‘They All Love Jack, Busting The Ripper’ came out in 2015. However, I had only recently heard of it when discussing the Ripper case on Twitter with my true crime friends there.
So, this review is about the author’s writing style, the train of thought he followed to find the man he assumes is the suspect, and the book’s format.
Bruce Robinson is an English director, actor, screenwriter, and novelist. If you click here you will find his IMDB page. There is no questioning this man’s many talents. But after this book, I question his writing style and choice of book format to present this case in this way.
The book starts with an excellent Author’s Note and now, after finishing the book, I wish that he had kept that tone for the entire journey. There is so much disdain in this book, it is off-putting.
There is no question that the rich and the privileged protect their own by closing ranks. That wasn’t new in the Victorian Age and isn’t now either. I get the anger related to the dishonesty, fraud, the cover-ups, the sloppy investigation, etc. However, if you wish to present your theory to the world in a 850 page book then you may want to pick the right tone so your readers will actually stay with you for those 850 pages.
Every victim is referred to by derogatory terms and every Freemason member, regardless of involvement, is a Bro. It isn’t professional and it isn’t proper. There is no conclusive evidence in the Ripper case. Moreover, the victims deserve better. They were already looked down upon in life and in this book, it continues after they were brutally murdered. I cannot justify that attitude. The author’s opinion for the Ripper followers and Ripperology is clear as well.
James Maybrick (Oct 24, 1838 – May 11, 1889) was part of the Maybrick family. They traded in cotton and for this, James traveled between the USA and the UK. Around 1874-1875, he was in the USA when he got sick with malaria. This was treated with medication containing arsenic. James became a drug addict and would remain so until he died. We meet three of his brothers, Thomas, Michael, and Edwin. James married Florence Chandler and they had two children, Gladys and James. They met in 1880 when she was 17 years old and he was 41.
Florence Chandler was convicted of poisoning her husband with arsenic in a probably unfair trial that was presided over by Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, the father of another Ripper suspect James Kenneth Stephen. Florence’s motive for killing James: adultery and squandering money. Florence was sentenced to death by hanging in 1889. The jury didn’t hear about James’ arsenic addiction. Her sentence was later commuted to 15 years in prison.
Michael Maybrick (Jan 31, 1841 – Aug 26, 1913) is brought forward by the author as Jack the Ripper. He was a successful singer, composer, and songwriter. Maybrick wrote and composed for a long time under the stage name Stephen Adams and as such, was on par with W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan. He toured, performed for the most elite audiences, and moved through society without question. He was an honorable man, nobody stopped him. His talents were many and his ego was huge.
Robinson’s suspect analysis is based on Freemasonry rituals, closing ranks, and protecting the establishment, especially the monarchy. His theory is that Michael killed in between touring and performing dates. Michael killed James, and then framed Florence. Motive to frame Florence? Michael hated women and in particular Florence for the adultery and spending too much money. The fact that James had even more affairs and a second wife, Sarah Ann Robertson, with whom he had five children, obviously didn’t bother Michael. Motive to kill James? Not sure. The business wasn’t doing so well and on his own, he made a good fortune. If he posed James as the Ripper it would imply that he, Michael, would stop killing. If not, it doesn’t make any sense. This isn’t explained in the book.
Florence lived beyond James’ means, yes. She borrowed a lot of money, even from Michael. But there has to be more before you embark on such a killing tour. So, the Ripper killed women because he hated them. Then, according to the author, the killer used Freemasonry rituals and symbols that only the elite, including the police, would recognize. Them, they would eventually discover his identity but close ranks to protect their own. The Maybricks were Freemanson as were many in supervising positions within law enforcement. But how would this all end? I don’t get that.
The choice to leave out the captions below the pictures was not a good one. Many pictures appear on pages where several people, mostly men, are discussed. A clear short captioning and then full credits in the back would have added to the clarity of the entire story.
At the end, there are two appendices. They are both in a smaller font and I don’t see why that was necessary.
All pages are crammed with information. There are no information breakdowns anywhere in this 800+ page book, no listing of items/reasons with bullet points, no time-lines, and no cast of characters which would have been really helpful.
The author doesn’t follow a clear straight line in the narrative of the crimes. That need not be a problem but he does tend to get lost in details that stray away from the cases. Many side-steps and details could have been summarized in the story and then published in full in the appendices.
The book is set up in a novel style while it should have been either a textbook or encyclopedic format. The author went through great lengths to gather information so, it would have benefited the reader to follow the author during that research.
The story of the Whitechapel Murders has so many angles that a timeline would benefit the reader to follow along. In fact, multiple timelines would have provided clarity. I would loved to see separate timelines for
- the Ripper’s crimes,
- the touring dates of Michael Maybrick,
- the police investigations but separated by district, and
- a timeline of James Maybrick’s travels.
This set-up would allow the reader to compare performance and travel dates with the murders, the police investigations, and other people’s actions. It would clarify the bulk of the text and make it digestible.
If you are interested in Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel Murder then you probably already know this book as it came out in 2015. It is excellent for more information gathering and for getting another take on the cases. So, if these cases interest you, and you can handle the 850 pages, and can tolerate the language, go for it. However, I stand by my criticism. My other book reviews are here.