Update on my book about Chapman
To anyone who is interested in my project. (I know there are five of you and wonder if there are more.)
My Chapman book has recently begun to be one big drag.
My initial wild enthusiasm began to die down after seven weeks of frenzied researching and writing (I have written over 40,000 words now and compiled 32 pages of illustrations).
The thing that has started to get me down is the amount of misinformation that others have written about him, which is then spread by repetition. Every time I read something that contradicts something else, I'm having to wade through it all and check and cross-check to see if there is any truth in it.
I am now in a position to declare that without exception, every article, book and webpage that contains a biography or part-biography of Chapman has errors. Yes, even the biog in the suspects' section of this website. I have not yet read even one single article in which every detail is correct.
In 2000, the local paper in Southwark ran a double-page spread written by Debra Gosling, who works for Southwark Police, all about Chapman and his crimes. She claims that when the police came to arrest him at The Crown, he hid behind barrels in the cellar with two revolvers and threatened the police, discharging both guns. I feel sure this is a blatant fiction since neither Adam, nor any of the trial transcripts mention it. They all say he was arrested in the billiard room and went quietly (and that sounds much more like the sort of man he was -- acting bewildered). She claims that he was arrested on 25th October, "the day of the coronation" when a quick glance at Wikipedia would have told her" Edward VII and Alexandra were crowned on 9 August 1902". She also pontificates on why a "qualified doctor" was working as a lowly "barber surgeon". She repeats Gordon's lies that the Ripper killings ceased the moment he left for America, were resumed over there, then stopped over there the moment he came back here. She gets the street number of the pub wrong, calls Mary Spinks intead of Spink and says he was hung instead of hanged, pretty inexcusable considering she works for the police as a clerk and fancies herself as an historian.
As soon as I arrived at the library at 211 Boro High St the librarian told me that locally SHE is considered to be THE expert historian who "knows all about Chapman".
So, I have taken on what has turned out to be a lot harder task than I originally thought. I am one of those people who has a compulsion to get everthing correct, from the big story to the tiny details.
Also, I am starting to wonder if anyone will ever actually read this book. I mean, apart from the tiny handful of people like yourself on the Casebook and JtR forums, who are chiefly (and only mildly) interested in him because he is a Ripper suspect, will anyone else in the world want to read this material that I am taking such huge pains to present with perfection both in fact, style and design?
The other problem that I did not forsee is that my book, because it presents facts and not fiction, is going to seem very dull compared with that of the sensationalist and excited style of Mr Gordon and such things as the thrill of the story of the revolver-wielding maniac told by Debra Gosling.
Worse (for me), I don't believe Chapman WAS the Ripper, whereas they do, and when you write from the assumption that he WAS the Ripper, it brings an air of excitement and suspense to the entire Chapman story because we are all dying to know who the Ripper was, about his life before ripping and after ripping, and it is only if you believe Chapman was the Ripper that the dull but intricate details of his quiet little life suddenly become fascinating glimpses into the life of Jack the Ripper. Without that connection he is just a dull, sordid little adulterer man who wasn't outrageous in any way.
Yes he was a poisoner-murderer, but in such a cool, dull, quiet manner that I am not sure that is of any interest to todays' readers, who are so accustomed to being constantly thrilled by sensationalism, and non-stop action, that they would find his story as dull as ditchwater. This is probably why nobody has written a book about him before, other than Mr Gordon, who had to resort to inserting hundreds of superfluous exclaimation marks, and twisting the facts to make the story more interesting than it is.
I'm not saying my writing is dull, but that my raw material - Chapman's life - is dull and as I refuse to 'spice it up' with lies, the end result isn't going to be a thrilling roller-coaster ride of a story.
I think that had it been published in 1903 the public would have found his life story terribly shocking and thrilling because this was a man who seduced a series of women and persuaded them to live with him out of wedlock (gasp, horror!) and even got one pregnant (!!) He committed adultery (shocking!) and performed an abortion (gasp!) This kind of lifestyle would have scandalised and fascinated the Victorians and Edwardians the book would have sold in its thousands.
