I like to see myself as a writer though I have many years experience teaching English. Have held other jobs for printing firms, bank, army reserves, and manager of a tabletop game venue. I gained my teaching degree in Melbourne and I have lived in the United Kingdom, where I was able to research my book. My childhood was surrounded by death. Before the age of 9 I had been dead three times. Once, in 1973, when I was aged three, I was overcome by smoke in a house fire. My rescuer dragged me from my burning family home just before the roof collapsed and a volunteer surf lifeguard who had come to watch the fire gave 1st aid. The lifeguard found no heartbeat before he began resuscitation. The second time, I was a five-year-old pedestrian hit and run victim. The paramedics found me lying on the road with severe multiple injuries and no heartbeat having apparently bled to death. The 3rd time was exactly like the second but this time I was eight years old. My horror novel allowed me to write freely on the topic of Thompson as a Ripper suspect, which I was not able to do in an earlier non-fiction work of mine.
My book merges two depictions of evil, the Ripper and the Antichrist. It uses both to tell the story of the life of an historical figure, the English poet Francis Thompson. My book is prefaced with a ghost story about the crimes and this character’s motive. The bulk of the book explores, in biography, the magnitude and effects, of his apocalyptical scheme. The novel draws on copious factual material gathered from around the world research to explain how his rise began as the perpetrator of the cluster of 5 terrible murders of 1888 in London’s East End. This novel tells that Thompson sought to raise the dead and then stay alive after his own passing by hiding behind history and in our minds.
Why did you decide to write in the horror genre, and specifically the Jack the Ripper subset of that genre?
At the height of the Ripper murders, when the bloodlust of the fiend knew no bounds, the mutilations of these poor women, appalled the populace of London. The press was for once lost for words. They could only describe this unknown individual in terms of the works of horror literature like De Quincy and Edgar Allen Poe. In 1888, when the murders happened the Victorians were hugely interested in spiritualism and the occult. The play of Jekyll and Hyde was showing in London’s West End and people were taken in by the images of ghosts taken with the still new technology of the camera. Nowadays with new horrors like Ebola, terrorism, climate change and assorted conspiracy theories, I felt that people might respond to a supernatural crime story.
Being a bit of an amateur Ripperologist myself, I’m curious as to your opinion on the lasting fascination with Jack the Ripper and that particular historic event. What do you think is the allure that still captures public interest?
I think it was the collision of worlds it caused. The dire poverty of industrialized and a struggling underclass and the pomp and ceremony of the Nuevo-rich and aristocracy. Both classes were united in their fear of this one individual. The crimes created the archetype of the Victorian murderer -The romantic-decadence of the times personified. I believe that contrary to popular belief it is not the mystery surrounds the identity of the criminal that holds the public interest, but more the subconscious- anticipation of what we the world do when we all find out his name.
Your novel mixes in occult and religious aspects to the Ripper story. How did the idea of melding those two facets come about?
It seemed that in the past people were a lot more religious than today. It makes sense to look at the influence of religion over a suspect, it seems natural to take that short step and explore possible religious, and with these horrific crimes, occult aspect. The idea that the murderer may have been a religionist was not knew, having been suggested in letters to the newspapers. Even during the murders in October 1888, people could read “The Curse of Mitre Square” a horror novel on the Ripper in which the antagonist is a specter of an evil monk who stabs a women on the high altar of a medieval church. When I first learned of Thompson, the book’s suspect and face for the devil; I saw that he was a very strictly religious with a belief in the supernatural and demons. I melded these facets because in truth I don’t think they can be seen as separate from the Ripper crimes.
Was there an aspect of writing your novel that you found challenging?
Because I my book is based on an assorted array of non-fiction material, and actual events, deciding what to keep and leave out has been difficult. For example small but interesting detail such as one actual police investigator had one arm because a tiger bit the other off. I could not work that detail in because it seemed out of place with the scenario I was building. There were many amazing details I had to leave out because trying to hold it all would have taken years further to write. Another challenge was the uniqueness of my premise and my suspect, and keeping to the same style and approach throughout the novel even as it moves further and further into the eerie and bizarre, and modern day.
What type of research did you do for your book?
The book is based on a great deal of research. It entailed reading and taking notes from non-fiction works, including old press reports, police documents, letters, biographies, uncut-volumes, and historical artefacts and documents. It has been resourced from personal access to mostly archival material from places like London’s Guildhall Library, London’s National Gallery, The British Library, The Kew National Archives, (Dear Boss Letter) the New York Public Library, The Victorian State Library, Boston College’s Burns Library's (Thompson’s private notebooks for years, including 1888, and other unpublished documents) I’ve examined the murder sites and have lectured on these murders including as a delegate at the 2005 International Jack the Ripper conference held in Brighton.
Who has inspired you as an author?
I am heavily influenced by science fiction, fantasy stories as a child. Though horror holds a special place for me. I like reading, Poe, Lovecraft, Machen, Shelley, Stoker and Barker, but it was Stephen King who is one of my favourites. When I read his books, during my teens in the 80’s, I remember hearing his voice in my head while I read, well before hearing him in real-life. It was Stephen King’s “IT” that helped shape the initial idea of writing about a great evil. Instead of the small New England town of Derry Main as the backdrop my novel would have the hulking dark and smoky landscape of Victorian London in the year 1888, when all was cloaked in the shadow of the ripper. I liked how King’s “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” a novella gave away that the protagonist escapes prison at the start leaving the reader to wanting to know how he did it. That’s why I sort tell the whole story and give away the ending at the beginning of my book, hoping the reader will ask how the Ripper got away with it.
What’s next for you?
As I wrote this novel, I envisioned two more volumes, on the topic with each volume roughly covering a century. With this plan, my current novel would be part 2, while part 1 examined the 20th century while part 1 covered the 18th. I have other writing related projects that I can continue and complete, including a book on Australian aboriginal archaeological sites, software that writes stories, and a story-telling tabletop game. I would love to continue to explore the Ripper murders writing more on aspects of history, culture, human desires and literature.
You can find out more about the author and his book at these sites:
Facebook group for Francis Thompson and the Ripper Paradox:
YouTube Short Film: