A Diary Blog by Antony M. Brown
16 MAR 2018 The BBC documentary "The Porthole Mystery", about the trial of James Camb for the murder of Gay Gibson, presented by Richard Latto, is being broadcast on the BBC News Channel on Friday 23 March (21:30), Saturday 24 March (13:30 and 20:30) and Sunday 25 March (00:30 and 10:30). Of course, this assumes there is no major breaking news story that demands rolling coverage; the standoff with Russia and the imminent cold weather could yet play a part. Now I have to prepare for seeing myself on the TV (my daughter is already hiding behind the sofa)! Hopefully, the 30-minute TV documentary and 60-minute radio documentary (broadcast Thursday 22 March at 7pm, BBC Radio Solent) will increase interest in my book on this fascinating case, Death of an Actress, published by Mirror Books on 5 April.
7 MAR 2018 It's great to see programmes like "Murder, Mystery and My Family" on BBC 1. For those who have not seen them, two barristers examine cold murder cases in which the verdict is open to doubt. The cases are from the first half of the 20th century. So, strong similarities with my own Cold Case Jury books. It differs in several respects, most significantly that a real judge is asked to decide whether the original verdict was sound or not. In my view, this is a bit of an anti-climax for two reasons.
First, even if the original jury verdict was unsound, it means only that there was a reasonable doubt about the accused's guilt. It does not imply the accused was probably innocent. That's why in my books I apply a different standard - what most likely happened. For example, in the Bywaters and Thompson murder case of 1923, episode four in the first series, there does appear to be a reasonable doubt about Edith Thompson's guilt, which is what the judge found. However, on balance, I think Thompson incited her lover Freddie Bywaters to kill the husband she no longer loved. There was too much circumstantial evidence, especially in her letters. The expert psychologist on the programme got this badly wrong, in my opinion. So, yes, Thompson should not have been found guilty and hanged, but I believe she was probably guilty of conspiracy to murder nevertheless.
Second, the denouement of a single judge making his pronouncement is, quite frankly, a let down. It lacks drama and, quite frankly, who cares if there are legal grounds to think the original verdict unsafe? I believe people want to know, What most likely happened? Was the accused guilty of murder or innocent? Or, depending on the case, perhaps guilty of manslaughter rather than murder? Above all, the decision needs to be put to a jury - a real jury. The audience. Of course, this is the whole premise of Cold Case Jury. However, that said, "Murder, Mystery and My Family" is currently the best programme on daytime BBC.
2 MAR 2018 The paperback edition of my second book, Death of an Actress, is now avaiable for pre-order. The e-book version should be out later this month. To pre-order on Amazon click here. Five inches of snow fell yesterday, and more is falling outside my study window as I write. I'm thankful I do not have to travel to work - at least that is one advantage of being a writer.
1 MAR 2018 The date has been set for the broadcast of the radio version of "The Porthole Mystery", the BBC documentary on the Gay Gibson case. If you can pick up Radio Solent, then tune in on Friday 23 March at 7pm. Presenter is Richard Latto and features not only myself but fellow true crime writer, Paul Stickler. There is also an extended version of the interview with Doreen Mantle of One Foot In The Grave fame - the only living person to have acted with Gay Gibson. Her insights are vivid and revealing.
27 FEB 2018 With barely two weeks to the release of the e-book of Death of an Actress, the countdown to publication is truly underway. Currently going through the typeset manuscript, checking over the plate section, and readying the website. Printing of the paperback will soon follow. Also agreed to an interview with Crime Traveller, a true crime website.
26 FEB 2018 Had a call with Richard Latto of the BBC. A trailer is being made to promote his half-hour documentary on the Gay Gibson case (titled "The Porthole Mystery"). The trailer and documentary will be broadcast on a national BBC channel. I will provide more details, including the broadcast times, as soon as I am able. Very exciting.
22 FEB 2018 Received typeset manuscript of my book Death of an Actress today; tangible evidence that publication is not far away. A few questions on copyright to sort out. The reality of writing non-fiction is there is much more to publishing a book than meets the eye. You may need to get permission to quote another author in your work. This is tricky enough when the author is alive, but can be extremely difficult if the author is dead. The task should be made easier if the author's estate is handled by an agent or publisher, but I have found they rarely call back, leaving you in a state of legal limbo. Should you use the quote or not? TIP FOR WRITERS: Don't quote, report. Just express the writer's thought or opinion in your own words, obviously giving full attribution to the original author. This does not breach copyright and saves a lot of work. Photographic rights can be a nightmare too (see entry for 29 NOV 2017).
21 FEB 2018 Just learned that Wycliffe Preparatory school are re-enacting the trial of Ronald Light from The Green Bicycle Mystery on March 15 in Gloucester Crown Court. I wish my history lessons had been as interesting as this!
20 FEB 2018 Met with Tanita Matthews, the features editor of Real Crime Magazine, which is publishing a feature on the Gay Gibson case in April. Spent four hours talking through the case and photographing exhibits from the police file, courtesy of Hampshire Constabulary History Society. The arty image (left) was taken by a professional photographer. Why do they love jaunty angles so much? It looks like we're on board the Titanic!
19 FEB 2018 Finished writing an article for Red Herrings, the magazine for members of the Crime Writers' Association. It is about creative non-fiction, a topic that can get people rather animated. I hope to publish it here in due course.
16 FEB 2018 Was in the audience yesterday evening for Paul Stickler's cracking presentation on the Gay Gibson case, the subject of my next book, Death of an Actress. Romsey Town Hall was packed. The BBC was also present, filming for a South Today feature on the case, which will be broadcast before the documentary.
8 FEB 2018 Walked into Winchester this morning to buy a copy of the March edition of Real Crime Magazine which is out today. It has an article on the death of Bella Wright in its Cold Case section. Based on my The Green Bicycle Mystery, it gives an overview of the case and - as you can see (left) - it has some excellent graphics and images. Delighted to see that my book gets a mention too.
3 FEB 2018 Just listened to the first cut of the BBC radio documentary of "The Porthole Mystery", which is double the length of the TV documentary of the same name. It is really good and, with more time, pursues the story in greater depth. The radio documentary is due to be broadcast in four 15-minute segments on Radio Solent on the 70th anniversary of the trial of James Camb for the murder of Gay Gibson. The TV documentary is also due to be broadcast around the same time - I will let you know when I get more details.
11 JAN 2018 Spoke to the son of Dr Ena Schoub, the South African doctor who testified at the trial of James Camb for the murder of Gay Gibson. I was concerned he might have 'inside information' that might transform the case or, at the very least, details warranting inclusion in my book. Thankfully, there was none; so no last-gasp additions to my book were required. That is a panic best avoided! For my first book, The Green Bicycle Mystery, an important document surfaced just two weeks before the deadline for my manuscript. After the first read-through, I thought it was a game-changer requiring a potential re-write for which there was no time. But after careful checking, I discovered it was not so significant after all and was able to sleep!
8 JAN 2018 Received the manuscript of Death of an Actress from the copy editor today. Relieved to find tweaks to the copy rather than full-blow textual surgery. Changes by a good copy editor are usually vital but, in my opinion, it is far better to get the structure of your book nailed down way before the copy editor takes the lid off his red pen, otherwise you might find yourself having to make major changes. TIP FOR WRITERS: Show your work to trusted friends before you submit your manuscript. Ask for critical feedback and take stock, particularly for sections that were unnecessary or difficult to understand, for example.
1 JAN 2018 Spent New Year's Day watching the mix-down of "The Porthole Mystery", the BBC TV documentary on the trial of James Camb presented by Richard Latto. I sent a few comments back to Richard, but it is a great programme. However, I had to endure watching myself!
7 DEC 2017 The global image library replied today: they have caved in! They are not claiming copyright and I am free to use the image in my book if I have access to another copy, which I do. Apparently, image libraries do this all the time. They scan in an image and then charge people to use their copy even though might not own the copyright. I am shocked that this is legal. However, today proves that you should demand to see proof that an image library, however large, own copyright. Result! I feel Christmas has come early!
6 DEC 2017 No reply from the image library, so I sent a chasing email today. I find it difficult to believe they own the copyright as the image has been widely used in books and articles the past. Of course, it is possible they recently acquired the rights. Agh! Image rights are such a nightmare!
5 DEC 2017 Second day of filming with the BBC at the Great Hall, Winchester. Today was my turn. I was interviewed by Richard Latto for about an hour, although only a few minutes are likely to make the 30-minute documentary. I was filmed sitting on the judges bench - the very one used by Mr Justice Hilbery when he sentenced James Camb to death for the murder of Gay Gibson on 22 March 1948.
4 DEC 2017 Spent the day filming with Richard Latto and the BBC at the Great Hall, Winchester, for "The Porthole Mystery", a documentary on the Gay Gibson case to be broadcast next March. The Great Hall was a magnigicent setting with its compound columns, vaulted roof and stained glass windows, although we had to carefully avoid filming the large Christmas tree! My favourite segment was when Richard talked to camera holding Gay Gibson's hairbrush. It was an exhibit at the trial (notice the original exhibit tag dangling from it) and the last time it was in the Great Hall was in March 1948 during the trial of James Camb for the murder of Gay Gibson. A spine-tingling thought. Does the hairbrush hold important clues for the case? All is revealed in Death of an Actress!
29 NOV 2017 Yesterday I noted that the iconic image of Gay Gibson was in one of the world's largest image libraries. Agh! I emailed the image library saying that I had a physical copy of the photograph, which clearly has "For Reproduction" stamped on the reverse by the original copyright holder, and asked whether I was free to use it in my book. Today I have the reply: not surprisingly, they want payment if I use the image and sent details of their exorbitant license fees. It will be a real blow if I cannot use this image in Death of an Actress. TIP FOR WRITERS: Image copyright is a minefield. Some publishers handle this on behalf of their authors, some don't, but you need to be aware that you cannot simply assume you can use an image in your book. Having a physical copy is insufficient. That said, I will be going back to the image library to demand that (a) they show proof of copyright ownership, and (b) why they are not legally bound to honour the clear instruction of the original copyright owner.
27 Nov 2017 The manuscript for Death of an Actress is with my publishers. I have been working on it solidly since September, completely updating and re-writing my original e-book. I will be celebrating with a class of wine tonight!