May. 13th, 2017

truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Ripperology: A Study Of The World's First Serial Killer And A Literary PhenomenonRipperology: A Study Of The World's First Serial Killer And A Literary Phenomenon by Robin Odell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have tried and tried, and I can't think of a better word to describe this book than "charming." Which seems so wrong in the context of the Whitechapel Murders and Jack the Ripper. But Odell is not writing about Jack the Ripper, exactly. He's writing about the people who write about Jack the Ripper, what they write, and why, and considering the crazy theories that have been put forward in the last century, Odell's wry, generous, thoughtful voice is charming, like a Virgil to lead the reader patiently and clear-headedly through the Inferno of Jack the Ripper Studies, otherwise known as Ripperology.

Odell is himself a major contributor in the field, so he knows the ins and outs of the community of Ripperology very well. He doesn't explain the actual historical crimes and investigations as well as Philip Sugden or Neil R.A. Bell, and the occasional circumstances of the book's production (the Kent State University Press asked him to write about the relationship between American Ripperologists and British Ripperologists for their imaginatively titled "True Crime Series") create an odd, intermittent emphasis on what the Americans happened to be thinking but he's very good at timelines and cross-correlations and using them to poke holes in various whacked-out theories. (His lack of patience for Patricia Cornwell made me very happy.)

This is an excellent overview of the evolution of the historiography of Jack the Ripper, and a great way to get the gist of books you (a) most likely can't find and (b) most likely don't want to have to wade through (the elaborate castles-in-the-air accusing the Duke of Clarence, Walter Sickert (with or without Sir William Gull), James Maybrick, and a number of other unlikely suspects), but that are important artifacts in the history of this particular and very narrow field of criminology.

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truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Nothing But MurderNothing But Murder by William Roughead

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

facsimile reprint of the 1946 Sheridan House edition from Literary Licensing, hardbound, high-quality

"An Academic Discussion: A Macabre Conceit"
"The Boys on the Ice: or, the Arran Stowaways"
"Killing No Murder: or, Diminished Responsibility"
"Pieces of Eight: or, the Last of the Pirates"
"The Boy Footpads: or, More Murder in Murrayfield"
"Nicol Muschet: His Crime and Cairn"
"The Adventures of David Haggart"
"The Fatal Countess: A Footnote to 'The Fortunes of Nigel'"
"Physic and Forgery: A Study in Confidence"
"Locusta in Scotland: A Familiar Survey of Poisoning, as Practiced in that Realm"
"My First Murder: Featuring Jessie King"
"The Crime on the Toward Castle: or, Poison in the Pocket"

A collection compiled by Roughead for an American publisher, with a strong focus on Scotland and Edinburgh (except for "The Fatal Countess": Frances Howard must count among Roughead's "darker favorites," even though he only lists her nineteenth century sisters in his essay (in a different collection) "To Meet Miss Madeleine Smith": Madeleine Smith, Jessie M'Lachlan, Florence Bravo, Adelaide Bartlett, and Florence Maybrick). I found "The Boys on the Ice" both horrifying and creepy, with its sad, terrible image of the boy M'Ginnes, left to die on the ice in St. George's Bay when he was too exhausted to continue: "He was 'greeting.' We heard his cries a long way behind us although we could not see him" (24-25). And "Locusta in Scotland" is a magnificent overview of some five hundred years of murder by poison.

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