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Old January 20th, 2017, 03:08 PM   #1
Lemonjelly
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It's been a while...

I just finished (well yesterday really) David Bullocks The Man Who Would Be Jack.

I knew/know very little about Cutbush, other than the sun reports prompted the Macnaughton memoranda.
The book is fairly brief, and jumps between the journalists investigating the story following a tip off from Inspector Race, & a number of whitechapel murders. Bullock includes Mackenzie and Coles, but excludes Tabram.

The book is quite easily readable, and is actually full of stimulating interesting possibles. It is written quite like a novel, but ultimately this is also a significant downfall. It mentions repeatedly interesting potential facts about the case, makes references to and names possible witnesses (though also skates over others). Sadly it takes Packer very seriously (which in my view always undermines a book).

2 things really stood out for me. With the wealth of possibly juicy titbits in this book, it is totally unsourced. There are no references, no notes, no sources are listed, and not even a bibliography. Bullock even lists a few authors who's books he has referred to in the writing of this, but doesn't even name the books! Fail.
Worse, and more undermining, is that he appears to forget he is not writing a novel, telling the reader of characters inner-thoughts, intentions, dreams, ambitions and the like. None of this is information that he has access to or can be verified. And this therefore turns the book into a modern day McCormick, and as such I couldn't take it too seriously.

A shame, as there are lots of sections here which made me think "I didn't know that...", but no notes/sources (and his references to his personal files) would make the fact checking onerous to the casual reader.

Very briefly, I have also recently red Written & Red by Robin Odell. As a series of his lectures, it is inevitable (as mentioned in his foreword) that elements of repetition happen. I can accept this, however in the 2007 lectures one page is virtually replicated. However, elements of his sochet theory sank in. I don't know if this was owing to the repetition of his arguement, or not, but his logic does look relatively sound.

I also recently read Melvin Harris The Ripper File. This was (imo) Harris's worst book. It reads as an opinion piece, and no doubt Harris engaged in important work in debunking a number of ripper myths. However in this book it feels like he got a bit lazy, or fed up of repeating himself, as he rails against others holding closely to misconceptions that he alleges can't be supported, but merely progresses to say "they're wrong", states his version, and fails to back it up (occasionally referring to his previous work). It led me to not enjoy the book so much, and I ended up feeling that his True Face Of... is his only book worth reading , though the bloody truth isn't as bad as this.

Contemplating Carroty Nell next. Awaiting my 2 coin jar to need emptying, as I need to go on a book buying spree again. Waiting for Adam Woods Swanson book, amongst others...
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Old January 20th, 2017, 04:29 PM   #2
Howard Brown
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Thanks Lem....
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Old January 31st, 2017, 04:41 PM   #3
Lemonjelly
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I did go for Carroty Nell.

What a contrast to the Bullock book. John Keefe has written a hugely accessible, highly readable well researched book on Frances Coles.

This book has informed me of how little I knew of Frances Coles, and therefore was illuminating and enlightening. It reads nicely, covering a lot of information, correcting long standing errors (from as simple as Coles age) and does so in a quite unassuming straightforward way.

Keefe clearly feels Coles is a ripper victim, and makes a reasonable case. There is a quick overview of the tabram/canonical five/mckenzie crimes, neccessary, but in their brevity miss some valuable detail. Part 2 of the book focuses on the Coles murder itself, and part 3 is the case vs Sadler, with a dissection of the contentious points.

Keefe exonerates Sadler, but then only really assesses 5 suspects, and his skills would merit a wider explanation here, especially as he pretty much exonerates the 5 suspects too.

He includes a nice assessment of police sources post 1888.

I especially liked the epilogues, covering a what happened next to numerous principle characters. Interesting how this also shows how some disappeared from records. Also, the list of witnesses by day, and the Sadler statement & interview are merited inclusions.

A small word on tone. Keefe doesn't come across as condescending, or as a know it all providing the holy grail style answer to the worlds greatest mystery, as some have (especially recently).

Highly recommended. I am definitely reconsidering my perspective on the number of victims of jack as a result.
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