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Unmasking Jack the Ripper
"Perhaps the best Jack the Ripper documentary produced in recent years." North American and European DVD formats both available.
Buy now!

 A Ripperologist Article 
This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 32, December 2000. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.
Jack the Ripper
Michael Caine, Lewis Collins, Jayne Seymour, Ray Mcanally.
DVD, Region 2 (Europe, Middle East and Japan)
Studio: Digital Entertainment Ltd
DVD Release Date: 23 October, 2000
Run Time: 183 minutes
Colour
DVD £14.99; VHS £12.99

Hit by controversy, this made for TV two-part movie, was initially to star Barry Foster, best remembered as Peter Van Der Valk in the 1972-3 TV series Van Der Valk. With the investment of American money, the budget went up to afford Michael Caine.

Then the director and co-writer, David Wickes, who had earlier worked on the BBC television series in which TV detective Charlie Barlow and John Watt pursued the Ripper, or somebody in his press office, claimed that the conclusion was based on hitherto undiscovered Home Office files. After a campaign spearheaded by author Melvin Harris and several newspaper articles, this claim was withdrawn.

Just as well, because although several endings were filmed (apparently to stop a member of the cast blurting it out ahead of time), the one chosen was far from new or original.

Michael Caine played Inspector Abberline and the underrated Lewis Collins an excellent George Godley who pursue the Ripper and challenge their masters as they uncover the old Masonic conspiracy story.

Perhaps because the story line is now old hat and was even disappointing when the movie was shown in 1988, Jack the Ripper hasn't enjoyed the degree of attention it actually deserves.

The sets are excellent, the acting is generally good (Michael Caine's over the top performance at the end excepted), and overall the storyline provides tension and drama and moves at a fair pace.

Inspector Abberline's descendants were upset by Michael Caine's portrayal of Abberline as a drunk, but, excepting the aforementioned over the topness at the end, it seemed a fair portrayal and won Caine the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture.

This movie hasn't been available on video for a long time and has fetched surprisingly high bids on Internet auction sites like e-bay. Every collector will want this and, allowing for all the usual reservations, it is recommended for a cold, winter night.


Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper
A musical by Frogg Moody & David Taylor
Wimbledon Studio Theatre
October 30th - November 4th, 2000
Reviewed by Caroline Morris

I didn't know what to expect and imagined all sorts of things, but from the thoughtfully red-ribboned programme and the first 'Moody' strains of the overture, through to the cast's justifiably proud final bow, banished all thoughts of poor taste.

This story of Whitechapel during the Autumn of Terror, which received its London premier at Wimbledon (it was staged in new Jersey earlier in the year), is told in a series of songs of varying styles and moves seamlessly with the help of Graham Paramor's slickly-delivered Cockney narration from the prophetic Gilbert & Sullivan's, "A policeman's lot is not a happy one" (from The Pirates of Penzance, first performed in 1879 and enjoying a re-run between March and June, 1888), through a host of original and memorable rock opera numbers by Frogg and company, to Mary Kelly's reported swan-song, 'A Violet From Mother's Grave', sung beautifully and hauntingly, with an authentic Irish flavour, by Sue Paramor.

I closed my eyes and imagined the neighbours in Millers Court cursing Mary's drunken singing at all hours, then cursing themselves even more on that fateful morning when it dawned on them that Mary would sing no more.

Each song is a story in its own right, some acted out with a healthy touch of comic irony, such as 'Regular Farce' and 'The Star', while others are deeply moving and unbearably sad, such as 'Souls In Pain' and 'Itchy Park'. But all are well written, informative and with its own special message, expressed clearly, simply and without preaching.

'Mob Rule', with vocals by Alan Marsh, playing John Pizer, thought to be the one known as 'Leather Apron', highlights the dreadful plight of the Ripper's other victim - the innocent man, wrongly suspected - who would sooner be held in police custody, than risk being lynched by a crowd misled by the prejudices and excesses of the press and hell-bent on their own brand of justice.

