Fiction

From Hell by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell (1999)

A completely fascinating and absorbing graphic novel, inspired by the Stephen Knight book The Final Solution.  So while the Royal conspiracy angle is complete fiction, there is still a tremendous amount of accuracy and authenticity within these pages.  Neither the author nor the artist (who does a particularly great job with the illustrations) shies away from the sex or violence, and reading this book you get a real feel for London’s East End in the late 1880s.  A superb work of art – and the chapter concerning Mary Kelly’s murder is one of the most shocking and powerful things I’ve ever read/seen.

****1/2 (out of 5)

∫J

Jack the Ripper (aka Red Jack) edited by Martin Greenberg et al (1988)

I was disappointed by most of the stories in this collection. Aside from the classic Robert Bloch tale ‘Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper’; the lengthy but entertaining ‘A Study in Terror’ by Ellery Queen; and the nicely atmospheric, albeit occasionally arch, ‘Sagittarius’ by Ray Russell, the rest I found either trite, clichéd, or not all that interesting.

**½ (out of 5)

∫J

Jack the Ripper edited by Susan Casper and Gardner Dozois (1988)

A solid collection of Ripper tales. I personally preferred this anthology to the other centennial publication of the same name. Some of my favourites included: ‘Spring-Fingered Jack’ by Susan Casper; ‘Dead Air’ by Gregory Nicoll; ‘Knucklebones’ by Tim Sullivan; and ‘Gentlemen of the Shade’ by Harry Turtledove.

***½ (out of 5)

∫J

The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes (1913)

Classic psychological suspense novel that, for me, fell short of its classic status. It had some nice atmosphere, and there were passages that worked well, but overall I found the writing overdone and the whole story had a stagey feel to it.

*** (out of 5)

∫J

Night of the Ripper by Robert Bloch (1984)

Sub-par Bloch novel that has Abberline investigating the Ripper murders. Includes a few notable Ripper suspects in its illustrious cast, such as Gull, Prince Albert, and Pedachenko, as well as cameos by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Elephant Man. I found both the story and characters thin, and the writing lacking in style and atmosphere (unusual for a Bloch tale).

** (out of 5)

∫J

Of Thimble and Threat by Alan M. Clark (2011)

In telling the story of the life of Catherine Eddowes, Clark has written one of the most original and effective novels of Ripper lore in quite some time. The fascinating story revolves around the list of items and clothing that was found on Kate when she was murdered; starting as a thirteen-year-old, and ending with her sad and violent death at the hands of the Ripper at age forty-six, we learn the provenance of each of these times. Clark weaves a partly fictional tale of Kate’s life within this concept, but it’s clear he has done a great lot of research, and as a result both Catherine Eddowes’s past and Victorian-era London in general come to life in vivid detail. Of Thimble and Threat reminds us that for all the mystery surrounding the Ripper’s identity, for all the violence and myth, the women who died at the hands of the Whitechapel Murderer were human beings. And that should never be forgotten. This novel is highly recommended.

****½ (out of 5)

∫J

Savage by Richard Laymon (1993)

My favourite author writing about one of my favourite subjects – Jack the Ripper. This highly original tale follows its characters from foggy 1880s London to the sun-baked American West and uses a remarkable marriage of English dialect and American slang to create the novel’s unique voice. Full of wonderful characters and breathtaking scenery. Quite simply, a masterwork by the great writer.

***** (out of 5)

∫J

Say Anything But Your Prayers by Alan M. Clark (2014)

In the second of Clark’s series of historical novels concerning the lives of the five canonical Ripper victims (the first being the excellent Of Thimble and Threat), Clark turns his attention to Elizabeth Stride. It’s a moving account of an unfortunate life, as we follow Stride from her family farm in Sweden, to the choking poverty of London’s East End. For all the grimness and stinking realities Stride faces in her life, Clark imbues her character with a delicate amount of hope and innocence, which makes reading about her struggles and heartaches – and ultimately her death – all the more affecting. Clark has written another strong novel, full of wonderful period detail, creating a rich tapestry of love, pain, sex and death in the latter half of the nineteenth century .

**** (out of 5)

∫J

Time after Time by Karl Alexander (1979)

This is a highly entertaining novel, which pits H.G. Wells against Jack the Ripper in modern-day San Fran. Time after Time may not be great literature, but it’s still full of wry observations, splashes of humour, and dabs of sex and violence. A delightfully enjoyable page-turner.

**** (out of 5)

∫J

A Treasury of Victorian Murder: Jack the Ripper, by Rick Geary (1995)

This slim graphic novel uses the concept of a fictional journal, written at the time of the crimes by an unknown British gentleman, to recount the story of the Ripper murders. The woodcut style illustrations are wonderful, and the book is well-researched. However, this graphic novel falls in a strange netherworld that, for me, means it just misses the mark of being a truly great read: it’s too short and devoid of a real story for it to be a compelling piece of fiction, and yet it’s not detailed enough to be classed as an excellent bit of non-fiction. It’s almost like a CliffsNotes for the Jack the Ripper case. Still, a worthwhile read, mostly due to the excellent illustrations.

***½ (out of 5)

∫J

Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper by Robert Bloch (2011)

This special edition hardcover from Subterranean Press collects a whole slew of Robert Bloch’s Ripper-related writing – both fiction and non-fiction. On the fiction front, you get three excellent short stories (the famous ‘Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper’; the futuristic ‘A Toy for Juliette’; and the mysterious ‘A Most Unusual Murder’), the Star Trek script Bloch wrote called ‘Wolf in the Fold’; and the disappointing novel, The Night of the Ripper. On the non-fiction side, you have two essays and an introduction by writer Norman Partridge. Along with a lovely production by Subterranean, this is a worthwhile book to own, regardless of whether you’re a Bloch fan or a Ripperologist.

**** (out of 5)

Published on September 12, 2010 at 11:51 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a great review for OF THIMBLE AND THREAT. Thank you!

    • It’s a great novel. Thanks for writing it!

      Best,
      Brett.


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