Audio - The Man Who Would Be Jack

The Man Who Would Be Jack

Steve Taylor-Bryant delves into the murky world of Jack the Ripper thanks to our friends at Spokenworld Audio...

The Man Who Would Be Jack by David Bullock is another in a long line of Ripper conspiracy books that want to prove that the author's chosen target is indeed the infamous Jack The Ripper. I am a huge fan of Ripper conspiracies, I have numerous books on the subject, and my own opinions as to the actual identity of the worlds most famous serial killer, however the name Thomas Cutbush is one I hadn't come across in this detail before.

Thomas Cutbush, like so many people in the late 1800's, suffered mental health issues and was incarcerated in Broadmoor after stabbing two women in 1891. At the time of the Ripper killings in 1888, Cutbush was not considered a suspect, as he lived three miles away from the scene and was considered a confused man but not dangerous by his co-workers. In The Man Who Would Be Jack David Bullock writes an entertaining account of London at the time and tries very hard, with little evidence, to convince you that Cutbush was some how troubled enough to be the killer. From his description of a tall, slight, man with piercing blue eyes, to the possibility of the killer being Jewish, Bullock passionately makes his argument.

Bullock does the thing I hate most in Ripper books though, journalistic licence. We all use it, I use it every time I sit to write a review or an opinion piece, but I don't push unproven facts or personal conjecture on my audience as definitive proof. A 'Source' in the loosest possible meaning of the term, states that Thomas Cutbush used the pseudonym James and that someone in the area of the first killing heard a lady calling the name Jim. Really? That's it? I'm not 100% sure on how many men by the name of Jim or James frequented London in 1888 but I'm safe in thinking, it was a lot. Bullock also tries to convince you of the guilt of Cutbush by telling you he is related to a Superintendent Cutbush who committed suicide in 1893. Bullock's reason for the suicide ? A policeman whose nephew is Jack the Ripper couldn't handle life any more BUT, and it's an important BUT, like so many other Ripper books, no evidence is given that Thomas is related to the superintendent, you are just asked to trust the author on this fact.

This is nowhere near the worst Ripper Unearthed style book. It is witty, entertaining, and parts of it are very informative. It doesn't try and prove that the Prince of Wales killed these women with his own hands (he was in Scotland for one of the murders, so surely we can discount him now?) and Bullock at least uses a real man. Thomas Cutbush did in fact exist. This is a salient point in Ripper lore, you would not believe the amount of folk who have released books of this ilk with imaginary, fictitious people in them!

Why would the Ripper kill 5 women in the way he did, then stop for three years, then get caught stabbing two other women in a sloppy way that was bound to lead to prison? You need to take a huge leap of faith to convince yourself that Bullock is anywhere near right. It appears Bullock is convinced, the words jump out at you, but even my own "Masonic Ritual" theory holds up better.

Listening to The Man Who Be Jack as an audio book though is a pleasant experience. Not enough non-fiction audio comes across my desk, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way that Peter Owen read the manuscript, bringing the Ripper to life, and making me smile when he said "Lunatic" for some reason. Spokenworld Audio should do well out of this production. It is a compelling listen and makes an okay book better than the author intended.

The Man Who Would Be Jack is available here.

Image - Spokenworld Audio.