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Worst Street in London

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  • Worst Street in London

    Yes, I know this is covered in another thread
    but it is a bit buried with such a cryptic here's a new one!

    I bought this book at Heathrow on my way back from London this weekend, and I must say I wasn't disappointed. For anyone who hasn't read it, it's a really easy read: I managed it in a six hour flight. For those of you who have read it, didn't you think the McCarthys come off as being very strange? Little Steve (who later married Marie K.) seems like a bit of a candidate for some dodgy murders of his own, no? And did I read that sentence right about his daddy setting him up for a bit of a 'first go' with MJK? And if MJK was referred to Millers Court after her previous tenancy over the Highway, presumably on the basis that JMcC was letting the places knowingly to 'working girls,' is it unreasonable to suppose that he would at least have someone keeping half an eye out for comings (sorry ) and goings of the business variety?

    Anyhow, a good read all round, and certainly not just for the JtR stuff. The research appears to be thorough but the writing style is light and smooth. Wouldn't have minded its being a little heftier, but it's a great introductory read not just to the street but to the area in general.

    Anyone else have thoughts on it now they've had chance to read and digest?
    Last edited by claire; 10-16-2008, 09:14 PM. Reason: still failing in the rudiments of grammar


  • #2

    There's a great podcast with the author doing Q and A and offering opinions about things. It was a fascinating conversation. I'm at work, but I have the link at home, if someone else doesn't give it to you first.




    • #3
      Like you, Claire, I found this to be a fascinating book. It’s chock full of interesting information about the history of Dorset Street and Spitalfields and the people who lived there.

      I particularly enjoyed learning about John Miller, the butcher and original owner of Miller’s Court, and the fact that Fashion Street (which always seemed an unlikely name) was a corruption of Fasson Street, named after the two brothers who developed the area. There is also plenty of background on the McCarthy family, and on William Crossingham, the dosshouse owner and ex-baker from Romford. (One wonders if he had any family connection with George Hutchinson who lived just around the corner in 1888.)

      These parts of the book are great. The short part devoted to the Ripper murders is, perhaps, not quite so successful. The source Ms Rule used for information about the murders is unclear from her bibliography, but she includes a few minor clangers. Taking just her discussion of the first of the C5 murders, she states: Nichols was “disembowelled”; Paul and Cross returned to Buck’s Row with Mizen; Spratling was from H Division; and, Emma Green “lived opposite the murder site”.

      She also makes some assumptions about MJK’s life and about her relationship with McCarthy that are, so far as I know, unsupported by the available evidence. This is where footnotes would have been helpful. They would be helpful, too, when she drops in bits of information seemingly out of the blue. On p. 117, for example, she states that Jack McCarthy was a subscriber to the East London Observer. Do we know this? If so, how? No source is cited.

      All in all, though, this is a volume that you will want to add to your collection. Lots of good background and social history delivered in a pleasing and easy-to-read style. I look forward to her next book.


      • #4
        Hi GM,

        Yes, you're right; the JtR chapter is a bit heavy on 'acquired' knowledge, and does perpetuate some MJK myths and unsubstantiated facts...unless uncited sources have been used. I can understand why Fiona and/or her editor(s) might want to avoid footnotes (personally I'm a fan of them), but some explanation or evidential materials would have been nice.

        I'm sort of happy to forgive it, though, since I wasn't really looking for a scholarly book as much as a decent read on the plane. It's a great bridge between the scholarly and popular history, though.

        Mike--thanks. I listened to the podcast before I got the book, which had stimulated my interest in it...might try and have another listen, mind, having read it, so thanks for reminding me of its existence.



        • #5
          Hi all

          Thanks for your kind words about "Worst Street". I'm pleased you enjoyed reading it.

          Your valid comments regarding footnotes have been noted!

          With regard to The Grave Maurice's comment about Jack McC being a subscriber to the East London Observer - I found this out from his obituary, which surprisingly is not in the press section on Casebook. For those who may be interested, here it is:

          EAST LONDON OBSERVER, June 20th 1934.


          It is with great regret that we have to record the death on the 17th inst. of Mr John McCarthy for many years a resident of Duval Street, Spitalfields and who was held in the highest esteem by a large circle of East Londoners. He was 83 years of age and was the oldest subscriber on the books of the East London Observer, dating back to March 1888. He went in 1920 to reside in Clapham and enjoyed good health until earlier this year when he had a bad fall which was the beginning of heart trouble, but his end was quite peaceful. In Clapham he made a large number of local friends but always retained his interest in and association with East London.

          The deceased gentleman was a kind hearted man and a generous subscriber to local charities. He was life governor of several hospitals. Personally, Mr McCarthy was the friend of workers at Spitalfields Market, who found him a "real pal". In fact he was always giving a helping hand to somebody. For many years yet his memory will keep green in the district where his daughter still resides.

          The funeral took place last Thursday week, the internment being in the family grave at St Patrick's Cemetery, Leytonstone. On the way from Clapham, the cortege made a detour and traversed several of the streets around the market.

          There follows a long list of mourners and people who sent floral tributes.

          Hope this is of interest.

          Kind regards


          • #6

            I have a small collection of unread books, one of which was yours.

            However, I just completed it last weekend having read it in 3 days. Couldnt put it down and it filled the gaps in my history. Thoroughly enjoyed it.


            Author of Capturing Jack the Ripper.



            • #7
              Thanks Monty!

              Kind regards


              • #8
                An interesting report Fiona. Hope the book does well, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
                Regards Mike


                • #9
                  That's an interesting obit, there, Fiona--not just distant history that sees things through rose-coloured specs, then

                  I too hope the book does well--no chance of it getting on the 3 for 2 tables at Waterstones, then? (Does that 3 for 2 table or only one copy in store rule apply to non-fiction as well?)



                  • #10
                    I appreciate your posting the obit, too, Fiona. I was pretty sure from the tone of your book that you had evidence for many of your statements; but, as Claire says, many editors and the general public don't care for footnotes or endnotes and I can understand that, even though I would prefer to see them myself.

                    Anyway, you have a lot of talent and I enjoyed your book immensely. When your next one comes out, I'll snap it up.


                    • #11
                      This book was my annual Christmas treat of something ripperish, and I must say I could not wait until Christmas day. It is a wonderful book! It is like a well-made fruitcake, to use a holiday metaphor. Not a dry bit in it, and chock-full of only the best and tastiest morsels. From the very earliest history, it is fascinating, and being a map enthusiast, I liked seeing that odd trapezoid of land morph through the centuries with a kaleidoscope of changes around it. I've always been attracted to the geographical and social setting of the murders, but this book was what I have been waiting for. Ms. Rule describes the location, its inhabitants, and the forces around them so vividly and seamlessly that I feel that I have a solid understanding and personal connection with it. I particularly liked the continuing story of the McCarthy family. Thank you so much, Fiona! I will be watching for more fine work from you! A very happy Christmas and New Year.

                      I ain't no student of ancient culture. Before I talk, I should read a book. -- The B52s


                      • #12
                        Just noticed a positive review of this book in the Independent. Glad to see it got some press.



                        • #13
                          Thanks for posting that review, Pinkerton. You're right: the book deserves all the good publicity it gets.


                          • #14
                            Just bought this book very much looking forward to reading it definitely my thing


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Christian View Post
                              Just bought this book very much looking forward to reading it definitely my thing
                              You won't be disappointed. It's a superb piece of work.
                              Kind regards, Sam Flynn

                              "Suche Nullen" (Nietzsche, Götzendämmerung, 1888)