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Old September 10th, 2015, 01:58 PM   #1
Lemonjelly
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The Circassian, by Bob King

How requested I review this book. It is a fictional work. I should note that I don't read much fiction, and never read ripper related fiction, as to be honest, I am only interested in the factual side of things ripper as a rule.

The book collates a number of themes around JtR. I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but there are the russian pogroms and the Okhrana. There's a tale of how a child can be twisted psychologically to become the type of monster who turns into JtR.

Some poor punctuation stops the flow of the book. This is very noticeable early on.
Some word repetition early on (eg blessed in 2 continuous sentences).
Rebecca is a name out of place with other names at the start.

The book really needs a proof reader to review the text. Sections could do with editing. In example, one sentence in chapter 1 changes tense from past to present. Another has "Jaak looked passed her" (instead of past her). Another example - the opening to chapter 1.10. Also, your welcome (instead of you're welcome - p156.) About two thirds of the way through the book in dialogue, one character says to another "I will call me when he's finished". This really affects ones enjoyment of the story. In reality, it creates confusion.
There are contradictions - Rebecca in ch 1.2 can always hear the birds in the woods, but cannot hear her husband laugh when he is closer to her than the woods?
Chapter 2 has similar issues with punctuation. Commas where there should be full stops, and vice versa. On more than 1 occasion the word excepted is used instead of accepted.
Dialogue is too stilted in places, and lacks anything colloquial about it. Almost all queens english. I mean, a russian peasant using the phrase "dear"? Did the phrase "bye, sis" exist in 1888? Indeed, many times the characters speak using a much more modern language and/or phrases than I'd expect in 1888. This detracts somewhat from any realism in the novel. In addition, the writing style confuses who is speaking in dialogue sections.
The word beautiful appears too frequently. Women are beautiful. The country is beautiful. One paragraph seemed to have the word in it 4 times.

Part of the book discusses a doctor & officer trying to diagnose Post traumatic stress. I'm fairly sure such a concept didn't exist in 1888.

There's a latent sexism in the writing style. Female characters are closely described with respect to their appearance, not what they do or who they are. This isn't the same with male characters.

Too much info missing, which means the author occasionally is asking the reader to take steps that are too big.

The section where the old soldier reminisces about his recently deceased wife is better written. The emotion the character is feeling is well conveyed. It was the first point in the book where I genuinely felt for one of the characters.

I was starting to wonder how the story was to link to the characters when it moved to being based in the east end. There was a fairly quick turn that was fairly well done to explain this.

Dialogue is set in modern terms and phrases. It makes the book/story seem much less genuine.

The story infers missing annie chapman. The victims are generally referred to as "girls" rather than women. They're also drunk, and depicted as party girls.

The punctuation/missing words continues, throughout the book - further examples happen on p582. There are also places where after speech capitals are not used, and also duplication of full stops.

Throughout the book there's a lot of description of action, or protagonists thoughts. However there is (too frequently in my view) not enough description of the settings. This fails to contextualise the drama.

Towards the end is a comment about blood transfusions, which I believe started in or around the great war, not in 1888, though experiments were happening.

Overall, if this is a first draft, then there is some hope for it. The story isn't terrible (I've read much worse) but I was less engaged because of the poor spelling and punctuation which really affected my affinity to the story. There were a few times where this just left me being too confused.

As for the story/plot, well there are aspects of it which could, if refined, create a really decent book. I think there needs to be a lot of work on the dialogue, and probably a lot more time spent giving the context of the scenarios in the various sections of the book. More context, and a more descriptive treatment of the history/time frames and events would improve this. I also think that a more detailed history of the characters of Mikael and Jaak would have a significantly positive effect for the reader. Finally, reviewing the dialogue would be helpful.
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Old September 10th, 2015, 03:10 PM   #2
Howard Brown
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Thanks very much for reading and reviewing The Circassian, Lem...Much appreciated, amigo !
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Old September 11th, 2015, 06:07 AM   #3
Lemonjelly
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You're welcome How.
I've narrowed my next book choice down to one of 2. The Tao of Pooh, or a biography of Shakespeare. Wonder which I'll go for...
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Old September 11th, 2015, 02:34 PM   #4
Bob Bidecant
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Thanks for an honest review. I don’t know what you research but the way you picked out such tiny points from over 96,000 words is quite impressive so you must be very good at it.
The copy you received was an early draft, that’s why you had some typos and bad grammar. I emailed it to How a couple of months ago because I was interested to get a slant from a JTR enthusiast about the plot. This story is supposed to be a fast moving ripping yarn with some humour in it! It is not a story about any of the real known suspects, and none of my victims in the book were any of the real Whitechapel victims, only similar types.

