Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Enigma Woman --- The Death Sentence of Nellie May Madison

The accused murderer known to 1934 Los Angelinos as Nellie May Madison had come a long way from the Montana of her child hood when she sat on the witness stand at her trial and claimed the body found on the floor of her apartment was that of a stranger. It seems to the modern reader a far stretch for her defense attorney to encourage her to make that claim. But Los Angeles in those days was a noir kind of place and strange stories sometimes worked. Nellie’s attorney convinced her that as a much married and childless woman she was not going to get off by claiming self defense when the victim was found shot in the back. It was the era of Bonnie and Clyde and L.A. authorities, led by hanging judge Charles Fricke, were clearly out to prove that a woman who’d become notorious couldn’t get away with killing her man.

As Kathleen Cairns lays out the engrossing story of how the accused and her brother, a former sheriff from Montana, dealt with all her plight, I came to feel truly sorry for Nellie even though it was clear she pulled the trigger.

I think if you read this book you’ll not forget “The Enigma Woman” --- a proud, “crack shot” Irish girl from off a Montana sheep ranch. She never gave up, never wanted to see herself as a victim.

Cairns renders her story with the impact of a fine writer possessed by her subject and with the thoroughness of a solid researcher. In the end, the reader gets to decide whether Eric Madison indeed “had it coming.”

For more information see the listing on my favorite links.

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