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Old October 12th, 2017, 09:12 AM   #1
Join Date: Jan 2011
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Default Sept/Oct 2017

Otto Penzler – the big book of JTR

I’ve not read much Ripper wise this year. Partially this is a result of my ripper related reading becoming quite low stockwise (remedied by this book, Mango Books diary update, and Tom Wescotts book). Looking at the books I’ve read across this year, it looks like the turn of the new year was the last ripper book I read.

I didn’t want to plunge back in with details being sketchy in my head, especially if it were a book heavy on detail, so I thought that this would be a suitable re-introduction and reminder.

It is a big, heavy book. Almost 900 pages. There is a helluva lot to it. The book is broken into sections, and rather than overview everything in it, I’ll overview each section.

Part 1 – the true story
A range of texts. Sadly, the opening gambit is an excerpt from david Abrahamsen. His book was on my list of future purchases. Having read this section, it’s now off the list. A number of the Anonymously penned texts are interesting, especially for those uninitiated. A fair few are contemporaneous, which makes them more worthwhile imo. One of the best bits of prose was the excerpt from the lancet/BMJ on lessons learned from the WM. I have Maxim Jubowksi’s book, so there was nothing new there for me.
Part 2 – Mystery, crime, suspense stories
When settling down to read, I was surprised at the amount of fiction here. I rarely read JtR fiction, and had not read any of these texts. The blurb promises texts written especially for the collection. Be aware there are very few of these.
In some, links to JTR are quite tenuous. Have to say I enjoyed a study in terror. I also enjoyed Marie Belloc Lowndes The Lodger, however I’m unsure of the merit of having the short story immediately followed by the novel. One or the other would have sufficed. Having gone through both, it felt like reading a draft, then the finished version.
Part 3 - Red Jack – An Inspiration
A little more fun this section. The Legacy, and The Treasure of JTR stood out for me.
Part 4 – Timeless
Robert Bloch is a name I have heard & seen around. This was an introduction to him. Initially my feeling is that hs writings are the better fictions I have read that are JTR related. To be fair, this section has the cream of the selections available – most were interesting and eminently readable.

Overall I was impressed with the level of research many fictional authors had engaged in. There was less artistic licence used than I expected most times. There’s a fair amount of sci-fi/fantasy related stuff here. I’m genuinely surprised no-one has written much relating to what JTR may have done post 1888.

Not a bad read, and a well presented book. Unsure on the £20 price tag though.

I couldn’t resist btw, I have started Tom Wescotts book already…
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Old October 15th, 2017, 07:03 PM   #2
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So I very quickly got well into Tom Wescotts book.

I really enjoyed TBHM when it came out. Hence I was really looking forward to this.

Both books have a hell of a lot to them. What is impressive is the sheer volume of detail that is given. Both books have benefited from having quite specific remits, principally covering in some detail 2 murders, RC having a kind of "hidden track" few extra thoughts.

A different tack to the usual set up of ripper books, the format of subject specific essays means the non-novice to the case avoids having to re-read much frequently re-told versions of the same stuff. Thus the reader is submerged quite deeply into specific minutiae of the specific cases. As someone who was a little surprised to realise he possessed over 70 ripper books, it made RC a much more engaging read, and I see elsewhere on here Paul Begg makes a similar observation. This allows people who have a good general understanding of the case, but aren't active researchers really feel closer to modern research and perspectives. Other books adopting a similar(ish) MO may proove to be of huge interest to readers, rather than some of the recent suspect/family member books and their "journeys".

Tom makes a good attempt on more than one occasion to argue different perspectives on the same events, which is refereshing. This aids the reader to look clearly at some specifics of the case, and form a conclusion based on more than one arguement. I didn't always agree with the flow of some of the arguements, for example I felt Michael Kidney was viewed over-generously, however I frequently agreed with a lot of Toms conclusions, if not for the same reasons (again, I don't think Kidney killed Stride).

The amount of detail really helps contextualize the WM. They weren't isolated incidents in 1888, but part of a bigger context, surrounded by other events and people. Thus the events surrounding M Millhouse are very interesting to consider, and Tom raises numerous similarly co-incidental incidences around the Nichols and Stride murders.

Extremely valuable was the repeated reviewing of the times/events in Berner street. Found this fascinating.

