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Sunday, 6 March 2011

Jack the Ripper's Back!!!

London 1888

A string of brutal murders

A sensationalist press campaign

This sordid and brutal affair has become part of folklore, Jack the Ripper is seen as a cross between Dr Jekyll and Dracula and the poor women who perished at the hands of the unknown killer, real flesh and blood people, have become generic prostitutes, Victorian white trash, in the mish-mash of fact and fiction. Over the years various theories have been put forward as to the identity of the killer who glides, vampiric cape aflutter, through our consciousness on a miasmal cloud - some have been plausible, others have been laughable.

Lewis Carrol and Arthur Conan Doyle are just two of the most ridiculous subjects put forward as the Ripper.

There are people who have devoted much of their lives to the study of the case - Ripperologists they call themselves and as a collective they are responsible for much of the learned and studious, as well as some of the most bizarre, books on the subject.

Jack has been claimed by the media and treated as any of the villains of Gothic literature - movies have played with the story, Jack has faced off against Sherlock Holmes and Billy the Kid as well as showing up in HBO's excellent, much missed, Deadwood. In comic books the prototype serial killer has become something of a super hero hunting down Victorian vampires. And go into any fancy dress shop and you can get a Naughty Nurse -, er sorry, a Jack the Ripper costume. For an anonymous killer we seem to have a good idea what he looked like.

Currently available my debut mystery/crime novel, A Policeman's Lot published by Solstice Publishing offers yet another take on the Ripper story. And I'm not alone - many writers have used the Ripper within their fiction.

So what is it about the Ripper that makes it okay for us to create fictions around the character?

We would never dream of writing a novel intended to entertain around the likes of Ted Bundy or Fred West, and yet is there a difference? Does the fact that the Ripper killings were never solved make it morally okay to build entertainments around what were, in reality, a brutally cruel series of killings?

I don't know the answer to that.

These questions were very much in mind when I was writing the novel, but I did a lot of research into the crimes, read reams of documents, visited murder sites, almost broke my back carrying books from the library and spent two enjoyable days with a Ripper expert visiting what remains of the murder sites. I felt that if I was going to write this book then I needed to believe the theory the book gives to the identity of the killer and I really do.

In the novel we are introduced to Police Inspector Frank Parade - his beat is Pontypridd, a busy town in industrial South Wales that rests at the foot of both the coal rich Rhonnda and Cynon Valleys. The year is 1904 and the world famous Buffalo Bill's Wild West Circus is in town as part of its European tour. Parade is not impressed and finds Cody a braggard. Cody for his part feels very much the same.

‘We mostly shoot blank rounds of course,’ Cody said, ‘and when we do use live ammunition it’s usually nothing more than buck shot. Doesn’t go too far.’
‘Of course.’
‘And we don’t usually walk around armed. After all this isn’t the Wild West now.’
‘I’m pleased to hear it,’ Parade said with a wry smile. ‘I don’t think we could cope with a gunfight on Taff Street.’

Into this mix comes a grisly series of killings that have their origin in the London Whitechapel killings of 1888. Before the book is over the identity of the killer will finally be revealed, the case solved by a Welsh Policeman and an American legend.

Jenkins didn’t know what the town was coming to – there were policemen everywhere a person turned, and now there were cowboys and Indians riding about shooting people willy-nilly. It was fast becoming the Wild West around here.

The thing I'm most proud of here is that the theory given as to the Ripper's identity is unique, has never been put forward before and yet it's a name that has always been known to those familiar with the case. It also makes perfect sense and fits the known facts and what's more I don't know where it came from. It just developed in the writing and then in the research I found some uncanny details that fitted so well. Since completing the novel I have continued with my research into the killings and I believe now, more than ever, that I may actually have something here. But then I suppose any writer, trying to pimp interest in his book, would say that but honestly I really do...

Jack the Ripper
Case Closed
A Policeman's Lot

"Then the murders start up, involving a sixteen year old series of unexplained deaths. Throw in a thief, once arrested by Parade, who had threatened his life and had escaped prison by murdering a guard, a number of home break-ins, and superiors who want a fast, easy solution, and you have a fast moving novel that doesn't let up until the end.

And what an end." Author, Randy Johnson



Charles Gramlich said...

Good luck. I hope it does well.

Howard said...

I'm a bit of a Ripper enthusiast myself, so this sounds very interesting. In fact, I used him in the wild west in my Lance Howard Black Horse Western, Ripper Pass, a few years back and am dealing with him again in another "top secret" novel coming later this year where Jack visits the 1930s...Gotta say, it was an ugly experience being inside Red Jack's head...

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I know what you mean Howard. I look forward to your books - have just ordered Ripper Pass - found a used copy on Amazon