Originally, I didn’t reveal it was about a young JtR (even in the book) I left it up to the reader to work it out, my story ends when his reign of terror begins.
I tried to find something positive in your review but I couldn’t so I would like to answer a few points here and then I would like to offer a copy of it to any member of this forum “free” if they send me in return an honest review(or post it here). I doubt if anyone will buy it after this review
I have to add that it is very adult in content, the language is what you would expect from soldiers and prostitutes, the sexual descriptions are not love making and the violence of course is required for the character. I have added my comments in bold.

Review
The book collates a number of themes around JtR. I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but there are the russian pogroms and the Okhrana. There's a tale of how a child can be twisted psychologically to become the type of monster who turns into JtR.
Bob: thanks, yes it is but also intertwined with soldiers who have PTSD and the treatment of patients in London Asylums. In my story Jaak has an identical twin brother Mikael who is not subjected to the same ordeals as he has to endure and does not become evil.
Rebecca is a name out of place with other names at the start.
Bob: not sure why, it is an old name but good point.
The book really needs a proof reader to review......
Bob: as explained above, you received an older copy.
Dialogue is too stilted in places, and lacks anything colloquial about it.
Bob: I chose not try to go down the colloquial road, 75% of my characters are not English so it is very difficult to try to write dialogue for them.
Almost all queens english.
Bob: deliberate choice, but I didn’t use “OK” anywhere!
I mean, a russian peasant using the phrase "dear"?
Bob: she was a Circassian peasant actually not Russian but “dear” is too modern?
Did the phrase "bye, sis" exist in 1888? Indeed, many times the characters speak using a much more modern language and/or phrases than I'd expect in 1888. This detracts somewhat from any realism in the novel.
Bob: in the story that it is 2 South African Boers speaking to each other.
In addition, the writing style confuses who is speaking in dialogue sections.
The word beautiful appears too frequently. Women are beautiful. The country is beautiful. One paragraph seemed to have the word in it 4 times.
Bob: sorry I couldn’t find that paragraph, maybe we can pm, I have already asked How to put me in touch with you directly. I use the word beautiful 25 times in a 96000 word novel.
Part of the book discusses a doctor & officer trying to diagnose Post traumatic stress. I'm fairly sure such a concept didn't exist in 1888.
Bob: point taken but I did check my facts first. The three words coupled together were added to the DSMIII in 1980, but they were in our language a long time before, Post (Latin) trauma (Greek) and stress (middle English). The excerpt from the book follows.
‘According to the Army Doctor, who got him admitted to Hanwell, he was diagnosed as suffering from deep melancholia, caused by a cruel act of war and excessive masturbation.’ Sinclair threw him a dirty look. Beverly laughed.
‘Yes I know it seems to be a standard Army excuse.’ Doctor Beverly was a man who never minced his words; he had no time for many of his fellow doctors and was one of the leading experts on stress caused by military conflicts.
‘It’s poppycock, Bill. He has post-traumatic stress.’
‘What does that mean? Battle fatigue?’
‘Yes, a sort of battle fatigue, I have seen it many times when young troops encounter situations that they could not even imagine in their worst nightmares.’
‘He watched a Zulu gut his best friend, like he was a pig.’


There's a latent sexism in the writing style. Female characters are closely described with respect to their appearance, not what they do or who they are. This isn't the same with male characters.
Bob: the male characters are in the entire story, whereas most of the ladies get killed off within a few pages so there doesn’t seem much point.
Too much info missing, which means the author occasionally is asking the reader to take steps that are too big.
Bob: rather vague, I’m not sure exactly where but thanks for pointing it out.
The section where the old soldier reminisces about his recently deceased wife is better written. The emotion the character is feeling is well conveyed. It was the first point in the book where I genuinely felt for one of the characters.
Bob: thank you. It’s my first novel and I discovered it is quite difficult (for me) to write about the effects of drugs, violent and sexual acts, especially when there are so many of them in the book. Whereas as an ex-soldier who had experienced the loss of a loved one, I can.
I was starting to wonder how the story was to link to the characters when it moved to being based in the east end. There was a fairly quick turn that was fairly well done to explain this.
Bob: thanks, nearly got a compliment again.
Dialogue is set in modern terms and phrases. It makes the book/story seem much less genuine.
Bob: covered already.
The story infers missing annie chapman.
Bob: Anni Chapman? Not intentionally but obviously you picked up on it because of your JtR knowledge.
The victims are generally referred to as "girls" rather than women. They're also drunk, and depicted as party girls.
Bob: yes they are all prostitutes in the story.
The punctuation/missing words continues, throughout the book - further examples happen on p582. There are also places where after speech capitals are not used, and also duplication of full stops.
Bob: Hawkeye!
Throughout the book there's a lot of description of action, or protagonists thoughts. However there is (too frequently in my view) not enough description of the settings. This fails to contextualise the drama.
Bob: sorry about that, I had a lot of story to pack into 96000 words and also I wanted to keep the pace fast and the story moving.
Towards the end is a comment about blood transfusions, which I believe started in or around the great war, not in 1888, though experiments were happening.
Bob: again, I did check my facts. First successful blood transfusion was 1840 in St Georges Hospital (London). If a soldier was bleeding out he would have received blood from others and as 75% of people have the same blood group he had the same chance of it not killing him. By the time of the great war the 3 main blood groups had been classified and transfusions were safer.
Overall, if this is a first draft, then there is some hope for it. The story isn't terrible (I've read much worse)
Bob: I think that is called a “back handed compliment”
but I was less engaged because of the poor spelling and punctuation which really affected my affinity to the story. There were a few times where this just left me being too confused.
As for the story/plot, well there are aspects of it which could, if refined, create a really decent book. I think there needs to be a lot of work on the dialogue, and probably a lot more time spent giving the context of the scenarios in the various sections of the book. More context, and a more descriptive treatment of the history/time frames and events would improve this. I also think that a more detailed history of the characters of Mikael and Jaak would have a significantly positive effect for the reader. Finally, reviewing the dialogue would be helpful.
Bob: maybe I will add another 30-40,000 words to achieve that.
Finally can I say that it was (is) more important for me to find out if the plot was any good. If no, then all the spelling and grammar being correct and pages of descriptive scenarios would be a waste of time. If yes, the plot is good then they can all be added.