I looked forward to this book, and wasn't disappointed, except for the fact it was over too quickly. I'm not sure I can hold myself together for 2 years for his Le Grand book. Equally, I'd be very keen to see Tom apply similar rigorous treatment to the Chapman, Eddowes and Kelly murders, to have the "full set" for want of a better phrase.

I recommended TBHM to a fw people I know who know a bit about the WM & wanted to explore further. I can certainly see myself doing the same with RC.
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Old October 15th, 2017, 08:30 PM   #3
Howard Brown
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Thanks very much for going to the trouble of sharing your review(s) !
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Old October 23rd, 2017, 11:51 AM   #4
Join Date: Jan 2011
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Have just finished 2 Jack the Stripper books:
Dick Kirby - Laid Bare
Interesting that Kirby states that he was asked by the publisher to write this book. It wasn’t a book he planned/intended to write, and seems to admit himself that it isn’t/wasn’t a subject he has/had a passion for. He implies that on considering the publishers proposal, it seems to make sense (an ex-cop, with contacts writing such book). I read these comments after reading the book as they were at the end, and it tarnished the experience. That said, the experience wasn’t brilliant.
The book is primarily written from a police perspective. Theoretically this shouldn’t be a problem, however it becomes one. The book deals more with opinion than facts. Kirby spends a lot of time listing the letters after peoples names to show how well qualified they are, and frequently proffers his own opinion – the victims are on more than one occasion referred to derogatorily, generally non-police personnel have their perspectives rubbished, and Kirby also allows his political bias to shine through – frequently disparagingly referring to “lefties” and their desires to improve society which won’t work, as they don’t really know what’s going on.
The first 50% of the book deals with the victims and crime scenes, but lacks details. Too much is skimmed over, unreferenced, or based on a chat Kirby had with a police buddy. Taken with the occasional disparaging comments, it is almost uncomfortable at times.
From the middle, Kirby discusses the investigation. A little more interesting, and insightful here. Kirby is able to provide a professional perspective on what was (& wasn’t) done as part of the investigation. During reading this section I did become more engaged with the book.
At the end there are a couple of chapters referring to suspects. All are un-named, and thus come across as extremely speculative. Again, no referencing so this section becomes a series of “one cop thought this, another cop thought that”. Not really that helpful. The reader is effectively being asked to take everything on hearsay, without even confirming who the suspect referred to is. This is finished with a bizarre ending where Kirby alleges he confronts the cop who doesn’t want to speak with him, followed by a brief “nobody really knows/make up your own mind” monologue, which is extremely unhelpful as Kirby hasn’t provided anywhere near sufficient information to allow a reader to form an opinion based on anything other than a little hearsay and tittle tattle.
Having finished the book, the only conclusion I can make is that Kirby is a very opinionated person, but does very little to substantiate the opinions spouted.
Robin Jarossi – the hunt for the 60’s ripper
Then along comes Robin Jarossi to show Kirby how to write a book with a little class, style and respect. Jarossi has researched the book slightly more fully than Kirby, however we have to bear in mind both these books have their slants – Kirby’s reads like a group of ex-cops have got together and had a chinwag about the case – Jarossi’s book is from Mirror Books publishing, as a result Jarossi had access to mirror archives, and reports from the time by the mirror are prominent. This book is quite similar to Kirby, only without the sometimes sneering tone. Jarossi does not condemn the victims, and is wholly more sympathetic than any other book on the same subject I have read. This book is in 3 parts, the first an overview of the crimes, within which Jarossi paints a picture of each victim too, as a mother, as a partner, as a daughter and so on. In this book you certainly relate more to the victims than in Kirby, or McConnell for example. Part 2 covers the police investigation, and casts a critical eye on du Rose in particular. In pragmatic terms, and with examples, Jarossi explains why the investigation stalled (effectively, data overload, hence numerous leads not followed up at the time) as well as critiquing the occasions when case reviews weren’t thorough enough – missed opportunities. The final section covers similar issues, but also introduces how geographical profiling could have benefitted the case. This section has an abundance of caveats (quite reassuring to read, compared with the usual I know whodunit style) thast the information would have helped focus the search, and wouldn’t have guaranteed finding the killer, and Jarossi doesn’t claim to name the killer either. That said, he does posit a cop (but a different and un-named one from the disgraced cop who Bill Baldock feels is the killer).
Were I to recommend a book on these crimes, Jarossi would be the one. In time, this book could be the Sugden of the Hammersmith crimes.
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