'Bridge of Hope', a rousing Salvation Army number, is particularly meaningful and not without a message for today; the wretched inhabitants of the Abyss being charged to "Open your eyes and see the light", when they are crying out for bread to fill their empty bellies, not hope to fill their hopeless souls. The awful irony of the totally misdirected message was exploited to wonderful comic effect on the night by the inimitable Andy Aliffe, appearing wearing blacked-out glasses and carrying a white stick - an apparently impromptu final costume change, which I believe even left Frogg Moody in the dark!

The cast worked together like a dream, the choreography was excellent and he costumes were stunning. The performance looked effortless and the whole thing worked brilliantly.


The Whitechapel Mystery: The Story of a Nameless Terror
Week End Novels
Allied Newspapers, 1931, 84pp.
Available from Dave Froggatt,
Flat 1, 26 Moat Lane, Birmingham B26 1TJ. £10 Reviewed by Adam Wood

The Whitechapel Mystery was published in weekly episodes dating from 1 November 1930 to 10 January 1931. This release is the full collection in one A4-size booklet, along with a range of Ripper/True Crime related adverts at the back.

Right from the beginning it's clear that this is a fictional account of the murders, with the introduction of Nancy Foster as the main character. Nancy hails from Birmingham, and sets out on a mission to save sister Mary after their mother has a vision of her murder at the hands of Jack the Ripper.

Where does Mary live? Dorset Street, Whitechapel. Who does she turn out to be? You guessed it... Mary Kelly, victim of Jack the Ripper.

Nancy leaves her fiancé Jim Tanner in Birmingham to travel alone to the East End, arriving close to midnight - just in time to have her purse stolen by her unknowing sister. Penniless, she is taken under the wing of Martha Turner who hands over her last fourpence so Nancy can get a bed for the night. "See what a jolly bonnet I have" says Martha as she goes off in search of her own doss money... in the morning she is found dead.

Nancy then ventures into Millers Court, where she chances upon Mary. Recognising her only as a thief, she breaks down and tells the East Ender her mission...

And this is the storyline that runs throughout The Whitechapel Mystery.

Nancy moves in with Mary, who decides that it's too dangerous for Nancy to stay in Whitechapel with the murders going on, but Nancy being too stubborn to take heed. Even the arrival of Jim Tanner is not enough to persuade her to leave, as one by one the victims are culled. In each case, Nancy has made personal contact with them immediately before they're slain. It's as if she's given them a black spot!

With the Nancy/Jim/Mary emotional situation, and the 1930s flowery writing, it's a bit like a Mills & Boon romance: "the very soul of her was in the kiss she gave her lover, and there, with the thrill of his straining arms around her, found new strength for the task that was before her". But there's a hint of Donald Rumbelow in there too: "incredible and awful was his handiwork this time, worse than ever before".

The sequence of events is reasonably accurate, and it is interesting to note that no mention is made of prostitution: the victims are all beggars or thieves. Mary comes home one day with three gold sovereigns - which she'd 'stolen' from a gentleman in Commercial Street!

For all that, The Whitechapel Mystery is a fun read and worthy of a place on any collector's shelf. Take the phone off the hook and snuggle down - and don't forget the tissues!


The Whitechapel Mystery
A Psychological Problem

by
Dr N T Oliver
Globe Detective Series, Eagle Publishing, Chicago, 1889, 225pp.
Available from Dave Froggatt,
Flat 1, 26 Moat Lane, Birmingham B26 1TJ. £15
Reviewed by Adam Wood

"When I am dead you can open the packet and read what is written therein. It will startle you; will cause you surprise and doubt; but remember, it is true. I am a dying man, doctor. I have not quite an hour to live. I have been spared to give to the world the strange history contained in that parcel you hold in your hand; but I finished it this morning, and now I must die."

No, not a conversation between Mike Barrett and Tony Deveraux. This has nothing to do with the controversial Maybrick 'diary'. It's an extract from the scene-setting introduction to The Whitechapel Mystery: A Psychological Problem.

The first thing that strikes you about this facsimile from Dave Froggatt is the handsomeness of the volume. Tape-bound, with a printed card cover, this thick A5 book is part of the Globe Detective Series from the 1880s which featured such titles as The Detective's Crime, Mysteries of Chicago and Escape from Sing Sing.

The Whitechapel Mystery turns out to be a fictional account featuring New York private detective John Dewey. On investigating a bank robbery, the trail leads him to a Dr Westinghouse, who is what we call today a hypnotist. The story moves from New York to Liverpool, then down to Whitechapel, as Dewey first tracks Westinghouse (who by now has started the Whitechapel Murders), then falls under his command to such a degree that he becomes involved in the crimes too. Having killed Mary Kelly, Westinghouse relinquishes control of Dewey but warns him that he has a matter of two months to live. Thus Dewey commits the story to paper in the form of a diary.

For a fictional account written so close to 1888, The Whitechapel Mystery is highly creative while staying remarkably close to the facts. There is a suggestion for the origination of the Dear Boss letter, and mention of the murder in Gateshead.

The last third of the book, where the story moves to Whitechapel, is very neat, and while dealing with mind control is nevertheless an intriguing fictional solution to some of the puzzling aspects of the case. The earlier two-thirds deal more with mesmerism and the New York detective on the trail of a mysterious bank robber, and in places makes heavy going. Persevere though, for the whole thing is a thought-provoking and enjoyable read.


The Cases That Haunt Us
From Jack the Ripper to JonBenet Ramsey, the FBI's
Legendary Mindhunter Sheds Light on the Mysteries That Won't Go Away

By
John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
New York: Scribner, November 2000
H/back; 320pp; ISBN: 0684846004
$25.00
Reviewed by Martin Fido

John Douglas, former head of the FBI's Psychological Behavioural Unit and his co-author and researcher Mark Olshaker have produced a book that comes as a breath of fresh air on all the cases it touches.

The first chapter is about Jack the Ripper. Other chapters feature Lizzie Borden (anybody familiar with the Lizzie Borden case will be delighted with the proper commendation given to the deductive argumentative part of Arnold Brown's study), the Lindbergh kidnapping, Zodiac, JonBenet Ramsey, and a chapter summarizing the Black Dahlia and the Boston Strangler. All are marked by a broad sweeping overview, sound common sense, detailed research and almost unparalleled expertise.

In view of the gracious acknowledgement given me, I hasten to point out that the authors wrote their Ripper chapter before they approached and met me and I contributed nothing whatsoever to their arguments relating to my work except to urge the excision (which they made) of a couple of sentences strengthening the case for Kaminsky's consideration which happened to be completely untrue.

Otherwise, the only change they have made in passages about me or my work is an unfortunate editorial 'tidying up' which makes their final draft suggest (as the draft I saw didn't) that I unprofessionally went looking for somebody else after finding Kosminsky and seeing that he wouldn't work.

My real pleasure in the Ripper chapter rests on John Douglas's revelation that when the Peter Ustinov-chaired Ripper programme was made, he (and presumably all the other panellists except Bill Eckert, who helped set it up) knew nothing and was told nothing about David Cohen. Having now read my arguments, and compared them with later ideas like Tumblety and Maybrick, he now switches from saying the Ripper was 'Kosminski, or some one very like him', to saying, 'David Cohen, or some one very like him'.

Bill Eckert, too, preferred Cohen to Kosminsky, and both to any other candidate.

The importance of this American endorsement is that it comes from people with proven expertise in the field of criminology who are completely unbiased, unprejudiced and disinterested. Neither Douglas nor Eckert nor Olshaker had any earlier position to defend, nor any intention of writing a book to 'solve' the Ripper case or establish themselves as Ripper experts. They represent a completely dispassionate outside survey of the field, measured in the light of their own particular expertise. Their endorsement firmly replaces Kosminsky with the Cohen theory as the front-rank contender for consideration.

John Douglas's broad-brush approach doesn't overlook detail (and Ripper experts will note one or two slips that I missed in reading the chapter for John and Mark), but it doesn't base a whole case on pernickety quibbles or tangled webs of deduction.

