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Legacy of a Hanged Man

Peter J Hedge

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : AuthorHouse

Published : 2003

Copyright : Peter J Hedge 2001

ISBN-10 : PB 1-4107-7430-9
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-4107-7430-9

Publisher's Write-Up

When author Vincent Sutherland is offered the previously unknown writings of a young man who was hanged for murder, he is tempted enough to accept them. Sutherland has been suffering from writer's block, and this gift looks like the ideal solution. As Sutherland reads the text, we also enter the writings of Steven Matchin, a young man sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer.

Peter Hedge constructs the world of Steven Matchin through a series of journal like entries. The style is uncompromising, often uncomfortably honest, and provocative. There is no question of Matchin's guilt, but the ethics of execution are called into question by this careful exploration of the killer's own humanity.

While hanging is no longer a form of legal punishment in the United Kingdom, many countries around the world still use the death penalty for certain crimes. This vision of a 1950s criminal is not lacking in contemporary relevance. Hedge makes it clear that we all have choices and that anyone can knowingly chose to act wrongly. He also makes it evident that we have little control over the influences in our lives, and that anyone can make a mistake.

Legacy of a Hanged Man is not an easy book to read, nor should it be: It is an intensely uncomfortable tale, laden with truth and demanding both intellectual and emotional reactions.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Bryn (011101) Rating (8/10)

Review by Bryn
Rating 8/10
Legacy of a Hanged Man, is a provocative account of a young man facing the death penalty.

When author Victor Sutherland is offered the writings of a young man hanged for murder, he cannot resist the temptation to read and so we read with him. The source of the literature is a strange man who vanishes away, leaving Sutherland to make sense of the writings and to wonder if they are real. The Legacy he has been given is the work of one Steven Matchin, who was hanged for the murder of a police officer in the 1950s. The journal follows the last days of his life in intimate detail and recounts some of the key moments and people in his young existence. Sutherland, the officers and priest dealing with Matchin, and the reader as well gradually come to realise that this is an all too human young lad.

Matchin is unequivocally guilty but does not want to die - he is still only a youth, he has made a terrible mistake but there will be no chance for redemption - he must hang. Matchin's obvious humanity calls in to question the whole notion of capital punishment - even those who kill are human, and by taking their lives, do we really achieve anything? Life has lead Matchin down a certain path, he has made his choices and chosen badly. His diary unravels the events and characters who helped him along his fateful journey. In a moment of adrenaline crazed fear he fired a gun repeatedly, but does this make him evil? The book has some interesting questions to raise.

Cutting between Matchin's 1950s diary and Sutherland's contemporary life and concerns creates some interesting contrasts and gives a frame to a story that otherwise might be very hard to read. Hedge has included some fascinating notes that offer further insight into both the case and the history of such cases.

It is a difficult text to read - following a young man to the gallows is not easy. Hedge has the prison's priest write an account of Matchin's last moments, which is undoubtedly the most moving and disturbing section of the book. I found the entire text to be intensely powerful and provocative - the writing style is blunt and uncompromising, capturing the voice of an intelligent but streetwise lad who takes delight in low humour and has no qualms about expressing himself with the strongest possible language.

Surprisingly, there are some lighter moments of life and laughter - little insights into characters and jokes to alleviate the gloom. It is a well-balanced text in this regard and if anything the light moments serve the throw the darker ones into even sharper relief.
Bryn (1st November 2001)

Review Editors Note:
This review was submitted by Bryn, who was good enough to admit being an employee of Hollow Hills Publishing (original publisher) so it may be a 'little' biased... . but hey, we are grateful for all opinions, even those driven by ambition.

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