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Interview with Brian L. Porter, Author of A Study in Red: The Secret Journal of Jack the Ripper

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Jack the Ripper has fascinated the public since he carried out his horrific murders in Whitechapel, London, in the autumn of 1888, also known as The Autumn of Terror. There have been many movies made and books written on this mysterious killer, and the top hat, black cape, and old-fashioned doctor's bag continues to be a popular costume on Halloween. Here to talk about Jack the Ripper is award-winning author Brian L. Porter, whose novel, A Study in Red, combines fact and fiction and traces the identity of the infamous Whitechapel murderer from the discovery of a mysterious journal… one supposedly written by the Ripper himself. 

Thanks for this interview, Brian. Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself?

Hello, Mayra. Well, to answer that I suppose I'd have to say that I'm a multi-published award-winning author, writing dark psychological and crime thrillers. My novel The Nemesis Cell, and novella 'Avenue of the Dead' were published in 2007 by Stonehedge Publishing. The Nemesis Cell recently achieved sixth place in the Preditors & Editors Annual Readers Awards (Mystery Novel).

A new, dark psychological thriller A Study in Red – The Secret Journal of Jack the Ripper was released by DoubleDragon Publishing in January 2008, and is selling very well in paperback and e-book versions, will shortly be available in audio book, and the cover won The Authors Lounge May 2008 Best Cover Illustration Award. Two collections of my short stories were also released last year, The Voice of Anton Bouchard by Stonehedge Publishing, and Murder, Mayhem and Mexico by Eternal Press, which came ninth in the anthologies category in the Preditors & Editors Readers Awards. My next paperback release will be Pestilence due out very soon from Steel Waves Publishing, soon to be followed by paperback editions of Purple Death, Glastonbury, The Nemesis Cell and Avenue of the Dead, from the same publisher. The covers of both Purple Death and Glastonbury have also won Cover Design Awards from The Authors Lounge, in June and August of 2008.

Under the Harry Porter name I also have eight children's books due for publication by 4RV Publishing between now and 2010. Look out for Alistair the Alligator, Harry Porter's Dog Tales (a six book series), and Wolf!

I'm also an occasional Science Fiction Conceptual Consultant for Stonehedge Publishing and I enjoy studying the history of crime and studying forensics to enable me to present believable fiction.

I live with my wife, two step-daughters, and five rescue dogs, in northern England, and I'm a member of The American Authors Association, The Military Writers Society of America, and The Whitechapel Society 1888. My websites can be found at www.freewebs.com/brianlp and www.harry-porter.webs.com.

When did your love for the dark side of things begin?

I suppose that dates back to my early teens when I'd read all the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and then fell in love with the darker visions produced by the works of Edgar Allan Poe. I learned to appreciate the wonderful tales that could be produced by concentrating the mind on the darker side of human nature, and I also developed a love for the Victorian era and the sense of melodrama that surrounded crime in those days.

Tell us about your book, A Study in Red. What compelled you to write about Jack the Ripper?

Ah, now this is one I could talk about for ages, but I think I'd better be as brief as possible. I've been a student of the Ripper murders since I was about 18 years old, serving at a very remote RAF station in the wilds of he English countryside. I found a book about Jack in the camp library and it sparked a lifelong interest in the case. So, you could say that I've been researching the book for the past 37 years. As to how I came to write the novel, that was due to a friend who'd read a poem I'd written about the Ripper. He thought it was so dark and so realistic that he asked if he could use it as an introduction if he ever wrote a dark psychological thriller. He never got the chance. His remark kick-started me to finally put pen to paper and write the Ripper book I'd always wanted to write, but had never had the courage to attempt. The book has so far been fortunate to have picked up three awards. It was a awarded a 'Recommended Read' accolade in February 2008 from the reviewers at CK2S Kwips & Kritiques, won The Authors Lounge Best Cover Art Design Award in May 2008, and won The Erin Aislinn Book cover of the Week Award in July 2008. The reader reviews on both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk have been wonderful and I'm delighted that people have enjoyed the book so much. The book is selling really well, and as well as the paperback and e-book versions, it will be released in an audio book version by the publisher in time for Christmas.

As to the book itself, here's the blurb that may go some way to informing your readers a little about the novel:

A Study in Red: The Secret Journal of Jack the Ripper by Brian L Porter tells the story of Robert Cavendish, a modern day psychiatrist who is bequeathed a strange set of papers which purport to be the journal of the long-dead infamous Whitechapel Murderer whose crimes gripped the hearts and minds and instilled terror on the streets of Victorian London. As he begins to read the journal, Robert becomes convinced of it’s authenticity and finds that the words of the Ripper have a strange and compelling effect on him.

Unable to cast the pages aside he finds himself being drawn into the dark and sinister world of the killer until he is unable to distinguish what is fact and what is fantasy. In short, Robert Cavendish begins to feel as though he is being taken over in some way by the soul of the long-dead Ripper.