Those who dismiss all 'psychological profilers' as some sort of charlatan should note the extent to which Douglas is a traditional criminal investigator whose 'psychology' is largely a matter of schematically noting data heard and checked from his many interviews with serial killers and rapists and slotting it into an appropriate position in the general picture. 'And they should keep in mind that, like his colleague Roy Hazelwood,Douglas has always been quick to admit that profiling can be wrong and is usually most helpful in eliminating the innocent and prioritizing useful lines of enquiry.' Even in the Unabomber case, where he is justifiably proud of his profiling and recommendations, he doesn't hesitate to say that without Tadczinsky's brother recognising Theodore's style when his manifesto was published in the Washington Post he might never have been captured.

So, a book I recommend, with admitted pride in its recommendation of my work.


The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Unsolved Mysteries
By Colin Wilson and Damon Wilson
London: Robinson: November 2000
662pp
ISBN: 1-84119-172-8
£7.99

Among the sixty-three chapters giving brief accounts of some of the world's most intriguing unsolved mysteries is a chapter about Jack the Ripper. However, it, like most of the book, gives you the feeling that you've been transported back to the 1970s, for that's where most of the chapters seem stuck.

Most of the most celebrated disappearances in the so-called Bermuda Triangle, among them Flight 19, were plausibly explained over twenty years ago by, among others, Lawrence David Kusche in his book The Bermuda Triangle Mystery - Solved. In The Mammoth Encyclopedia, however, all the stories are trotted out as if the explanations just don't exist.

The chapter about Jack the Ripper differs marginally if at all from what Colin Wilson has written before, right down to "G.W.B." being the most plausible suspect. Little account has been taken of 'recent' research - as much as ten years ago it was established that carter Cross, who discovered the body of Mary Ann Nichols, was named Charles and not George, as the authors state here. And in an account that is supposed to have been brought up-to-date, Maybrick is still mentioned as postscript and there is no mention of Tumblety or anything really post 1992.

When revising material for a compilation of this size and subject breadth it is impossible to come up to speed on every story, but this said, it is difficult to find justification for publishing old and out of date material such as this.


East End Gangland
By James Morton
London: Little, Brown, October 2000
400pp, 8ppb/w photos, ISBN: 0316 85324 0

The East End is synonymous with organised crime and an overview of East End criminal activity has been long overdue. Originally James Morton intended to restrict the book to the 20th century, but chose to expand it to embrace the influx of immigrant Jews from the 1860s. This was necessary because without explanation there would be little understanding of the rise of Jewish gangsters in the area.

However, it would have been valuable if Mr. Morton had extended his range back even further to encompass the gangs that operated in the area during the early part of the 19th and previous centuries, such as the infamous and sometime East End-based Dick Turpin, who as Martin Fido observed in his book The Krays: Unfinished Business, was 'the leader of a gang of brutal housebreakers on the outskirts of London.'

The 19th century gets scant mention. Jack the Ripper is fleetingly touched on, unsurprisingly as he wasn't a gang. He does mention Emma Smith as a possible victim of the Green Gate Gang or Old Nichol Gang who operated as ponces and street robbers.

I'd dearly have loved to know more about The Blind Beggar mob, who hailed from the Blind Beggar pub on Whitchapel Road, the Bessarabians, Odessians, 'Darky the Coon' (whose real name was Isaac Bogard) who engaged in open gang warfare with the repellently violent Arthur Harding (as one local described the East End, 'whilst he was doing 20 months it was paradise'). All are mentioned, as are the expropriators, the gangs linked with Leon Beron and Stinie Morrison, and the early 'drug baron', the odious Brilliant Chang.

James Morton really finds his feet with the war years and afterwards when the East End was 'run' by the likes of Jack Spot, Billy Hill, and the Krays, on which the author is also able to comment on the first hand memories of Frankie Frazer, who's autobiographical books James Morton has authored.

Overall this book provided an excellent meal, but like every good meal it left me wanting more.