People today are completely blase about everything. Cohabitation and adultery are now the norm, and we're so accustomed to axe-wielding murderers, multiple random shootings, blood, gore and horror that a poisoner fails completely to thrill.
So, what to do now? I've invested about eight weeks of my life in this. I know it does not sound much, but I have been neglecting every other part of my life in order to devote 12 to 18 hours a day to it, seven days a week. So, maybe 850 hours, plus a whole-day trip to London, plus some financial expense.
I suppose I could just reduce my 40,000 words to an article to replace the one already on here (if the webmaster approves it), merely as an exercise in correcting all the mistakes that are constantly repeated about him. Seems a lot of work to do just to upload one article.
Or I could just go ahead with printing 250 copies and see if there is maybe a market for it locally in Southwark and among Ripperologists who, because of Abberline, have a mild fleeting interest in Chapman. Hopefully the book sales will cover the printing and other costs so I can just break even.
If anyone is still reading, I would be really grateful for some feedback, or advice, or any kind of human communication on this subject.
I can only say that I am still very interested in your research. The fact that you have found so many errors in publicly available material on Chapman and his life alone is reason enough to persevere in your efforts to put things straight with a well-researched publication.
As for his importance for the Ripper case, well, it was none other than Abberline himself who rated him as a likely candidate so even if you do not believe in his guilt, it makes Chapman a worthy subject of research, he definitely is more than just a marginal figure in my eyes.
If you have doubts about a publication in book form, you could also create a PDF of your material and offer it on your website or via email for a fee (PayPal, etc.).
Anyway, I wish you all the best for your project and hope that it will come to a good end.
I would encourage you to continue with your book project as an important corrective to the bad information on Severin Klosowski (George Chapman) that is out there. A book that contains verified information about the suspect would be most valuable, in my opinion.
As for your point about Ms Gosling getting the name "Spinks" wrong, naturally she should have got the surname right. As an editor, though, it appears to me that "hung" and "hanged" is a different way of saying the same thing.
Thanks Boris and Chris for the feedback and encouragement.
Chris: I do think I am justisfied in my words Gordon's lies because, as you say yourself, he knew these claims were wrong but published them anyway.
I hate to disagree with you, especially as you have been so nice to me, but the English dictionary and English usage makes a very clear distinction between 'hung' and 'hanged' and it is considered an illiterate blooper to use 'hung' for an execution.
But what about his hiding behind barrels with two loaded revolvers? What a hum-dinger of a story that is -- have you ever come across that anywhere else?
Oh, I just came across another 'suspect report'. According to one newspaper cutting I have been sent (title and date yet to be established), ‘the scene at the hanging was most painful. The murderer completely lost his nerve and had to be fairly dragged to the place of execution. The look on his face before the black cap was adjusted was one to chill the blood of spectators.’
Er, they used a white hood, not a black cap. This suggests that the reporter was not in fact in attendance, in which case I don't feel happy using his description.
When Robin Odell stated in 2006 in Ripperology, that Kłosowski had been a feldsher in the Russian army he added: ‘This information came from a man called Wolff Levisohn’. However, I have read every word of Levisohn’s testimony and he said no such thing.
Writing a book like this would be a LOT easier if I didn't feel the need to be so accurate with everything I write. Most of it cannot be cross-checked with anyone else. It would also be a lot easier if famous names like Odell didn't publish mis-information.
But anyway, thanks for the thumbs up, keep the comments flowing and thanks for voting on my poll!
Here is the cover
Okay you might be right about hanged versus hung. See here:
Feel free to hang me at the upcoming Whitechapel conference. :hiya:
P.S. The book cover looks great.
I really sympathise with you. It is easy to get bogged down in such a project and it has happened to every published author at some time or another.
