I have at times (more often than not) an evil demon in my brain, it uses its pitchfork to stab into my brain and dares me to prank, often calling me a pussy if I resist. Sometimes I give in; just the idea of friendly pranking is overwhelming. I also tend to do this as a form of justice, but more about that later. The image you see is not mine, it was Facebooked to me and good ammunition is hard to come by, so when I was in a bookshop getting the idea that someone looked bored, I asked for the book and showed the image. She was busy for at least 5 minutes before she figured out that she was being pranked.
There was no evil from me, it was not to give a person an intentional hard time (the one exception which will be mentioned soon), and there was no aftermath, it was a little harmless fun, whilst letting the victim know that they did nothing wrong and of course, the mandatory ‘I’m sorry‘ was added on my side, it was all in good fun. The exception to that rule was when I witness some manager dress down an employee too loudly in public on how their knowledge lacked. At that point my demon did not need to alert me, I looked around and whilst I appealed to his ego, I pleaded for his help to find something and of course as the so called boss he was ready to comply. It was about two minutes later when he gave the task to a worker there. He had been unable to locate the Vegan Beef Burgers in any of the freezers, I cautiously informed the worker what I had done and tears of laughter dropped to the floor, he was able to refrain from loud laughter, it was priceless.
So there I was asking for Dyslexia for dummies and as the salesperson knew me, I wasn’t going to get far. Yet that was not why I was there. There was a sale going on and I got my fingers on a really nice book for $5, sometimes one gets to be lucky. So there I was holding onto a pre-owned copy of The Leper of Saint Giles. I saw Cadfael on TV, but never read it and that is why I got at it. It was then that it dawned on me that I had lost the pleasure of reading to some extent. There was Tolkien, Deborah Harkness, Stephen Fry but those are the older books, during my law degree, I was ‘forced’ to sit down and read so much that the pleasure of relaxing and read a book had faded to some degree. Whether it was merely that or the mountains of digital information that were offered to me on an hourly basis, I cannot tell. The age of me being a bookworm had faded to some degree. There is the notion that I currently find writing more fun than reading and the 1200 articles I have written so far seem to indicate that. I think that creating articles, working on Intellectual Property concepts, as well as an idea for a TV series, and three video games; it seems that the creation bug is in me and it is taking its toll in other ways.
So why write about it?
The Guardian gave me something this morning that lighted the spark of reading and feeling that spark is a little overwhelming. It was yesterday’s story (at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/02/jack-the-ripper-victims-had-to-be-whores-anyone-saying-different-deserves-a-trolling) that links to the February article called ‘The Five by Hallie Rubenhold review – the untold lives of Jack the Ripper’s victims‘, I was always intrigued by that era (as well as the individual known as JtR from L) and any detective reader will feel the pinch when Jack the Ripper is called for. I believe that the first movie regarding it was Murder by Decree with Christopher Plummer (Sherlock Holmes), it is the Michael Caine version (Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline) with Lewis Collins (Sergeant George Godley) and Jane Seymour I liked the best. It has a whole range of top notch actors and the premise of the setting of the movie is also quite unique, as such it was an excellent mini-series to watch on DVD and this all leads me to the book.
The book gives rise to a lot of issues that the movies never got to, the fact that there is that historian Hallie Rubenhold took an actual look at the women, the five victims, she sets a stage that the police had worked on assumption on a few levels and it also gives rise as the two movies had inclined to some degree.
In murder by decree, there is a stage that one of the women gave birth to a son from Prince Albert. The mini-series gives rise that there were questions, but I never looked at it from certain sides in depth, because I never had any reliable materials to read, as such and through exposure on a multitude of ways, the five were merely prostitutes. Now we see Hallie Rubenhold digging into historical records and we are confronted with: “In three of the cases, there is no evidence to suggest that they were professional prostitutes, and convincing reasons to believe that they were not“, this is huge because it implies that not only was the entire matter a joke towards investigation, there is every chance that the police had been looking in the wrong direction and the fattening of the stories through newspapers did not help much. The fact that I am also exposed to “Ripperologists have devoted lengthy blog posts and podcasts to attacking her research and her credentials” is just unacceptable. whether it is a true work of history, or even a dramatized writing based on published fact is open to debate, but I am not willing to do that until there is credible evidence (actual evidence) that this is a mere work of fiction. I particularly like the quote: “Rubenhold’s book quotes the judge in the 2008 “Suffolk Strangler” case, who instructed the jury considering evidence against the serial killer of sex workers to put aside their “distaste” at the victims’ “lifestyles”, an extraordinary echo of the same sentiment, 120 years after the Ripper murders“, it seems that there is a correlation of ‘sex workers’ and ‘they deserve whatever they get’ and the fact that it survived the tests of time for centuries. An aspect I had never anticipated. I find one other part disturbing, the view that the writer Stephanie Merritt has when we see Ripperologists and the enigma of Jack the Ripper his enigma lends a macabre glamour, and to shift the story away from sex to the more mundane Victorian social issues of poverty, homelessness and addiction, as Rubenhold has done, is to interfere unforgivably in a narrative they feel belongs to them. I would argue that nothing of any of it belongs to them, history belongs to all, and we can do with it (to some degree) what we like. Historians tend to redress those times into a framework that we today can relate to, fictional writers add pizzazz to it and as such we now know that there were 15 commandments, not 10 (Mel Brooks), some try to adhere to futuristic endeavours like Jane Webb (1827) who would give us the original story of the Mummy and how Brendan Fraser and Arnold Vosloo modernised it well over a century and a half later. History has a great edge, what has happened has been open to interpretation for the longest time, you merely need to read the factual Treaty of Clermont (1095) and how it led to centuries of pillaging of the Middle East.