The East End of London
By
Jane Cox
London: Seven Dials (Cassell & Co), 2000
P/back, 192pp, illus. throughout, index
ISBN 1-84188-101-5
£9.99

The East End of London was a dismal, dirty, vermin-ridden place of starvation, poverty and unremitting hardship. A breeding place of crime and disease and as soon as people could, they got out. More than any other area of London, maybe more than any place in Britain, it is a place recalled with great warmth and fondness. Odd. But perhaps not. The East End had what I suppose is called 'community', something that we are losing, maybe have lost, but which emerges at times like the recent flooding in parts of Britain when people united by misery pull together towards a common goal. When the hardship has passed, people remember the glow of the shared hardship and the camaraderie in adversity. But times change, people move on, landmarks disappear. 'Things haven't really been the same since bus conductors went…'

Jane Cox's book is a delight. First published in 1994 and now reissued, each chapter looks at the individual areas of the East End (not unreasonably defined by the author as a three-square-mile triangle bounded by the River Lea on the east and the City of London on the west, and area roughly corresponding with the old manor of Stepney). Additionally, there are chapters about the pre-Roman East End, the Middle Ages, the East End as a place of immigration, the slums, and the East End remembered (was it really friendlier than it is now?).

Jane Cox provides a highly entertaining and informative text full of forgotten nuggets of information - Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was first performed in Shoreditch, near to Spitalfields; Jamrachs on The Highway was a supplier of exotic animals and did business there well into living memory (eighty years ago you could have bought a lion there for £60). The illustrations are well-chosen, many are a delight, most are of historical worth and value.

Overall this is a tenner well-spent.


The East End Years: A Stepney Childhood
by
Fermin Rocker
London: The Freedom Press, 1998
P/back, 192pp, illus.,
ISBN: 0 900384 92 1
£7.95
Freedom Press, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX

This book somehow escaped the attention of Ripperologist when it was published a few years ago, but it is a slim volume that anyone interested in the history of the Jewish East End should make a point of adding to their collection.

Fermin Rocker, a commercial artist and illustrator who concentrated on etchings, lithographs and latterly on paintings, was the son of Libertarian and Anarchist Rudolf Rocker, one of the truly great figures in the history of the East End Jewish radical movement.

Born in Mainz in March 1873, Rudolf Rocker is described by Professor Fishman in his East End Jewish Radicals as "a reluctant sojourner in London' explored the East End on Saturday afternoons with fellow German émigré Otto Schreiber and left some haunting descriptions."

Becoming increasingly involved in East End Jewish radical movement, Rocker moved into the East End. He took over the editorship of the Yiddish language radical periodical Arbeter Fraint (Worker's Friend), whose editorial offices had been at the rear of the Berner Street Club where Ripper victim Elizabeth Stride was murdered.

Rocker gave great public meetings in front of the Board School and Schneider's factory in Bucks Row (sometimes attracting an audience of 1000 or more), gave talks in the Sugar Loaf pub in Hanbury Street, a regular meeting place of radicals and anarchists, and was at the forefront of the famed Jubilee Street Club, the successor to the Berner Street Club (Arbeter Fraint, which Rocker edited) was published in an adjacent building.

Rocker made the Club open to all, which was a curse as well as a benefit because it attracted young Russian anarchists and terrorists, Ochrana agents and constant C.I.D. surveillance. Lenin and Peter the Painter, among others, visited it.

In 1905 Rocker was accused of being a German government spy and was called to answer the charge at a meeting of London-based anarchists in a large back room of a pub at the corner of Old Montague Street and Osborne Street - now called The Archers. The meeting ended in uproar but Rocker's innocence was established.

The Houndsditch Murders and the Siege of Sidney Street almost brought about the end of the Jubilee Street Club, the press opening their guns full-blast on political refugees. The Club survived. Indeed, it enjoyed almost unprecedented popularity, but the bubble burst with the declaration of War in August 1914 and Rocker's four-year internment that began in December. In 1915 the police closed the Arbeter Fraint office and press and the Jubilee Club ceased to exist.

Repatriated to Germany via Holland in 1918, Rocker wrote and opposed Nazi anti-Semitism until escaping with his life in 1933 to the United States.

Fermin Rocker was born in the East End in 1907 and his slim volume recalls the turbulent years of his childhood, a time when many of the key events in his father's life were happening. His story recalls those eventful years, but also provides a quiet and gentle insight into the reality of East End life.

