By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey, Thomas Payne and Jack Steel)
You’ll be relieved to hear that this week I’m not going to be banging on about the parlous state of publishing and the uncertainties for the future of the industry of which I am a very small part. You might be less relieved to learn that I’m going to spend my time telling you about my latest book.
The Ripper Secret is my second book for Simon & Schuster and is, like the previous novel The Titanic Secret, set around a series of real-world events, in this case the brutal killings perpetrated in the Whitechapel area of London at the end of the nineteenth century by an unknown murderer who acquired the hideously appropriate nickname ‘Jack the Ripper’. What I’ve always found interesting about this particular serial killer – he almost certainly wasn’t the first man who met this definition by embarking on a killing spree over a period of time, but he’s definitely the most famous – is that even today, almost a century and a half after the events which cast a cloak of terror over the East End of London, his actions still throw a shadow over the city.
People still travel to Whitechapel and the surrounding areas, looking for the streets where the Ripper walked in search of his victims, and organized tours of the murder sites – or rather what remain of the geographical locations because development in this part of London has hidden almost all of the sites under new roads and buildings – are still a popular tourist attraction.
And not only that, but almost every year a new non-fiction book is published which positively identifies yet another new subject as Jack the Ripper. The one characteristic most of these books seem to share is that the author has a very clear idea of exactly who the Ripper was, and then spends almost the entire book cherry-picking those pieces of evidence which support this contention, ignoring those which flatly contradict it and, in some cases, invent ‘facts’ from dubious sources to reinforce his or her argument. Very few books even attempt to carry out a proper and unbiased investigation of the Ripper killings and then come to a reasonable conclusion about the identity of the perpetrator.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, my novel does neither, precisely because it is a novel. I am not attempting in this book to provide compelling evidence that my chosen subject was Jack the Ripper, although suggestions have been made in the past that he could have been. Nor am I trying to be selective in choosing which facts will be a part the story. Instead, I’ve tried to weave a believable plot around the Ripper killings, while sticking as rigidly as possible to the historical reality of that dark time in east London.
While I was researching the historical background of this book, a number of questions occurred to me, questions which very few people writing on the subject have ever attempted to answer. Most books have attempted simply to identify the murderer and little else.
In particular, few people ever seemed to have considered the following:
· Why did the killings start?
· Why did the mutilations get progressively more brutal with each succeeding murder?
· Why did the killings stop?
· And what possible motive was driving the murderer?
I don’t pretend that my novel actually identifies the real Jack the Ripper, but what it does do is provide logical and believable answers to those questions.
As to the actual identity of this most notorious of all serial killers, I’ll leave you to make up your own mind about that.
The Ripper Secret will be published by Simon & Schuster in the United Kingdom on 11 October 2012.
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