Derek Bentley Bibliography

This is a list of books directly related to the case of Bentley and Craig, or giving background information. It is based on the excellent bibliography in M.J. Trow's 'Let Him Have It, Chris'.

ASCOLI, DAVID: The Queen's Peace - The Origins and Development of the Metropolitan Police 1829-1979, Hamish Hamilton 1979

BENTLEY, IRIS with DENING, PENELOPE: Let Him Have Justice, Sidgwick and Jackson 1995, and Pan 1996
ISBN (1996) 0-330-34399-8
This is Iris' autobiography. It starts as the story of a conventional war-child, but then becomes the story of a woman determined to clear her brother's name. Sure, she has an axe to grind, and she does sometimes come across as paranoid, but she is convinced that there is a general conspiracy against her family. Her view of her life is coloured by that apparent conspiracy. She sometimes seems to miss the relevance of facts - she dwells longer on irrelevant detail than on the more important parts of her life.

BENTLEY, W.G.: My Son's Execution, W.H.Allen 1957
Derek's father with his (naturally) very personal recollections of his son's life, trial and death. His view of Derek is sometimes rose-tinted, but still very moving.

BERRY-DEE, CHRISTOPHER and ODELL, ROBIN: Dad Help Me Please, W.H.Allen 1990
This book spends a very long time making the simple point that Bentley's fitness to plead should have been questioned at the trial but wasn't.

BLAND, JAMES: True Crime Diaries Vols 1 and 2, Futura 1986

BRESLER, FENTON: Lord Goddard, Harrap 1977
Goddard was the trial judge.

DU CANN, C.G.L: Miscarriages of Justice, Frederick Muller 1960
This book covers the Bentley and Craig trial in 11 pages, half of which argue a mostly irrelevant point of law.

DUFF, CHARLES: A Handbook on Hanging, E.P.Publishing 1974

FURNEAUX, RUPERT: They Died by a Gun, Herbert Jenkins 1962

GAUTE, J.H.H and ODELL, ROBIN: Murder 'Whatdunit'?, Harrap 1982

GAUTE, J.H.H and ODELL, ROBIN: The Murderers' Who's Who, Harrap 1979

JACKSON, STANLEY: The Old Bailey, W.H.Allen 1978

KENNEDY, LUDOVIC: On My Way to the Club, Collins 1989

KENNEDY, LUDOVIC: 36 Murders and Two Immoral Earnings, Profile Books, June 2002
ISBN: 1861973543
This new book starts with a single chapter covering the Bentley case. The chapter dwells rather on the reputed sexual deviancy of Lord Goddard, but I believe that the coverage is not unfair. Unlike a rather dismissive reviewer on Amazon, I'm not a fan of the custom of de mortuis nil nisi bonum (don't speak ill of the dead). If someone deserves (and gets) criticism while they are alive, why should their death render any such criticism invalid? The rest of the book covers several other celebrated cases (The Birmingham Six, Timothy Evans and Stephen Ward) and is well worth a read.

LEWIS, DAVID and HUGHMAN, PETER: Just How Just?, Secker and Warburg 1975

LOCK, JOAN: Blue Murder? Policemen under Suspicion, Robert Hale 1986

MARK, ROBERT: In The Office of Constable, Collins 1978

MAYS, JOHN BARRON: Crime and the Social Structure, Faber and Faber 1963

MONTGOMERY HYDE, H: The Trial Of Craig and Bentley (Notable British Trials Series); William Hodge and Co. 1954
This book is mostly taken up with the transcript of the Bentley and Craig trial. Other sections give the transcript of Niven Craig's trial, the Bentley appeal, and the debate in the House of Commons on the eve of the execution. There is little in the way of discussion, though a brief introduction does give a short account of the story of the crime and its aftermath. It is, nevertheless, a valuable research tool.