Clearly and simply written and illustrated with Fermin Rocker's own line-drawings, it tells the story of a warm and close family, of local characters, and of the predominantly Jewish political movement at the centre of which stood his father. This combination adds a depth that is not usually found in political writings of this sort. There is much here of interest to those interested in East End history, particularly of the period before the outbreak of War.


The Price of a Cigar
by
Peter Wood and Steve Rogers
London: Anchor Books, 1996; reprinted August 2000
P/back, 227pp,
ISBN 0 9528167-0-9
£9.95
Anchor Books, Anchor House, 54 Whiteadder Way, London E14 9UR

In the history of British tradesunionism the docker's strike of 1889 is probably the most important and certainly the most significant event. The plight of the casual dock labourers is well-recorded - the gathering in the early morning of perhaps a thousand men outside the dock gates, each desperate for one of the hundred or so jobs available that day. It was a dreadful and dehumanising experience and one, which in itself perhaps conveys the treatment of workers within the dock gates.

In 1889, encouraged by the Bryant and May matchgirls strike of 1888, the dockers struck, demanding four hours continuous work at a time and a minimum rate of sixpence an hour - the price of a cigar.

The employers were confident that they would drive the men back to work, but support for the workers came from all directions and after five weeks the employers were forced to capitulate. The dockers formed the General Labourers' Union and 20,000 men joined the new union in London and over the next few years an increasing number of trades unions were born, membership reaching 2,000,000 by the end of the decade.

The Price of A Cigar is a novel based on a stage play briefly performed in London during 1994. It tells the story of twenty men who began the dock strike and through the eyes of a visiting American journalist it explores the background to the conflict and the arguments and divisions within it. In this way it manages to examine the history of the event, yet at the same time reveal the human side of the personal lives and sacrifices of those involved in it.

This is a moving story set in the East End of Jack's day and perhaps giving a different perspective to the one we are used to. It is a highly readable book, well-written, at times moving and at times enough to make you angry that such things were and are allowed to happen.


Queen Victoria: A Personal History
By
Christopher Hibbert
London: HarperCollins 2000
H/back, 557pp, references, sources and index; illus.
ISBN 0-00-255826-2
£25.00

Several huge biographies of Queen Victoria have already been published, notably those by Elizabeth Longford and Stanley Weintraub, and as complex and interesting a personality as she may have been, one approached Christopher Hibbert's new and equally huge biography wondering what there was new to say. Not that I doubted an entertaining and enjoyable read from Christopher Hibbert, a very gifted popular historian whose The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici thoroughly impressed me years ago - not that my being impressed matters a hoot of course.

As it turned out, this is a wonderful book. Not exactly one you can read at a single sitting, unless gifted with Oscar Wilde's peculiar talent of speed-reading, it is nevertheless an absorbing and gossipy book that more than any other I've read makes you feel close to the Queen.

She was pretty and vivacious when young, a lover of dancing late into the night and of childish jokes. She could laugh helplessly, cry with feeling, was sensual, emotional, sentimental, harsh, imperious, sometimes cruel, and her unexpected appearance could put the wind up you. She could terrify even the strongest heart - Count von Bismarck once emerged from an interview with her looking shaken and mopping his sweat-beaded brow. "Mein Gott! That is a woman!" He said.

The is a biography full of wonderful stories, the sort of tittle-tattle with which you could imagine the household staff regaling the locals over a glass of ale in the local - 'Oh, well, you know Albert just hates smoking, well, he went into the room of the visiting Prince of Saxony and guess what? The prince was stretched out on the floor, head by the fire, puffing on a cigar - and blowing the smoke up the chimney!"

This, in fact, is the book's great delight. This isn't Queen Victoria being corseted into an image pre-defined by the author. By reciting the surrounding detail, the sort of gossip you would pick up from the servants in a pub, Victoria manages to speak for herself and is all the more human for it.


