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Friday, 6 May 2011

A Ripping yarn - A Policeman's Lot

It's strange the way Jack the Ripper has entered popular culture -  my novel A Policeman's Lot , continues in a long tradition of fictional works based around the killings of 1888. 

Indeed the Ripper is seen in movies, comics, T-shirts and even action figures.

I kid you not - pictured is the Mcfarlane Jack The Ripper action figure. Notice the apron and the Gladstone bag - accessories every well dressed serial killer should never be without.

What is forgotten here is that the Ripper was responsible for a string of very brutal murders. Or was he? Was there even a Jack the Ripper as such? Was this lone killer an invention of the press at the time?

There have been many suspects put forward over the years - Montague John Druitt, an impoverished barrister with medical training was put forward by several respected authors, Stephen Knight in his book The Final Solution implicated the British royal family, Patricia Cornwell favoured painter Walter Sickert - the list could go on and on and would even include Lewis Carroll and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Extract from the publisher’s original reader report: A Policeman’s Lot, by Gary Dobbs. Murder mystery. 56K words. Fascinating concept, setting, and characters. Set in Wales during Buffalo Bill’s 1903/1904 tour of the United Kingdom, the story begins with Inspector Frank Parade carrying out his daily duties in the town of Pontypridd, duties complicated by the unprecedented presence of 500 members of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show encamped outside the town, not to mention the thousands attending the show every day. A series of depraved murders quickly makes things even more complicated. Buffalo Bill stands squarely in his path when Parade tries to investigate the likely possibility that one of the hundreds of show members is involved. And soon enough Parade’s own superiors are blocking his inquires, too. Still more deaths occur as Parade sifts through the thin evidence available and finds a trail that may lead to the perpetrator of the most heinous crime of the 19th Century—London’s “Ripper” murders. Before the story is done, Parade develops a dramatic theory that may solve the Ripper mystery, as well as the murders he faces in idyllic Pontypridd. The story itself is wonderful—clever and intense.

Note from Gary M. Dobbs – The Jack the Ripper killings of Victorian London still fascinate us to this day. The killer was never captured and his/her identity remains a mystery.

Whilst researching for A Policeman’s Lot I came across a bizarre link to the final canonical killing (Note there are officially five killings attributed to the Ripper and these are known as the canonical five but there are theories that there may have actually been between 9 and 15 killings.) which placed Mary Kelly, the final victim, in South Wales in the years before moving to London. Indeed the deeper I researched the more convinced I became that it wasn’t actually Mary Kelly found dead on that bed in Spittlefields, Whitechapel but someone else. This forms the basis for A Policeman’s Lot.

Does A Policeman’s Lot finally solve the mystery? Well it’s fiction, not intended to be factual but I do believe that it throws up a further mystery – who was the woman the police identified as Mary Kelly. The body was so hideously mutilated that she was only identified by her earlobes, and then by a casual boyfriend. There were several sightings of Mary Kelly after she was supposedly dead but the police discounted these. Indeed it was the view of the chief police officer on the case that the killer escaped wearing Mary Kelly’s clothes and that this was the person people saw and mistook for Mary Kelly.

Who exactly is Police Inspector Frank Parade?

Well apart from being the lead character in a series of novels, starting later this summer with A Policeman's Lot from Solstice Publishing.

The police force in which Parade found himself serving was a very different beast to the modern force we know today - policing methods were primitive - No DNA or profiling for these guys in blue.

Candidates for the police force had to be between 18 and 27 years of age, and if married were allowed to have no more than two children when joining. The minimum height was 5ft 9ins and the officers had only one day off a fortnight. No Sunday or public holiday entitlement was given and constables and sergeants were allowed one weeks holiday per year.

A Policeman's Lot opens in 1904 and the regional forces were during this period facing a difficult transition between the methods of old and the dawn of scientific crime-fighting as exemplified by Scotland Yard's lead.

The standard uniform issued was:
1 Staff
1 Belt
1 Cape and Strap
1 Pair Leggings
2 Great Coats
2 Dress Coats
5 Pairs of trousers
2 Hats
2 Leather Neck Stocks
3 Button brushes
1 Whistle
1 Lantern
1 pair of handcuffs

Frank Parade's beat is Pontypridd -

Pontypridd during the early 1900’s could in many ways be likened to a frontier town. Because of its proximity to the industrial heart of the Rhondda and Cynon coalfields it became something of a stopping off point between Cardiff and the valleys. The population had not really settled at the start of the twentieth century and the police force, still then very much in its infancy as a professional organisation, was hard pushed to the stem the rise of lawlessness.

A Policeman's Lot brings into this mix Buffalo Bill's world famous Wild West circus as well as the re-appearance of a serial killer once known as Jack the Ripper. And by the end of the story the greatest mystery in the history of crime will be solved by a Welsh policeman and an American legend.

When constabulary's duty's to be done, the policeman's lot is not a happy one.

1 comment:

Davieboy said...

Sorry Gary, can't read that font....