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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
An account of four classic trials: Madeleine Smith (1857) - aquitted of poisoning her lover with arsenic, though much of the evidence suggests that she literally got away with murder. Oscar Slater (1909, 1928) - a man tried twice for the same crime: found guilty of murder and condemned to jail in the first trial in 1909 and found not guilty and released in the second trial in 1928.
Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen (1910) - the notorious London doctor who poisoned his wife and took boat for America with his mistress, before being captured. Buck Ruxton (1936) - a man of cunning determination who dismembered his two victims after killing them.