History can be read in many ways, so what is to state that Hallie Rubenhold is reading the right or wrong historical facts? First to consider is that (as the story goes) that Rubenhold has been trying to get a fix on their lives and even as most will focus on the Ripper and partially ignore the fact that there is serious doubt on the five victims in more than one way, we see one part with: “There is no evidence, Rubenhold argues, that Nichols or Chapman or Eddowes ever worked as prostitutes; the police conviction that the killer targeted women of “bad character” perverted the inquiry. The Ripper’s victims, she suggests, were targeted not because they were soliciting sex but because they were drunk and homeless and – most importantly – asleep. The killer preyed on women whom nobody cared about and who wouldn’t be missed” the stage is a setting that is true even today, the homeless will be targeted more often than anyone having a decent roof over their heads and consider that street lights were rare in 1888, the fact that people in the dark are an open invitation is a given.
The partial fact that we see with: “Nichols, daughter of a blacksmith, spent her first years in Dawes Court, where Dickens had imagined Fagin living with his pickpockets in Oliver Twist.” is a part that almost no one would know. The Charles Dickens fans optionally, yet how many of them are that as well as Ripperologists? Some of the records that are available, or used a quote giving rise to the fact that Police surgeon Dr Frederick Gordon Brown and Police physician Thomas Bond have been in disagreement regarding Catherine Eddowes and there is another part that struck me when I was reading some of the accounts. The fact that I read: “instead of turning right to take the shortest route to her home in Flower and Dean Street, she turned left towards Aldgate“. My issue is not with the route, but more about the reasoning that the police might have had. What was the difference in illumination? A woman would shy from dark alleys and short cuts, especially in those days. A 10 minute longer walk where there are lights would be a common sense reason and this is merely speculation because the streetlights in those days were rare and in poor area’s unlikely to be there or working. In addition, as we look at the autopsy, we see that Thomas Bonds version is supported by both Local surgeon Dr George William Sequeira and City medical officer William Sedgwick Saunders, and what else has been ignored? What more do we not know and that is where the book comes in, because is all versions I have seen the women were downplayed and trivialised as prostitutes. The version of them being down on their luck and more important pushed into a life of self-medicating alcoholics have always been portrayed as the element linked to prostitutes.
Hallie Rubenhold gives us in ‘The Five’ a different stage, when did anyone realise that this was a much larger case riddles with issues linked to preconception and ego? When we see: ‘they came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales‘, one was Scandinavian? London was filled with immigrants, which was no secret, but I never knew that not all these five were English; it opens another stage in all this. I am not claiming that the version of Hallie Rubenhold is the perfect or most correct one, but unlike other works, the victims are the full focal point and that needs to be placed first and that is where we are, a book that suddenly made me curious and gave me the spark and is driving me to read (that book), I have not had that feeling for quite some time and as such this work might be a lot more interesting than anyone is willing to admit to.
When was the last time that a book or a topic made you want to read something from a writer you never read before?
This gives an optionally needed call towards a ‘new’ version of Dyslexia for dummies, not because the person cannot read, but because writers relying on history are attacked without proper scientific or evidentiary support, giving a dangerous setting where the reader was in danger of not seeing this book at all. So perhaps we need a book (Dyslexia for dummies) starting with the premise that the world is flat and the centre of this solar system, and whilst the Hallie Rubenhold trolls focus on these amazing facts, the rest of us can relax and take a good look at the plight that 5 women went through, up to the moment they were confronted with a man who would later be known as Jack the Ripper.