Please read a free copy and send me a review with that in mind.

Thanks to How and especially Warren for taking the time to read it.
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Old September 14th, 2015, 12:07 PM   #5
Lemonjelly
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Hi Bob,

please feel free to pm me. I don't post too often though.

First off, kudos to you for writing a book. I'm sure it is a lot harder than me sitting here as a critic! If I tried, I dread to imagine the plot holes...

I'll admit I am a bit of a grammar & punctuation nazi! I apologise for that. I read the book in a series of 5 sittings, and made some rather disjointed notes as I went along.

There were elements of the review I did that related to the JtR perspective (ie the Annie Chapman note, and also my reference to the prostitutes being depicted as party girls). Part of this was because of posting the review here.

I am aware my enjoyment of books can be affected by poor grammar/punctuation/spelling etc. Glancing at my notes, there's a lot more noted at the start on this than the beginning. As the book flowed, there was much less of this later on. I'm guessing you got into the zone a lot more.

Overall, as mentioned I think there is hope for the plot. I think Jaak as a character could be made a lot more relate-able to is the reader has awareness of more of his background (whilst you detail enough of his childhood, there's too big a gap for me to when he appears again in S Africa). Mikael, the gap is allowable, as little happens - in reality, he has a relatively normal life. Jaak clearly doesn't, and him from the age of 12 onwards would have told the reader a lot more about his character, and arguably shown him much more as a creation of the upbringing.

The section where the soldier reminisces about his wife is really well done. I was at work at the time and had to pause before carrying on. Although brief, it is a really succinct and human passage of text. I really, totally and completely understood the characters thoughts at that time.

I'll also let you know that I didn't realise who Jaak was going to be for some time. So you definitely achieved your objective there! (When I did realise, I had a proper facepalm moment).

I think the only other thing I'd add, is that if you ensure the humour is dark, it will work ( a couple of bits did make me wryly chuckle). Personally - I'm not the author, so this would be your choice - I feel you could make a very interesting character study, whilst quite dark, relating to Jaak, his upbringing, the things he is exposed to, etc if you were to take the opportunity to develop the book.

I'm happy for How to pass my email address on to you Bob if needed.
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Old September 23rd, 2015, 06:37 PM   #6
Bob Bidecant
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Hi Warren,

thanks for taking the time to reply. I think I covered everything already in my post so there is no point repeating it.
As you did state, fiction is not your first choice and maybe it was a bit unfair asking you to read it.
I actually didn't know you were going to post a review on the forum, I was only expecting an email back. Everybody has a different opinion and I was hoping somebody else would have taken me up on my offer to read it for free to compare other reviews.
Below is a copy of the email I received last June from another reviewer, who only reads fiction. To be fair he was warned that is was not edited before he read it. I did not pay him and he is not family or a friend. He reviews books for a newspaper where I live.


"Hello Bob

I have finished your book now, I have to say that once I got into it, it flowed along quite nicely.
You have some fairly strong characters in it and the story itself is quite captivating. It had a death rate comparable to Game of Thrones and I found the storytelling straight forward and fast moving, the style is comparable to Jack Higgins and it is equally as good as anything he has written in the last two decades.

Some of the coincidental events had me stretching my believability meter a bit, Mikael meeting miss J on the boat trip
who's father was involved in the Count's plan's, for one and the two brothers meeting at the mission, also.
I guess you could argue that life is often stranger than fiction....

Was the idea that Jaak would become 'Jack the ripper' an early idea? Would have liked to have read Mikael doing
more to find his brother in the later half of the book.

Anyway the main thing is it's a very good achievement for a first novel and the best of luck with whatever
you decide to do next with it....


Regards Ivan

WWW.APAGANZA-ART.COM"
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