Author guest post: Rod Beattie
It has often been said the everyone has a story inside them waiting to be told whether it is fiction or non-fiction. With fiction it is easy to create worlds from our own imagination full of demons, dragons, wizards and even hobbits. We can say anything about these strange new worlds and no one can criticise them because they are not real. When you enter the realm of non-fiction though everything changes. You have to be as accurate in your knowledge of the particular subject you are writing about as you can, as everything can be checked.
In the book I have just had published “Jack the Ripper – The Policeman” I dared to suggest that one of Jacks murders was not in fact committed by him but by the victim’s boyfriend. This caused something of a scandal by people that have an interest in the murders. I was told that I must be wrong as the police of the time said that the murder was committed by the Ripper and what right do I have to differ from the general opinion of the time. It is known as having one’s own opinion and looking at it logically. I won’t go into the full details of why I think that Elizabeth Stride was not murdered by Jack the Ripper, as they can be found in the book. At the time though the police were in a very difficult position with regards to murders committed. There was panic in the streets and all prostitutes thought that they could be the next victim. It was easier for the police just to say that Elizabeth Stride was killed by the Ripper rather than do a full investigation into the real murderer, in this case her boyfriend, Michael Kidney.
It does go to show though how difficult it is to write non-fiction as everything can be checked and you have to be accurate in what you are saying. It would seem that I also had the audacity to suggest that another woman who was attacked at the time of the Ripper murders was in fact one of his intended victims, she survived though.
Research is the key when writing a non-fiction book. I spent many hours in the National Archives in Kew studying the files on the Ripper murders and read the newspaper reports published on the internet. My new suspect, whom I am sure was the murderer, came from Devon and with the help of the Devon Constabulary I was able to put together his life story and this made me even more positive that I was on the right track.
Let’s be honest one thing you cannot expect to make when writing a non-fiction book is money as usually, the subject of the book is only of interest to a limited number of people. I am fortunate in one way in that the story of Jack the Ripper is known in many countries around the world but I still do not expect to make a great deal from it. Now if the Ripper had been a wizard or a hobbit of some sort. Ah, but I wistfully digress.
Patience is another trait that a non-fiction author must have. I first thought that the man I now know is the murderer about twenty years ago when I first read about him in a true crime magazine and over the years, I kept thinking about him. Eventually about three years ago I decided to do as much research as I could about him. Trying to make inquiries about a person’s life on the internet, especially one that has been dead for one hundred and seventeen years, is not easy. It’s fortunate that he had been involved in a famous court case that had taken place the year before the Ripper murders and from there, with further research into the trial, I found out much about him and knew his life story as well as I know my own.
The thing is though come Judgement Day we will all be standing there and someone will ask “Well who was Jack the Ripper?” This man will step forward and we will all just look at each other and say “Who’s he?”
Jack the Ripper – The Policeman is available to order here.