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Unobtainium and Dragons' Bones
Jack the Ripper reading list question 
21st-Apr-2011 05:03 pm
ws: hamlet
If a person has read Donald Rumbelow's book on Jack the Ripper (variously published as The Complete Jack the Ripper and Jack the Ripper: The Complete Casebook), are there any other nonfiction Jack the Ripper books that one ought to read? I.e., has anything substantially new been said since Rumbelow? (And should I bother with anything pre-Rumbelow?)

Please note, I'm not asking what books about Jack the Ripper have been published since 1975; I can find that out for myself. I'm asking for recommendations about which, if any of them, to read.
21st-Apr-2011 10:26 pm (UTC)
I read the Patricia Cornwell treatment. I thought it was good, but some people had issues with her scholarship.
21st-Apr-2011 10:31 pm (UTC)
I read that too. I will have to look up Rumbelow.
21st-Apr-2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
22nd-Apr-2011 11:37 am (UTC)
What scholarship? Historians don't know whether to laugh or cry over her 'research' methodology, which appears to have been 'pick a likely culprit and then find evidence that [supposedly] proves his guilt' - a practice which in the average crime novel is usually applied by official forces anxious to clear up a case and eventually revealed to be in major error by the protag.
21st-Apr-2011 11:23 pm (UTC)
Alan Moore had a fantastic list of his favorite Jack the Ripper books in the final issue of From Hell, but I don't have access to it at the moment.
22nd-Apr-2011 06:51 am (UTC)
I think I've mentioned this before, but "The Dance of the Gull-Catchers" is printed at the back of my copy of From Hell, and it's Moore writing a comic about the history of Ripperology and his own process of research. Not helpful re: this specific question, probably, but well worth reading in its own right, if you haven't already. ("You" being both michaeldthomas, who probably has, and truepenny, who may or may not have.)
22nd-Apr-2011 02:13 pm (UTC)
Yes, I have. :-)
22nd-Apr-2011 04:18 pm (UTC)
Yes. I need to bite the bullet and buy From Hell.
22nd-Apr-2011 05:44 pm (UTC)
I wasn't all that fond of the actual comic, but much of that was for personal-mileage reasons. Certainly Moore did his research. (It's worth getting the version that has his annotations at the back, if your interest is at all scholarly; he extensively footnotes where he got all of his details from.)
21st-Apr-2011 11:32 pm (UTC)
I thought, "Saucy Jack: The Elusive Ripper" by Paul Woods and Gavin Baddeley was pretty good: not real concrete on the profile stuff, but an intersting read.
22nd-Apr-2011 01:34 am (UTC)
21st-Apr-2011 11:58 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed Jack the Ripper: First American Serial Killer by Stewart Evans & Paul Gainey, although I don't quite buy their conclusions.
22nd-Apr-2011 01:34 am (UTC)
22nd-Apr-2011 01:29 am (UTC) - JTR
Depends what you're looking for really. Lots of books make their fame by providing new suspects. Cornwell's book falls in that category. I would suggest The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion: An Illustrated Encyclopedia by Stewart Evans and Keith Skinner (Carroll & Graf 2000). Both authors have written other Ripper books, but the intent here was to present the official records at length with a minimum of authorial intrusion. There are press articles, photos and drawings and the actual police reports. The book does a really good job of orienting the reader. It lacks Rumbelow's narrative flair, but it does reproduce primary and secondary sources without added interpretation, which is nice change from most books on the subject.
One of the most useful books for my JTR purposes was Perry Curtis' Jack Ripper and the London Press (Yale U P, 2001). Not a speculation on the identity of the Ripper, but a great study on how the Ripper and the murders were perceived in his own time.
If it is theories you're interested in there is also Jack the Ripper A to Z by Paul Begg, et al (Headline 1991). It is an exhaustive compilation of the people, theories and places that relate to the Whitechapel murders, no matter how nominally. The authors (all Ripperologists) are very free with their opinions, notably relating to any given theory. It does include 5 indices, one of which is a detailed listing of articles and books about JTR. It's certainly not required reading, but enlightening in its own way from a sociological point of view.
Hope you find something useful. (Sorry I don't know how to underline or italicize in LJ ;_;)
22nd-Apr-2011 01:34 am (UTC) - Re: JTR
Thank you! That's very helpful.
22nd-Apr-2011 11:41 am (UTC)
Ripperology is a field I stay far, far, away from, even though the case falls within my period and disciplinary remit.

Something that might give a certain perspective - insofar as it's about another case in which a man was killing prostitutes in late C19th London, but by poison - is Angus McLaren's Prescription for Murder.

I also like Judith Walkowitz's discussion in City of Dreadful Delight, but that's more about cultural impact than real crime.
22nd-Apr-2011 04:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Both those books are on my list from cherry-picking the bibliography to Lisa Duggan's Sapphic Slashers: Sex, Violence, and American Modernity (Duke UP, 2000), a book which is radically misrepresented by its (terrible) title,* but I am very glad to have confirmation.

And I completely understanding wanting to stay as far away from Ripperology as you can. It's fun to watch as an uninvested spectator, but it would be a nightmare to approach professionally as a historian. Kind of like the "Authorship Question."

*I need to go blog about it here in a minute.
22nd-Apr-2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
There's definitely a feeling that even if one were approaching it as a case-study of East End life and the culture of prostitution at the period, the questions one got asked would still be about Who Was the Ripper. Sigh.
23rd-Apr-2011 01:13 am (UTC)
I agree, City of Dreadful Night was very good. And I would say, from my perspective, the question of who Jack the Ripper was is not nearly as interesting or enlightening as what he was and continues to be, symbolically.
23rd-Apr-2011 06:16 am (UTC)
I have read a lot of Jack the Ripper books and found "Jack the Ripper-The Final Solution" by Stephen Knight to be a fascinating read.

Edited at 2011-04-23 06:17 am (UTC)
25th-Apr-2011 01:50 pm (UTC)
I asked a friend who's read quite extensively on Jack the Ripper if he had any suggestions for you. He's written a long reply here http://anotherheideggerblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/ripper-nerdology.html
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