A journalist for many years, Michael Litchfield wrote for the Daily Mail and Sunday Express. He also worked for Time as an investigative journalist exposing Mafia corruption, which resulted in contracts being taken out on his life. Later, after changing his name and stowing away to the Bahamas, Michael returned to England and became a Parliamentary correspondent. Robert Hale also published his novels Last Bus to the Grave, Deadline and The One a Month Man.
Here, Litchfield looks at how the Jack the Ripper legacy led to his latest novel, Jack’s Heir.
For years I’ve been intrigued by what I call the Jack the Ripper cult. They’re all over the globe, like Manchester United followers. They’ll animatedly debate to death every new theory, however outlandish. Yet we all know there can never be a definitive denouement. Anyone’s guess about the Ripper’s identity is just as valid as the next person’s. Perhaps that’s the appeal: the guessing has become a sort of macabre party game and anyone can play. More realistic than ‘Cluedo’. But what fascinates me most of all is: why Jack the Ripper?
After all, Jack wasn’t the world’s first serial killer – not by many centuries. And in terms of corpse-count, he doesn’t make the Top 100. Undoubtedly there’s something of the ‘Prince of Darkness’ about him, but possibly most of the frisson comes from the props: cobbled alleys, gas street-lights, swirling fog, swishing capes, bawdy gin palaces, lamp-lighters and raddled corner loiterers shrouded in shawls. Something sinister about every shadow and spooky doorway-figure. So atmospheric.
If there was any justice in the world, Jack would have been deposed years ago by someone like Bundy – handsome, debonair, intelligent, Hollywood material and tipped to become a top attorney and even President of the USA. Unfortunately, his hobby was rampant homicide.
Out of this mix came the idea: what if one of the Ripper’s cult became unhinged and set about resurrecting Jack, staying faithful to his ‘master’s’ itinerary and victim-identities, made possible by modern technology. The result was the birth of Jack’s Heir.
– Michael Litchfield