MORRIS, TERENCE: The Criminal Area, 1957

PAGET, R.T. and SILVERMAN, S.S: Hanged - and Innocent?, Victor Gollancz 1953
Labour MPs Paget (Northampton) and Silverman (Nelson and Colne), argued vehemently in the House of Commons for the Home Secretary to commute the death sentence on Derek Bentley. Parliamentary skulduggery meant that they failed, so they went into print to tell the world of their misgivings. Paget gives 5 reasons why the Home Secretary should not carry out the sentence, ranging from Bentley's youth, through his low intelligence and epilepsy, to the fact that there was a 'scintilla of doubt' about the conviction.

PARRIS, E. JOHN: Most of My Murders, Frederick Miller 1960
Parris, Craig's barrister, argues that a 'third boy' was on the warehouse roof that night, and that he was the one who shouted 'Let him have it, Chris'. This seems rather fanciful and over-complex. He notes, but then makes little of, the more likely explanation that the police version of events was not necessarily the correct one.

PARRIS, JOHN Scapegoat: The inside story of the trial of Derek Bentley, Duckworth 1991
Parris, an inexperienced provincial barrister, was selected to defend Christopher Craig in the 'Trial of the Century'. This book tells how he dealt with the case, his views on what really happened (including the 'third boy' theory from his earlier book), and how little he thinks of the British justice system. He comes across as an extremely smug and arrogant man who regards some judges as incompetent bullies. He also dismisses most of his colleagues - they might have problems with and be cowed by the tyrants on the bench, but not even the most powerful judge is a match for E. John Parris.

One interesting section of the book covers the limits on the Barrister in a criminal case - that he can only present what his client tells him to present. Here, for example, Craig was convinced that he had killed Sidney Miles. Even though there is extremely strong evidence that he hadn't fired the fatal shot (it was almost certainly a police marksman with a rifle), Parris was constrained from giving any evidence to that effect.

PIERREPONT, ALBERT: Executioner: Pierrepont, Frederick Miller 1960
The public executioner, and Bentley's hangman, gives his life story. Even he was eventually convinced that many hangings gave "nothing but revenge".

SELWYN, FRANCIS: Gangland - The Case of Bentley and Craig, Routledge 1988
Reprinted as Nothing but revenge, Penguin 1991
ISBN 0-14-014832-9
This book simply gathers together evidence from previous books, but manages to introduce a number of errors. His main argument is that comics and cinema had little effect on the behaviour of Craig and Bentley.

It adopts a chatty and sensationalist style, assuming motives and responses which have no basis in fact. It is very keen on the 'how must so-and-so have felt when...' style of comment.

Francis' one on-target shot is at the barristers. He lambasts Christmas Humphries for using all of his adversarial wiles on a half-witted boy, and John Parris and Frank Cassels for missing numerous opportunities in their defense.

SMITH, ARTHUR: Lord Goddard, Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1975

SYMONS, JULIAN: Bloody Murder, Penguin 1972

TROW, M.J: 'Let Him Have It, Chris', Constable 1990
ISBN 0-09-469700-0
This book introduces the 'fifth policeman', Claude Pain, who's evidence did not agree with the three other police witnesses at the trial, and who was not called (the fourth policeman was of course Sidney Miles). According to Pain, the words "Let him have it, Chris" were never said. Trow asserts that with Pain's testimony, with a less biassed judge, and with a less blinkered (blind?) Home Secretary, Derek Bentley would not have been hanged. As lawlessness increased around the country, Bentley died simply "to encourage the others".

WOODS, ALBERT: Eighteen to Twelve,
A novel, with some adult content, set around the time of the Bentley trial. It features the Home Secretary, David Maxwell-Fyfe, and an appearance from the trial judge, Lord Goddard. A real page-turner, it makes several references to Derek, and some of the arguments about his case are played out again in the novel.

YALLOP, DAVID A: To Encourage the Others, W.H.Allen 1971, revised Corgi 1990
This is an authoritative work, the first major book about the trial. It covers a lot of the factual evidence in the case, destroys much of the prosecution evidence and fills in gaps in the defence case. It proposes the theory that Miles was killed by a police marksman. This theory was completely ignored at the trial, and has been rubbished by other authors, but his evidence is fairly compelling. Yallop was still, 19 years later, interested enough in the case to revise and republish his book.

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Last updated 02-Dec-02