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This memoir was recently discovered and appears to have been written in the 1920s by someone who asserts that he was Jack the Ripper. This person is James Willoughby Carnac, and this memoir was written shortly before his death. It is an account of his entire life, including a few short months in 1888 when he became the murderer known to posterity as Jack the Ripper.
This book introduces a new suspect for the infamous murders in Whitechapel in 1888. There is information here that does not appear to be derived from contemporary newspapers or any other publications, and the descriptions of Tottenham in the 1870s, the visits to performances of Jekyll and Hyde, and the intricate geography of Whitechapel in 1888 are written with pin-point accuracy.
There is also a credible motive given for James becoming the murderer Jack, and also a reason for the end of the murders. Given the fact that the author also appeared to have knowledge about aspects of the case not in the public arena at the time, it could be that this actually is the autobiography of Jack the Ripper. Ultimately, it is up to the listeners to decide if they believe the mystery has been solved at last, but even if they end up deciding the account to be a work of fiction, it would still be one of the very earliest imaginings of the Ripper case, written in the early years of the 20th century, a fascinating piece of period writing and a worthy addition to the Ripper canon. Whatever side listeners come down on, there is no question that this book will be a source of much debate.
The narration on this audiobook is superb. But the story is fascinating as well. The manuscript dates from the late 1920's but it is unclear who the author actually is and the circumstances of the how story itself was written are also unclear but this is explained towards the end of the book. However, whether this is really an autobiography of the Ripper or a well researched fictional story, is irrelevant. It gives a clear insight into the times and the dialogue is also superb capturing the dialect of the era.
I was unsure when I purchased this but after listening to it I would highly recommend it. If you think you might be interested but are unsure, you wont regret your purchase.
10 of 12 people found this review helpful
The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper is a maddeningly fascinating work. It was reportedly discovered in 2008 in the possessions left to his heirs by S.G. Hulme-Beaman, a children's author and illustrator best known as the creator of the Toytown stories and their characters (including Larry the Lamb) who died in 1932. The manuscript is attributed to "James Carnac," who professes to be the real Jack The Ripper writing about his gruesome exploits 40 years after the fact. The book is made up of four parts: 1) Introductory notes apparently made by S.G. Hulme-Beaman, which explain how he came upon the manuscript while acting as executor of Carnac's estate, but failed to follow Carnac's directions to send the manuscript to a publishing house due to its disturbing and distasteful subject matter; 2) the first two sections of the narrative, which relate the story of Carnac's young life (including his father's murder of his mother and subsequent suicide) and Whitechapel years (including the Ripper slayings); 3) the third section of the narrative, produced on a different typewriter than the first two sections and written in a different, more "fictional" voice, bringing Carnac's story to an all-too-neat end; and 4) commentary by Alan Hicken and respected Ripperologist Paul Begg.
What is this book, exactly? Several possibilities exist. It might represent Hulme-Beaman's attempt at a "true crime"-inspired novel, but this seems unlikely due to both the man's workload and his personality. It might be a novel by another author that came into the possession of Hulme-Beaman. (There is no record that James Carnac ever existed.) It might be a genuine autobiography of Jack the Ripper, and either the author's name is actually a pseudonym or somehow the historical James Carnac managed to live and die without creating a paper trail. Or perhaps it is a modern-day hoax purporting to be a manuscript from the late 1920s.
I went into this with the intention of reading it much like The Lodger (1913), an early twentieth-century novel by Marie Adelaide Belloc Lowndes, a woman who lived through the Autumn of Terror and evoked it well in her story. As such a work of fiction, The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper is effective. Carnac's fascination with blood, his knowledge of his father's act of murder/suicide, his curiosity about his French ancestors' roles as executioners, and his own strange (and resisted) compulsion to kill his kind uncle set the stage well for the horrors to come.
The descriptions of his behavior as Jack the Ripper offer the most interest. Unlike most works and speculations of the time, which attributed to the Ripper complicated motives (religious fanaticism, a personal vendetta against women, a desire to undermine the police force and law in general), Carnac comes across much in the way we understand modern psychopaths today. He killed because he liked killing, and he got away with his crimes because he was smart enough to choose his victims carefully. His dark, wry sense of humor is both startling and convincing. What is more, the end of the Ripper's murderous spree has a believable justification: Carnac was badly injured in an accident with a carriage (while crossing the street to get to a paper detailing his latest crime), losing both his leg and his mobility.
