• Richard James

Where's Jack?

During a recent conversation in a Facebook writer's group, I was asked whether Jack the Ripper had any bearing on Bowman's world. In fact, I had to admit he didn't. Anyone looking for Jack the Ripper in the Bowman Of The Yard series will be disappointed. Jack casts such a long shadow in 1880's London. His first victim, Mary Ann Nichols, known as Polly, was murdered early in the morning of August 31st, 1888. His reign of terror resulted in at least five victims (known as 'the canonical five'). The brutal nature of the murders shook the country and London in particular. So why is he nowhere mentioned in the Bowman Of The Yard series?

I decided to set my series of books four years after the Ripper murders, giving the stories, I felt, sufficient distance so that they wouldn't be mentioned. That meant I could introduce each new investigation without the reader (or indeed, the characters) thinking, 'It must be Jack the Ripper!' Secondly, I wanted to be very clear that Bowman's world is a work of fiction. Besides the odd historical character (Queen Victoria being mentioned, for example, or Sir Edward Bradford, the Scotland Yard commissioner from 1890-1903) every character and just about every event in the series is fictional.

The one exception occurs in the first book, The Head In The Ice. In the chapter where Isambard Fogg is questioned in the cells at Bow Street, he gives a list of crimes supposedly perpetrated by Jabez Kane. If memory serves, at least one of those is an actual event. If I wrote it again, I think I'd remove it. There's a danger when the real world impinges too much upon a work of fiction. It limits the imagination and, it could be argued, shows a lack of respect to the victims, even at this distance. That's not to say Jack the Ripper never existed in Bowman's world, just that perhaps it's enough that he existed in ours.

If you have yet to join the investigation, Bowman's story begins with the first novel, The Head In the Ice and continues through the short stories The Smithfield Murder and The Workhouse Poisoning to the second novel, The Devil In The Dock. Two more short stories follow, The Hampstead Garrotting and The Holborn Strangler. All the short stories are free to subscribers to my newsletter. The third novel in the series, The Body In The Trees, is now available with another short story to follow!

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