Eithne Cullen’s story The Ogress of Reading is part fact, part fiction, and tells of the chilling case of Amelia Dyer, who admitted 400 murders of young children in the 1890s.
Despite the shocking nature of her crimes, Amelia Dyer is still relatively unheard of, something that Eithne, 60, is keen to change.
“Jack the Ripper killed five people, and everyone has heard of him. Dyer killed hundreds,” she said.
The horrifying tale centres on the then widespread practice of baby farming, where people were paid to adopt children born out of wedlock, a terrible shame in Victorian times.
However, Amelia did not raise the children as promised. Instead she started to drown them in a river.
A police investigation ensued, leading to Amelia admitting her crimes and being executed in Holloway prison, which is where Eithne, of High View Road, picked up on the story.
She said: “I was doing some research on dangerous women in Holloway prison when I came upon the story which fascinated me.”
Although the retired English teacher has always written poetry and taken part in creative writing classes, this is her first published book.
Her efforts were greatly helped by Barking and Dagenham Council, and in particular its Pen to Print scheme.
Run by the council’s library service, the scheme is aimed at anyone interested in poetry, short stories, play writing or novels.
Eithne was given a mentor to help with her work, and credits the scheme as being a big help to her efforts.
She is now writing her second book, about obsessive love, entitled Never Not in my Thoughts.
Her advice to anyone interested in writing is, if they have the time, to “go for it”.
Eithne will be launching her book at Barking Library on Thursday, January 18. Free tickets can be obtained from eventbrite.co.uk
The Ogress of Reading is published by New Generation Publishing and is available from Amazon, priced £6.99 in paperback or £4.99 for an ebook version.
Anyone interested in the Pen to Print project can find out more at lbbd.gov.uk.