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Brandy Purdy | The Ripper’s Wife

November 25, 2014

Brandy PurdyTHE RIPPER'S WIFEI have been fascinated by Jack the Ripper ever since I was a little girl. In 1988, the 100th anniversary of the Whitechapel Murders, my mother gave me a paperback copy of THE COMPLETE JACK THE RIPPER by Donald Rumbelow and I was hooked. Every aspect of the case fascinated me: the victims lives, their fall from respectable poverty to alcoholism and prostitution; the setting, the stark contrast between the squalid slums of the East End and the outwardly respectable, affluent West End of London; the murders themselves, the audacity and brutality; the elusive, unidentified killer, and, most of all, the reason for his rage; and the endless, and ongoing, parade of suspects throughout the years from the absurd like Lewis Carroll of ALICE IN WONDERLAND fame to royal, Masonic, and occult conspiracies. I read every book I could get my hands on and to this day I’ve never formed an opinion about the killer’s identity; as much as we would like to know, I think the mystery would be spoiled if we knew for sure, the speculation, the game of Hunt the Ripper, I think, is what keeps this case alive.

When the controversial DIARY OF JACK THE RIPPER became a media and publishing sensation in the early 1990s I was waiting at the bookstore door when they opened to buy my copy of Shirley Harrison’s book, which included an actual transcript and detailed the investigation of this still hotly debated document. As I read it, I kept thinking, whether it’s true or not, there’s a novel in this and I want to be the one to write it. But I wanted to frame the diary, the murderer’s story, with the wife’s point of view. I envisioned Florence Maybrick’s life like a romance novel that suddenly, without warning, turned into a real life nightmare she could never escape or wake up from.

I also wanted to create my own version of the diary, inspired by the actual entries, which I found rather terse and fragmented at times, strong on rage but short on story, with many forays into attempts at rhymes fueled by James Maybrick’s jealousy over his brother’s successful career as a songwriter. And I wanted to use it to give the victims their lives and voices back, even if they are fictionalized; they just had to be more than names printed on pages for me. One of the enduring mysteries of the Ripper murders is why the mutilation of the last victim, Mary Jane Kelly, was the most barbaric of all. The enigmatic Kelly, with her colorful background of Welsh coal mines, Parisian holidays, and bawdy houses, sort of a Victorian era Moll Flanders or Fanny Hill, has always stood out amongst the victims and made armchair detectives and historians wonder if she had some sort of personal connection with her killer, and I couldn’t resist that premise. In my novel, Mary Jane Kelly becomes the mirror in which the murderer sees not only the monster he has become but also that the women he killed were human beings.

The story of James and Florence Maybrick is a study of Victorian hypocrisy, the dark secrets that hide behind the elegant facade, double standards, social snobbery, injustice, and the pressure of keeping up appearances. The marriage began with deception on both sides, so one could argue dishonesty doomed them from the start. Addiction and adultery also struck a mighty blow upon this marriage. James had his drugs, arsenic the Viagra of the Victorian era, and a slew of patent medicines, and Florie had her shopping, and the fawning, obsequious “kindness” of the salespeople that meant so much when her own social set snubbed her, and both dishonored their marriage vows with disastrous, life-altering results.

Writing this novel was a dream come true for me, and I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it.

About the Author

Brandy Purdy is the author of several historical novels. When she’s not writing, she’s either reading, watching classic movies, or spending time with her cat, Tabby. She first became interested in history at the age of nine or ten when she read a book of ghost stories that contained a chapter about the ghost of Anne Boleyn haunting the Tower of London. Visit her website for more information about her books. You can also follow her via her blog where she posts updates about her work and reviews of what she has been reading.

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