A few suggestions:
You say you have 40,000 so I suggest, before you go any further with the book, that you chapterise it in the form of a section by section outline over a page or two so you have a clear idea of how you will present the overall story - that's if you haven't already done this. This will make it easy to know which pieces of new (or already researched) information fit where in your book.
Also, you might not have to pay for the expense of printing if you create an e-Book with text and illustrations and upload it onto your blog or make it widely available on the internet. That way, you will surely reach more than 250 readers. Casebook might facilitate a link to your finished work if you don't yet have your own website. Take heart, there are lots of Ripper enthusiasts out there (including here) who would want to read your work.
As you suggest yourself, if worse comes to the worst, you could provide a very good thesis on Chapman (with all the necessary corrections you provide) for the Dissertations section here on Casebook.
If you think Chapman is boring, you could take a break from the work so that you can get back to it with new eyes and enthusiam for the task... and you could perhaps liven the story up with spicy background information of the times so the reader stays interested in the story.
Have you tried some of the London publishers who specialise in Ripper output? That might be another way to go. You would have to have a clear outline to show them. If they gave you a small advance for the project, it would definitely keep the wind in your sails!
I hope these suggestions help.
Aw, thanks for the compliment. I am still fiddling with the blurb. I do it as light relief away from the exasperation! :lol:
Yes the book is already chapterised: I did it geographically for now: Poland, London, Hastings, St Luke's, Bishops Stortford, Southwark. But thanks for the idea.
Sorry if I gave the impression that I think he is boring, because I do not, I have loved every second of the research, and thoroughly enjoyed the process of putting his biography together, I could not have spent eight weeks holed up here doing nothing else if I were not fascinated. No, it's that I am fretting that the rest of the world outside of myself won't find it interesting, because I know that what interests me isn't generally the stuff that interests the masses, and vice-versa.
I definitely would not give this book to another publisher. I had a contract with a major London publisher for one of my earlier books and it was incredibly restrictive, dictated the number of pages and the number of images etc. I managed to wriggle out of it without being sued and self-published with double the number of pages and six times the number of photos. I also got to keep 100% of the profits and that paid for my conservatory to be built. They were going to give me 7.5% of the net receipts.
Advances are pretty rare these days (unless you are some bimbo who shagged a footballer lol). I really could not stomach losing editorial control. I don't find money to be any sort of incentive to make me work, by the way. If I break even on this book, I'm happy.
I think I will probably do it as an e-book download and a short run of printed copies, probably on coated paper throughout (for the photos).
Spicy background information? Could you expand on that?
You have clearly a lot of expertise in writing a book Siobhan, have you written any/many?
Spice up the background? From time to time, add interesting detail. For example, if he was a poisoner you could give examples of other poisoners (briefly) of that time...or go into detail on the poison itself and where it could be bought or if it could be manufactured at home...or what was happening historically (elsewhere?) on the day of each of the slayings: eg: On the day he murdered his first victim, Westminster MPs were talking about reducing the cost of providing gas lighting in Whitechapel... (this last bit is made up but it adds a bit of detail or spice to introduce something else...you would have to use something that was actaully true!). I hope you get my drift.
You refer to your first book in previous post...what's it called? Will look it up... Sounds like it was a success in terms of sales so well done.
I have included details about the different neighbourhoods in which he lived. My friend Chris who has kindly offered to edit for free will have to decide whether that is of any interest or not. I hadn't thought of what was happening on the exact day of the slaying (love that word :2thumbsup:).
The book I referred to wasn't my first but my fourth (of five). It's on my website here: http://www.hastingspress.co.uk/vol4.html (£1,000 of the conservatory cost was covered by winning the first prize for best self published book of 2007, after I entered a competition I saw advertised in a copy of Writers' News magazine that someone gave me on Freecycle. http://www.hastingspress.co.uk/railw...dsjtaward.html
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