Thursday, September 19, 2013

Is It Real or Is It Memorex?

 The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper 

by James Carnac


 Rating: 2 out of 5 stars


The entire appeal of  The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper  is this: Is it real or is it This work was purported to be discovered in 2008 amongst the possessions of S.G. Hulme-Beaman, a prolific writer of children tales who died in 1932. The manuscript is authored by James Carnac who professes to be the real Jack The Ripper. Conveniently there is no evidence that Jack Carnac ever existed. It may be a pseudonym for the actual Jack. The book's two commentators, Alan Hicken and Ripperologist Paul Begg leads you to believe there are two possibilities. Either it is an early work of Ripper fiction by Hulme-Beaman, the mysterious Carnac or someone else... or it is the actual autobiography of the infamous serial killer. I suggest a third option. It is a modern hoax not unlike the Hitler Diary hoax of the 1970s. The clues are there based on the fact that it reads more like a modern interpretation of serial killer psychology than an early 20th century memoir. Begg states that Carnac brings up facts that were unknown at the time it was allegedly written. Maybe so. It is more likely these two issues exist because it is a contemporary work written by a contemporary mindset. The one thing that would settle the issue of date is missing: an lab examination of the manuscript, mainly to determine paper and ink age. In other words, the method that bought down the Hitler Diary hoax. Of course, my suspicions are entirely my suspicions and nothing else. But it would be exciting to see the lab rats determine that it is indeed a manuscript of the 20s. If it really is a 1920s example of Ripper fiction  or Jack's actual confession, that would be really exciting.

Unfortunately, that is all that makes it exciting. Contemporary or not,  The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper is not very good fiction. Much of this can be blamed on Jack himself. JR, as he is often referred to in the book, is rather boring. He is full of himself, whether he is contemplating cutting his uncle's throat, experiencing his first infatuation, or actually doing his dastardly deeds. JR is quite rightly portrayed as a psychopath and we get some interesting soliloquies on the nature of morality that we might expect from a madman. These are the most interesting things in the novel. Yet the actions and conflicts of JR never come to life for this reader. Tack on a rather pat ending that does seem very 1920s and you have a story that probably would not interest most publishing companies unless a gimmick (is it real or...) was added.

Over all, it is not a bad work. Just not that good. Read it for the novelty aspect if you must. That at least kept me going. But I can sleep soundly knowing that the real Jack the Ripper remains a haunting and still legendary mystery.

Method Acquired:  Goodreads Firstreads


  1. My father was slightly obsessed with Jack I'm wondering what he would have thought of this. Would an expert on the area make a different call from you about it - assuming you aren't an expert, Marvin!

    PS: Your blog looks great. I've refused to do pictures on mine....even though it is practically impossible to get anything put into print any more without pictures.

  2. You are right. I'm not an expert. But I do think a lab analysis of the manuscript would be a reasonable move and would go a long way to convince skeptics like me.

    Thanks. I've done blogs before but this is my first book review blog. I still want to get a more customized look. I like the look of your blog. I miss you over at Goodreads so I'll make sure to follow your blog.