Jack The Ripper Live And Uncut by Matt Leyshon
When you want to solve the greatest cold case of all time, you don’t find the witness, you become the witness…
Investigative Reporter Carl Axford is offered the story of a lifetime. When recruited by Limbo, (a covert group that uses unique technology to solve cold cases), Axford is presented the chance to crack the greatest cold case in existence. Catch Jack The Ripper!
The opportunity of a front row seat to the Jack The Ripper murders seems too good to be true. What will Axford discover in 1888? Will he be able to identify history’s greatest criminal and bring him to justice? Or does Victorian Whitechapel hold further secrets that influence events of the past as well as the present?
Jack The Ripper may not be the only mystery Axford has to solve.
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?
A) Sure thing. I was born and raised in Australia and grew up in Sydney, in a suburb called Liverpool. I have been encouraged to write since I was six years old and it has taken me a long time to deliver on that. Now that I have that feeling of achievement and satisfaction with the first book I definitely want to write more. Like most authors it is all I want to do but maybe that will come eventually.
I moved to the USA in 2004 and love it here. In an age when so many people have a poor option on where to live I consider myself lucky that I have two great choices.
I live in Tampa, FL with my wife Susan and children Reece and Charlotte. I always refer to them as “the greatest story I have”.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) My journey was a little different to others I feel, and that is how it should be.
As I had mentioned I had wanted to write for years but had never been struck with the right motivation. Just over two years ago I did an online tutorial called “Masterclass”, a website that has celebrities teach in their given specialty. Mine was conducted by James Patterson and the topic was thriller writing. It was very educational and it was also the kick up the ass that I needed. Another huge incentive was that Patterson was running a competition for his class members; submit a hook, synopsis and sample chapter for a potential novel. The winner got to write their book with James Patterson. I came up with three submissions, one of which was the book I wrote. So that was the original source of inspiration. I didn’t submit it however as it was something I really wanted for myself. The day I heard I did not win his competition was one of the happiest days of my life. I immediately began working on my book, “Jack the Ripper: Live and UnCut”.
What follows was months of research as well as establishing an outline. I had a lot of what I referred to as “plot beads” but I still didn’t have my thread. Finally, after working exclusively on that for two and a half weeks, I was able to create my thread, and everything fell into place after that.
Having the outline was huge. There were some chapters that I didn’t get to write for months and I was relieved that I had placed a lot of relevant information in there and not have to research it again.
While writing the story I did develop other characters and device plots that were not in my outline, so I went back and added them in. An outline is a great tool, sometimes your best friend, but its completion should never signify the end of creativity for your story. It should be a balance of structure and spontaneity.
It took me sixteen months to write the book, but that did include a three month break. Being immersed in my research and story was something I would often describe as “going down a dark rabbit hole”. Some people love that rabbit hole, many live in it. I didn’t want that for myself nor may family. The majority of my book was written between 10:00pm and 2:00am. I am a night owl but also try to be a husband and father first. My wife and children went on a road trip in which I wrote 180 pages in 10 days. I love them dearly, but man…..I get so much done when I’m on my own!
Writing the novel was definitely a journey. There were many moments, many celebrations. One evening I wrote a chapter I had been eager to write for 6 months. I wrote through till 1:30am, but could not fall asleep due to being full of so much adrenaline. I thought, if my readers could feel a tenth of how I did, reading this material then I would be happy. Subsequently I have heard that people who have read the book have had it keep them up some nights. I actually like that. I didn’t want the premise to set a scene that was gory, I wanted it to be creepy. Gory is disposable, creepy remains with you.
After completing the book I did three rounds of edits as well as engaged two other professionals for edits. I continued to tweak it and at the same time began to looking into my publishing options. Sadly, I did not research that as well as I did the subjects in my book, and as a result have made some naïve choices that have not served my book well. Like I always say to people “I’m a storyteller, not a story seller.”
