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The Penguin Famous Trials series was started by Harry Hodge, who was Managing, Director of William Hodge & Co., Ltd, Publishers and Shorthand Writers. The son and grandson of a printer, he followed his father as one of the most expert of shorthand writers in Scotland, and for some fifty years was a well-known figure in the Scottish Courts both in that capacity and as a publisher of legal works.
In 1905 he founded The Notable British Trials Series which now extends to 70 volumes, commencing with that cause celebre, the Trial of Madeleine Smith. He was steeped in criminology all his life and held the view that a trial should be at least twenty years old before it can proveitself to have been notable, although this view had to be modified under modern conditions.
As general editor of that series he carefully selected his editors and insisted on the greatest possible accuracy in the presentation of each volume. Outside of his business life Mr Hodge's main interest was devoted to music, and he has a number of compositions to his name. He died in November 1947.
Since his death both The Notable Trial Series and the Penguin Famous Trials have been edited by his son, James Hozier Hodge. Moreover, in 1948, after long negotiations, James Hodge produced the first volumes in the War Crimes Trials Series, of which he is the assistant general editor to Sir David Maxwell Fyfe,P.C., Q.C., M.P
Frederick Browne, sentenced to death for the shooting of P.C. Gutteridge in 1928, endured a veritable "trial by newspaper" when the damning statement of his accomplice was made public. The plight of the defendent who stands accused by heresay and prejudice was illustrated by the notorious case of Florence Maybrick - found guilty of poisoning her husband with arsenic - which exposed the need for a Court of Appeal.
This book also features the convictions of Sidney Fox, who killed his mother, and Dr Ruxton who mutilated the bodies of his wife and her maid, which were both triumphs of forensic investigation, while the Clapham Common murder trial held more than a hint of a tragically wrongful conviction.