The ‘Marvelous’ Life Story of John Lee – ‘Absolutely True’

In 1907, no sooner had the prison gates closed behind him, John Lee, described by The Western Morning News as a “keen businessman”, struck a lucrative deal with Lloyd’s Weekly News to have his experiences (or at least his side of events) published to a hungry audience.

The press were reporting that this fresh new Edwardian personality had sold the copyright to publish his life in prison for “a large sum of money” – £240 (about £13,694.40 in today’s money).

What the Home Office thought of this venture was bound to be disapproval to say the very least.

For many in Devon and Westminster, John Lee, the loose canon, was an unknown quantity and a potential danger to the establishment both in the city and along the English Riviera where the truth of the Emma Keyse murder remains shrouded in an unspoken ‘silence’ to this very day. John Lee was a popular man with the general public and his words could hold serious influence.

As far as cash was concerned, Lee had definitely received an advance to lavish on himself, his ‘poor’ mother and a collection of unsuspecting women.

Any hopes of renewing his relationship with Kate Farmer were dashed as she had married first James Parrish in 1886 and then after a certain scandal a decorator called Pomeroy.

The book is a drippy, sentimental, one-sided account of the innocent John Lee. A man in the wrong place at the wrong time. It sold in its thousands and no doubt the proprietors of Lloyds were rubbing their hands in glee at the sale of this world exclusive.

Here is a copy of the book. Slightly unusual as this version with exactly the same words was published in America. It’s in PDF format – enjoy, although don’t necessarily believe (click the image)!

Ian Waugh