What I find most fascinating about the book is how it follows and deviates from known facts about the murders. Carnac admits that he had kept scrapbooks of media coverage of the crimes, and the similarity between some of his narrative and contemporary newspaper accounts can be explained by the fact that, after forty years, he returned to his clippings to remind himself of particulars. That said, he also deviates in some critical ways from widely-reported details -- and, in one case, provides a detail only known to have been reported in one account published in New York -- which certainly creates the effect of firsthand knowledge.
The odd ending, with its vastly different tone -- and, seemingly, purpose -- is also a mystery unto itself.
It's interesting to speculate on the real nature of this work. I am not suggesting that I was persuaded that Carnac existed or that he was the Ripper, but I was impressed by the psychological insight of the text and the historical mysteries it provides.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
Would you try another book from James Carnac and/or Mark Meadows and Christian Rodska ?
I don't know that we could get another book from "James Carnac," could we? The narration on this book is a blast. It's treated with a verisimilitude that just sells it, even when you know it shouldn't work.
What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)
To describe the ending, I have to first explain my thoughts on beginning. I'm not a Ripperologist by any stretch, and I love a good alternate history. This book starts out so convincing that you have to stop yourself from believing it at times. The deeper the book goes, the more wrong it gets in all the best ways. It's by no means a book for the serious Ripperologist, but it's a great character study for those who like the "Sith Lord" mentality.
What does Mark Meadows and Christian Rodska bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
I don't think the text alone would have sold it for me. The performance fills in the rest and provides a suspension of disbelief that's required to get the most of out of this one.
Was The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper worth the listening time?
Absolutely. It's probably a better read for those who aren't so attached to the subject matter - you know who you are.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
For a story supposedly written as a memoirs it real like a novel with a lot of holes on the story. Well written but hard to suspend disbelief and let the story take you.
3 of 5 people found this review helpful
The slow and deliberate description of how a psycopath is built could be written either by a modern criminal behaviourist or else by the psycopath himself. Though addressed, the old question of "nature X nurture is not solved here, nor is ti of the major relevance.
The "omission of certain scenes", though, doesn't add verossimilitude (I would rather have them added).
Even though it helps to explain the end of the crimes, I don't know if it fits 100% with the rest of the story; but anyway, who could tell it?
A good entertainment for those who enjoy criminal and historic romances. But I wouldn't suggest it for those who dislike gothic stories.
At 1.25 reading speed, a C1-C2 English level book.
If you are looking for a fascinating / new book for Jack the Ripper, this is it. Written and read well. If you are looking for the gory murder details of the ripper, you won't find it here. This is a tastefully written story on tragic events.
As with the murders themselves, we will probably never know. But this is a great read and a must for all true crime lovers!
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
Interesting to hear from Jack's perspective- new twist. enjoyed comparative at the end. Amazing if true.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
This is a very easy audio to listen to. I really enjoyed this. Entertaining story and very believable.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
What did you like best about The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper? What did you like least?
The story and the narrator, but for the last hour of the book, when, inexplicably, he proceeds to review and retell the previous 7 hours!? Why? What a waste!
Would you be willing to try another book from James Carnac? Why or why not?
I'm not sure. See above.
What about Mark Meadows and Christian Rodska ’s performance did you like?
Great voices and interpretation of the characters.
If this book were a movie would you go see it?
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
I loved this book. The narration is wonderful with Christian Rodska perfect as Carnac. He nails every barbed comment and sly remark without ever falling into cartoon villainy. The story itself is obviously dark but never focuses on the gruesome acts in detail.
Whether Carnac was actually Jack The Ripper is highly debatable and I treated this as a work of fiction going in but I have to say there are a few details that get you wondering if it might not be real. Even the things he gets wrong are wrong in the 'right' way, giving it a feeling of misremembered authenticity rather than the more predictable shopping list of facts that would be added by a knowing trickster.
The Third Act is strange - with various elements clumsily telegraphed in the writing for a set up later that seems at odds with the style of the rest of the book. Acclaimed Ripperoligist Paul Begg details all of this brilliantly in his summation at the end.
Whether real or fake, or part real/part fake it's fascinating and unusual. Highly recommended for anyone with even a slight interest in these crimes and the era in which they were committed.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
It seems like they're scraping around for contents with this book. The story is a little thin on the ground.