Few autobiographies have drawn me in more than Tiger Woman, My Story (Betty May, Duckworth, publication date: 17 July 2014), the story of  London-born dancer, singer, gang member, cocaine addict and Twenties bohemian Betty May that thrilled and appalled the public when it was first published at the end of the Twenties.

Born into terrible poverty and neglect in London’s Limehouse area, May used her street cred, exotic beauty and smart-witted intelligence to become part of London’s pre-war bohemian jet set, hanging out at the Café Royal among artists and the wealthy. Her reckless attitude to life and thirst for adventure took her on a series crazy trips, like an ill-fated jaunt to France that saw her end up as part of a criminal gang in Paris, or an equally surreal journey following a spirit performer across Northern America.

Married four times (estranged husband no 1 died in WW1, she divorced husband no 2 on grounds of his infidelity, husband no 3 died tragically – more below – and she ran out on husband no 4 after his mother accused her of poisoning him), she had her fair share of lovers and affairs, never able to settle down and live the quiet life expected of a wife in the pre-war years and Twenties.

Her most fateful adversary was occultist and self-proclaimed ‘Great Beast’ Aleister Crowley, who intended her to be a sacrificial victim of his Thelemite cult in Sicily, but it was her husband – Oxford undergraduate Raoul Loveday – who died, after conducting a blood sacrifice ritual that involved killing a cat.

Betty May died in obscurity in the Fifties. Her conflict with Aleister Crowley will be the subject of a forthcoming musical entitled ‘Tiger Woman Versus The Beast’.

A thriller of a book, I could hardly put it down cause I just needed to find out what outrageous things she’d experience next!

One Response

  1. kSto

    I need to read this book! And maybe write the screenplay.