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) I have several, and all for different reasons
Martin Cruz Smith – Writes so beautifully and with great philosophy. His Arkady Renko novels are all masterpieces and he is so quotable with his description of places or people. Also the way he shows his main character evolves through his various stories but also how Russia changes along with him. He is literary God to me. I can easily pick up a Renko and read it.
James Patterson – James is the ultimate page turner. Usually when you read a Patterson you make short work of it, mostly because you don’t want to put his book down. One thing he said that I loved was when he tells a story he doesn’t want to hear somebody say “that’s great” he would rather hear somebody say “I’d like to read more”. That is Patterson in a nutshell and he is the master of stories that propel forward and at a quick pace.
Ben Elton – I love Elton as I have been a fan of his humour for decades. When he branched out from television and wrote novels I have enjoyed not only every story he writes but also his variety. He has written satires, murder-who dunnits, thrillers and always has great social commentary in every novel. He also has great humour in his books which is expected given what he gave to tv viewers.
Dan Brown – I love the Langdon series. What impresses me so much about Dan Brown, when I first read Angels and Demons, was that this book would make a terrific movie. I have felt that way about all of the Langdons. Needless to say I was very happy to hear that they were doing exactly that, and have done with three of them. When reading Brown you truly picture a scene playing out in your head. What I also like is Brown doesn’t dwell on getting to know the hero. Robert Langdon is a likeable hero but we don’t connect with him necessarily. We do become invested in his adventure though and want to see him succeed and it is through the journey that we learn little bits about Landon. I also appreciate that in those books it is Langdon’s talent that ultimately helps him progress through a mystery. The story is moved forward by what he knows and what he is good at. I like that a lot. I also like that Brown is not afraid of tackling a topic that knows will court controversy. He researches his books well, weaves history into a great story, but one that is ultimately fiction. Brown on his own admission concedes that these are stories……..not preaching to base a belief structure on.
Very honourable mentions to Edgar Allen Poe and William Shakespeare. Both capture the drama of horror or tragedy so beautifully. Plus Poe just really knows how to creep his reader out, which is something I tried to emulate. Their work has been the template for everybody that followed them.
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) I was always an avid reader as a child and also loved a good mystery, even as a kid. I used to love reading The Three Investigators, an Alfred Hitchcock series, my sister was really into Trixie Belden mysteries, and I used to read them after she did. I also read Secret Seven and Famous Five by Enid Blyton. Man…….really showing my age here.
I actually got into Cruz Smith’s Renko novels in my teens. I read Gorky Park when I was 15 and it changed my life. During my later high school years I also loved reading Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe.
Around the same time I also read my favourite book from my entire childhood in the same year. It was The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. Just an incredible book and a wonderful tale, so rich in humour, intelligence and fun. I was filled with joy when my sister bought my son his own copy of it for his last Birthday. The legacy continues.
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) There are several, each for their own reason, and each with high significance. All of which I feel a person in my place can relate:
1. Receiving that Proof copy. Seeing a tangible copy of the book brought me to tears. It wasn’t even published yet but to see and hold it as an actual book was an incredible feeling. All the effort was worth it in that moment.
2. My book launch and signing. I felt like a proper author that evening.
3. My review and feedback from Ripperologist Magazine. I had received excellent feedback till this point, but this publication was the most likely to criticize it. The reviewer is synonymous in the JTR community and his review was nothing short of fantastic. His feedback via email also contained the highest praise. It also led to my being interviewed in Ripperologist Magazine, a rarity for a fiction author, as well as an invitation to appear on the Rippercast podcast. It was at this point when I felt validated in my work, and that I truly had a great book to share.
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) Without a doubt, my wife and children. My research and late nights were very difficult to sustain in day to day life. It was nice to have that warmth that comes with a hug from my son or daughter, as it would always bring me back to centre. My son would always make me laugh because he wants to read my book, I tell him in about another 12 years or so.