What happens as he progresses through the journal will disturb and shock the reader as the close dividing line between sanity and madness is explored to the full. There's more information available at the book's own website at www.freewebs.com/astudyinred

What about your other books? Do you write in other genres other than horror?

I have to say straight away that A Study in Red is not really intended to be a horror novel, though I suppose some people would categorise it that way. It's really a dark psychological thriller with elements of horror thrown in. As for my other novels they all fall into the thriller genre, and the vast majority have a link with some past event in history, such is my love of weaving the past very firmly into the future. I love to develop twist and turns of plot that carry the reader back in time in order to find the solutions to very modern contemporary mysteries.

Glastonbury contains hints of the far distant past, with undertones of Arthurian legend and the birth of Christianity in England, set in a modern scenario, and with a link to events that took place during World War two. All in all, a complex and intriguing (I hope) mystery.

Pestilence is set in the 1950s, but again has links to events that took place years earlier. As for other genres, I also write children's books under the name of Harry Porter. 4RV Publishing will be publishing a series of books about my own 'pack' of rescued dogs Harry Porter's Dog Tales over the next two years, aimed at older children, as is Wolf, and adventure story in the YA genre. Before that they'll be publishing Alistair the Alligator, a tale for younger children.

Why do you think Jack the Ripper remains such a fascinating character after all these years?

Probably because he was the world's first acknowledged serial killer in the modern sense of the word, and of course, the fact that he was never identified and brought to justice, making the case the ultimate whodunnit. His crimes were horrific enough to galvanise the whole nation into demanding change in the treatment and housing of the poor, and indirectly led to many reforms in Victorian England. So many theories and scenarios surrounding who he was and why he killed have sprung up over the years that the enigma that is Jack the Ripper will probably survive for ever, and I doubt whether we will ever know for sure who he really was.

Did your book require a lot of research?

Yes, an immense amount. Even though it is a novel I wanted all the historical facts contained in the book to be accurate and truthful. The book is a blend of fact and fiction so it was so important that any reference to actual persons or events from the Victorian era was as accurate as possible. The same went for the Victorian medical practices described in the book. I owe a large debt of gratitude for help in my research to the Lothian and Borders Police in Scotland, who gave me great assistance, and to Stephen P Ryder and the members of www.Casebook.org one of the largest Jack the Ripper resource sites on the internet.

Of course my thirty something years of studying the case helped as well.

There have been many movies and books about Jack the Ripper. Do you have a favorite movie or book you'd like to share with our readers?

My favorite Jack the Ripper movie has to be Jack the Ripper starring Michael Caine and Lewis Collins. Although the final revelation of the ripper's identity doesn't match with my own theory as to his identity, the story was terrific and the re-creation of Victorian London was first class, and the hint of menace communicated throughout was first class.

My favourite factual book on the Ripper murders is The Jack the Ripper A-Z, by Paul Begg, Martin Fido, and Keith Skinner, the ultimate source book for Ripperologists. In fictional terms a great read is The Seduction of Mary Kelly by William J Perring, which blends fact and fiction in a gloriously teasing premise of what might have been the life of final Ripper victim Mary Kelly.

What are your favorite horror writing sites on the net?

I don't have any particular favorites. Although I read a lot, I tend to stick to paperback and hardback books as a rule. It's hard to find good horror sites on the net, as a lot of them are too openly grisly and concentrate on shock horror rather than good old gothic or true horror, which I much prefer.

Do you dress as Jack the Ripper for your booksignings?

Certainly not… lol! I wouldn't want to scare my readers.

What are you doing this Halloween?

As we have five dogs at home I'll be staying firmly behind doors. Halloween doesn't quite have the same air of festivities in the UK as it does in the USA, and many kids here tend to see it as a time for making mischief or even more serious trouble, rather than having innocent fun. The dogs go mad at all the noise on the streets and people letting off fireworks and so on, so I'll be making sure they are upset as little as possible.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

Obviously I hope your readers have enjoyed reading about the book and I also hope they'll pay a visit to the website and maybe consider obtaining a copy of A Study in Red, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powells etc. I'm currently working on a sequel to the novel, and hopefully, Legacy of the Ripper will be published sometime late next year, again by Double Dragon Publishing. In the meantime, my next paperback releases will be Pestilence due out very soon, followed by The Nemesis Cell, Glastonbury, Purple Death, and Avenue of the Dead, all from Steel Waves Publishing.

Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to tell people about the book, Mayra. I appreciate you giving me the time and the space to inform your readers about my work.

Thanks for answering my questions, Brian, and good luck with your books!

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.
  • http://www.margarettanner.com/ Margaret Tanner

    Hi Brian,
    Great interview. Your books have received a lot of accolades and rightly so. Jack the Ripper is certainly a fascinating character.
    Regards
    Margaret Tanner