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august 2021

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  • august 2021

    Jack the Riper - The Uncensored Facts - Paul Begg

    Got to be honest, I suspect part of the reason I didn't read this book and review it earlier is knowing Paul Begg will likely see it, and I fear displaying a level of ignorance, as well as seeing gaps based on knowledge obtained since the book was published.

    Some of this hesitation was really misplaced. I mean, I assume that this book was the seed that grew into "The facts", which is the book that properly got me interested in JtR back in 2007. The facts wasn't my 1st JtR book, that was Stephen Knights book, but that was back 15-20 years previous, and that was read following reading a mini section in a dan farson book on horror that very briefly mentioned JtR. The facts was a riveting read - I went through it in about 4 days, greedily, and it left me hungry to read much more.

    A centenary publication, the book endeavors to chronologically outline the facts of the case. Broadly then it is a success. There are very few occasions, and Mr Begg is very clear where he is in the realms of speculation. But in content, and style, the aim is consistently on factual reportage. I loved throughout the use of streets, addresses and similar listed after each witness is named for example. Really helps gives a rounding to the information provided, as well as adds additional evidence of the thorough nature of the research undertaken. There's also a lot to be said for the style of writing - not condescending, much more someone wanting to share information. It's an easy, relaxed accessible style.

    There's also the fact that you're given, as a reader, the opportunity to learn something on pretty much every page. In setting the social and economic background for example, I also learn that the terms unemployment and unemployed were also coined in the 1880's. I also valued the use of wider sources, such as the Law Journals views on issues relating to inquests. (I was reminded of another essay Paul wrote, I think in Robin Odells Ripperology collection regarding how different it was for someone in 1888 to procure and store milk!)

    I assume I must have read it elsewhere, but at the time, it felt like the section mentioning the bloody paper found in relation to the chapman murder felt new, or certainly something that hasn't been discussed in any detail elsewhere. I was gripped reading about this potential clue.

    I felt I learned so much more about Lusk, and his involvement being earlier, and not just relating to receipt of the kidney/from hell letter. At the same time, I also really valued the discussion of police activity across 30 septmber and 1 october through chapter 9, it was really enlightening.

    I was struck during the MJK chapter at 3 different witnesses referring to sightings of gentlemen with a black bag. The theory seems to be generally accepted that the black bag was a later addition to the story of JtR, and yet there are 3 contemporaneous reports, so this aspect must have been around much earlier.

    I was awestruck at how relative little info we had on Ostrog in the 1980's!

    The discussion of Macnaughtons papers and reliability was exceptionally valuable reading. I valued Paul Begg usefully outlining so many reasons to critically evaluate the value of Macnaughtons documents. I think I have not been critical enough myself of some sources, MacNaughton included. The chapters dealing with the Macnaughton writings are essential reading.

    If I were to be critical, it would be the "suspects" chapters that leave me wanting. The Druitt discussion, combined with the aforementioned MacNaughton discussion give a lot of weight to reducing Druitts likelihood as a viable suspect. Having a 2 pager chapter on ostrog is just a little odd, acknowledging that there probably wasn't sufficient information for more, but then why a chapter on it's own? Then there is the Kosminski discussion. This could have been developed. I was enjoying the discussion of Martin Fido's Kosminsky/Kaminsky/Cohen theory, and would have liked a little more of this. I also got a little confused and felt the section discussing the seaside home id could have been clearer, as it left me a little foggy.

    I really need to re-read the facts again, to see what enjoyment I can get from a re-reading made in the light of having an improved understanding of the case. Meanwhile, as well as being an exceptional addition to the bookshelf of any "ripperologist" I think I have found the book that I'd be recommending anyone who has never read anything else before as a starter/intro to the case.

    Just under 300 pages, but with more information, and interesting theorising , and yes, facts, than is contained in numerous "bigger" or "longer" books that I have read. And more enjoyable than many others too.
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