My wife would also listen to me bounce ideas for the plot and bounce off the walls at the same time. She stayed up late while I read new chapters to her and her feedback has been invaluable. For any creative person, knowing that your partner supports your passion is a huge deal.
I have also received a lot of support from family, friends and new friends I have made as a result of this venture.
*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career.
ML: Thank YOU so much. It has been a pleasure 🙂
September 30th 1888
The fact it was just after 1:00am meant little in Whitechapel. Many of its residents saw fit to engage in work; trade and social activities at this hour. This would last through the night and well into the morning. That wasn’t to say things were not different to the affairs of the day.
St. Botolph’s Church was a great example of polarity. By day, it was a place of worship for many and a house of prayer for those seeking salvation or divine guidance. By night, it was known as “Prostitute Island”. A year ago, the Chief of Police, Charles Warren, had mandated that prostitutes would only be arrested if there was a direct complaint raised against them or if they solicited in the same location. Prostitution was still considered illegal but was now very lightly policed. So, they would abuse this “loophole”, circling in front of the church and applying their trade, yet abiding by the law, albeit barely.
Things were different these days. A lot of prostitutes worked here because panic and hysteria over the Ripper had caused most of them to live and work in fear. He was still out there; any one of them could be next. It was suffice to say, St. Botolph’s attracted God fearing folk by day and people who were afraid of the devil by night.
Across the road from the church, on the corner of Aldgate High Street and The Minories, a lone figure stood in the sanctuary of shadows, watching the girls walk in their customary circles. His breath emerging from the darkness in bursts of steam, but little else could be seen of him. The church’s clock struck a single ring to indicate it was 1:15am, for the Ripper the night was still young. The evening had plenty in store for him.
He laughed at the absurdity… These harlots thought working here offered safety in numbers, but little did they realize, they were currently part of a morbid buffet. Like a sushi train, the prostitutes would pass his line of sight, obliviously offering themselves up as a course for his liking. Paranoia had brought them to the church. It had also placed them on a sadist’s path.
One of them seemed to be going against the traffic, stumbling along and speaking incoherently to her other colleagues. Catherine Eddowes had only been released by police fifteen minutes ago but still appeared to be well and truly intoxicated. She was also blathering wildly and laughed as if she had told a joke only she understood. Unaware she was being watched, this was a terrible time to stand out in a crowd.
The Ripper began to draw heavier breaths, his heartrate accelerating. A murderous engine had ignited and was kicking into gear. This was partially brought on by an excitement of having seen his next victim, but it was also spawned from a disdain for women, especially prostitutes. He relished killing them. Nothing gave him greater pleasure than ending their livelihood with one slash of his blade, followed by the removal of their womanhood, and more, by his hand. He had them right where, and how, he wanted. It aroused him. Almost as much as the hatred he felt for them at his core. The engine gained momentum. This one, in particular, disturbed him, grated on every nerve that channeled to his malevolent heart.
It was settled: this cackling whore will die tonight!
He was about to step out and cross the street when he noticed Eddowes was already talking to another man. A customer, perhaps. The Ripper maintained his focus on them, extremely annoyed, ascertaining that it appeared a “transaction” was imminent and this angered him. This interfered with his plan and was prolonging an inevitability that he had already predetermined for this whore. The stranger looked around and then hurriedly led Catherine away, toward Duke Street. The look brought recognition, and disdain, for the Ripper. He knew the stranger and he detested this man, almost as much as he loathed Eddowes.
He observed them walking away and smiled. Nothing and no one was going to prevent Catherine’s fate. He had all the time in the world… The same could not be said for others.
The Ripper launched from the darkness, into full flight, pursuing his quarry. A Victorian surgeon’s knife was concealed but at his beck and call and ready to take life in an instant as he desired it. Like a true predator, he would stalk Eddowes and wait for his chance to strike. These transactions never took long and he wanted to be sure he was there to guarantee this imbecile was the last client Catherine Eddowes would ever have.