New ‘Ripperature’ from Guy Logan and Richard Whittington-Egan comes under the microscope.
The Ripper was, of course, a legal aid solicitor drumming up work for himself. There, I have solved it. I jest of course: the Ripper, as everyone knows, was a member of the Royal Family; or a doctor who killed himself; or a Freemason; or all of the above. The best solution I have come across is that the Ripper was Sherlock Holmes.
This is obvious as Sherlock would have the medical, criminal and scientific knowledge to perpetrate the crime and get away with it. The only minor problem with that theory is that Sherlock is a fictional character.
If I had solved it, it would put an end to Ripperology and Ripperature (books about it). Personally, I find the obsession with this subject to be curious at best and maybe even unpleasant. Some have called it pornographic given the subject matter. Clearly, however, people are interested in the story and the identity of the murderer.
The name ‘Ripper’ originated in a letter written by someone claiming to be the murderer that was quoted by the media. The letter is widely believed to have been a hoax, and may have been written by a journalist in a deliberate attempt to heighten interest in the story.
Within the crime case files the killer was known as ‘the Whitechapel Murderer’ as well as ‘Leather Apron’. Whitechapel Murdererologist and Leather Apronature do not have the same ring, do they? There are well over a hundred theories on his identity; and countless books, films and television programmes.
The mystery has got everything: revolutionaries, suspected minorities, spies, freemasons, and aliens (people who were from overseas, to be clear). There is criticism of the police, sex, social comment, and all this is set in atmospheric, foggy Victorian London. Every theory is as arguable as any other; nothing can be proved or disproved. Personally, I prefer Sherlock Holmes. His villains are (usually) gentlemen and you always get an ending (or usually).
Both these books are likely to be of interest to the Ripperologist or general reader. The True History of Jack the Ripper: The Forgotten 1905 Ripper Novel is an unusual work. It publishes a novel that first appeared in a journal at the turn of the last century. It is a recent discovery by a researcher and contains the novel and information about the writer journalist. I found the information about the writer interesting. The novel is a readable story.
Jack the Ripper: The Definitive Casebook is by a Ripper enthusiast if not expert writer on the subject. It reviews the various theories and literature that have arisen over the years.
I suppose everything is of its age. The Ripper panic reflected the social conditions of the time, including the popular fears and scapegoats that every society has. What is surprising is that this tale has lasted so long. Looking at the books and the illustrations, I am surprised no one solved it, because all police wear bowler hats and the Ripper always has a cloak and a beard. Easy – just arrest dark bearded men wearing a cape.
The True History of Jack the Ripper: The Forgotten 1905 Ripper Novel, Guy Logan
£16.99, Amberley Publishing
Jack the Ripper: The Definitive Casebook, Richard Whittington-Egan
£25, Amberley Publishing
David Pickup is a senior partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott