Godiva Rides Again. (It was released in the United States as Bikini Baby.) It starred some well-known British actors of the time, including Diana Dors, Stanley Holloway, Kay Kendall and Dora Bryan.

In later years, Dora lived in Brighton, where my Crampton of the Chronicle crime mysteries are set. When I travelled back and forth to London in my work as a journalist I would occasionally see her in the train’s buffet car. She invariably had a fag hanging out of the corner of her mouth and was ordering another whisky. A great character.

But we were talking about Ruth Ellis. She used a .38 calibre Smith & Wesson revolver to pump five shots into her sometime lover racing driver David Blakely. It was what the French would call a crime passionnel. Blakely made her pregnant twice. She aborted the first child – illegal in Britain at the time – and lost the second after he’d punched her in the stomach during one of their regular rows.

At her trial, Ruth was found guilty and sentenced to hang. There had been a growing campaign in Britain to abolish the death penalty for several years, but after Ruth was hung on 13 July 1955 the clamour increased in volume. Bill Connor who wrote his Daily Mirror column under the pen-name Cassandra thundered: “The one thing that brings stature and dignity to mankind and raises us above the beasts of the field will have been denied her – pity and the hope of ultimate redemption.”

And Raymond Chandler, whose Philip Marlowe detective novels had already conquered the world, wrote from his then British home to the London Evening Standard to complain about “the mediaeval savagery of the law”. But it was another 10 years before hanging was finally ended in England.

So Ruth Ellis never became a starlet. But she lit one of the flames which led to the abolition of the death penalty in England. When I was researching Front Page Murder, I spent many hours looking at how hanging was carried out. It was a gruesome business – especially for women who were forced to wear thickly padded calico knickers.

But for the crime writer, hanging had the potential to add an extra frisson of tension to a murder story. After all, the penalty is irreversible. So if the accused is really innocent of the crime, there is not much time to assemble the evidence to prove it.

That is the premise behind the story in Front Page Murder. And to add some extra seasonal colour, it all takes place in the 10 days leading up to Christmas 1963.

A year later, hanging had been ended in Britain for ever. But several years too late to save Ruth Ellis.


ABOUT THE BOOK…

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FRONT PAGE MURDER

A Crampton of the Chronicle mystery

It’s December 1963 and Archie Flowerdew is sitting in a cell at Wandsworth Prison waiting to be hanged. On Christmas Eve. It’s not exactly how he planned to spend the festive season. But, then, Archie was found guilty of murdering fellow comic postcard artist Percy Despart.

It seems there’s nothing that can stop Archie’s neck being wrung like a turkey’s. Except that his niece Tammy is convinced Archie is innocent. She’s determined he will sit down on Christmas Day to tuck into the plum pudding. She persuades Brighton Evening Chronicle crime reporter Colin Crampton to take up the case.

But Colin has problems of his own. First, that good turn he did to help out Chronicle sub-editor Barry Hobhouse has come back to bite him on the bum. Then Beatrice “the Widow” Gribble, Colin’s trouble-prone landlady, needs him to sort out her latest faux pas – she’s accidentally sent a Christmas card to her local butcher suggesting she’s available for hot sex. And that’s before Brighton cops clap Colin and girlfriend Shirley Goldsmith in jail on the charge of harbouring a fugitive from justice.

And, anyway, the more Colin investigates Archie’s case, the more it looks like he is guilty… Pick up the third full-length novel in the Crampton of the Chronicle mystery series to get you in the mood for a murderous Christmas!

Front Page Murder e-book is on special offer until the end of December for 99p/99c

For readers who want to start the series at the beginning, there’s a deal which includes Headline Murder, Stop Press Murder and Front Page Murder in e-book formats for £4.97/$4.97. This offer also closes on 31 December.

Front Page Murder on : Amazon US

Front Page Murder on : Amazon UK

Crampton of the Chronicle 3-book series on Amazon US

Crampton of the Chronicle 3-book series on Amazon UK


81jVrJSTqkL._SY200_ ABOUT THE AUTHOR…Peter Bartram brings years of experience as a journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle crime mystery series, which features Colin Crampton, crime correspondent of the 1960s fictional newspaper the Brighton Evening Chronicle. Peter began his career as a reporter on a real-life local newspaper not far from Brighton. Then he worked as a journalist and newspaper editor in London before becoming freelance. He has done most things in journalism from door-stepping for quotes to writing serious editorials. He’s pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700 feet down a coal mine and Buckingham Palace. Peter’s “Swinging Sixties” murder mysteries combine clue-solving with comedy – the laughs are never far from the action. Other books in the series, which has already logged more than 100 5-star reviews on Amazon, include Headline Murder and Stop Press Murder.

You can also see my thoughts here for Crampton of The Chronicle a 3-book series.

Many thanks for reading my post.  If you liked it, please give it a share.

Better still go and buy the books!