The Freemasons
By
Jasper Ridley
London: Robinson, 2000
P/back; 340pp; notes and references; bilio; index
ISBN 1-84119-238-4
£7.99

Biographer and historian Jasper Ridley explores the origins and history of the Freemasons, tracing its development from the working masons of the Middle Ages through the formation of the Grand Lodge in 1717, to the declining interest in the movement today. It is a fascinating narrative, albeit one that in exploring the issues about the fears and suspicions about the Freemasons comes across as rather too pro for the feeling that the author is entirely unbiased.

Ridley does explore the theory that the Ripper crimes were committed by the Freemasons and suggests that Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution was the beginning of a campaign against the Freemasons launched by Stephen Knight. His grasp of Knight's thesis is correct, but he offers the traditional spelling of 'Jews' instead of the actual spelling 'Juwes' and he dismisses Knight's theory saying that Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum were not referred to as 'the Jews'. Ah! But were they ever, by anyone, referred to as the 'Juwes'? A question not answered.

Interestingly, Jasper Ridley says that the Ripper in books 'is usually identified as a man who was afterwards caught and executed for another murder which had no connection with the Ripper killings", which is questionable, and also, more interestingly, that there 'was a popular belief in the 1890s that an eccentric clergyman who held open-air revivalist prayer meetings on the beach at Margate in the summer was Jack the Ripper; but there was probably no truth at all in this story.'

Altogether, though, an entertain and informative read about an organisation that like it or not has a prominence in Ripper lore.


1886 Professional Criminals of America
by
Inspector Thomas Byrnes
Introductions by
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
and
S.J. Perelman
New York: The Lyons Press, December 2000
P/back, 432pp., b/w photographs throughout, index, ISBN 1-58574-113-2
$19.95

Irish-born Thomas Byrnes became head of the Detective Branch of the New York City Police in 1880. He is best known to Ripperologists for his critical comments about the London police and his own observations about how he would have caught the Ripper (which included, if necessary, the death of a prostitute) and concluded that had he been in charge: 'But - pshaw! What's the good of talking? The murderer would have been caught long ago!"

Byrne was also reported in connection with Francis Tumblety, who had fled London to New York, taking lodgings at 79 East Tenth Street. Byrne apparently laughed at any suggestion that Tumblety was the Ripper or connected with the crimes and said there was no charge against him for which he could be arrested in the U.S.A. However, this rejection was perhaps designed to deflect press attention.

Byrne was shrewd, brutal - it is said that he originated the 'Third Degree' and by the standards of today he repeatedly violated the constitutional rights of suspected criminals - and probably corrupt. Or maybe that should be 'possibly'. There was no direct evidence against him, but an 1895 report of an investigation of the police showed extensive police corruption and Byrne himself came under severe pressure to explain how he acquired $350,000 in securities and real estate. Nothing was ever proved against him, but it was decided that he had to go. 'I thoroughly distrust him,' wrote future president Theodore Roosevelt. Equally, master-criminal Adam Worth didn't much like Byrnes either and treated him with about the same degree of contempt he had for John Shore of Scotland Yard.

In 1886 Byrne received permission to publish an account of crime and the nation's most important habitual criminals. The book was a best-seller. Self-flattering for Byrnes, it made life distinctly uncomfortable for those it named and pictured.

It's a wonderful book. A superb and valuable account of late 19th century crime and criminals. For though American, both police and criminals will have had their counterparts in London and the book is therefore a tremendous insight into the thinking of the period.

As the genius of wit S.J. Perelman says in his introduction: 'All in all, Professional Criminals of America is a gas, a vade-mecum for the amateur historian, the detective-story writer in quest of plots, and lovers of morbosita generally. If for no other reason, they should be captivated by the aliases of the rogues in the author's gallery, a few of which I call at random:

Aleck the Milkman, Piano Charley, Brummagem Bill, English Paddy, Old Man Herring, Grand Central Pete, Funeral Wells, Hungry Joe, Marsh Market Jake, Yen Hock Harry… Paper Collar Joe, The Peoria Kid, Sheeny Sam, The Student, and Worcester Sol.'

And on top of all that, I can't recommend Arthur M. Schlesinger's informative introduction too highly either.

This book is a must have!


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