Finally, a size comparison with two other editions of HPL's work.
My initial impressions are very favorable. The pages are nicely laid out and the print is large and easy to read. It seems to me, from briefly flipping through all three volumes, that most of the variant readings revolve around spelling. HPL preferred British spellings, but his American publishers tended to change them to conform to American conventions.
You should know that this edition is meant primarily for scholars and ardent admirers of HPL's work. Because the hardback edition is limited to 750 sets, it's rather expensive. I can only assume that there will be a cheaper paperback edition at some point.
But since this is not an annotated edition, I imagine that most readers are likely to stick with, say, their copies of S. T. Joshi's Penguin paperbacks, which contain useful introductions and explanatory notes. The variorum edition is just supposed to collect the most accurate versions of HPL's fictional works, and nothing more.
Anyway, it's good to see HPL's work treated with such seriousness.
But, first, some photographs to get you started. Here are the cover and the title page.
Next, the table of contents.
As you can see, I read the revised edition, which was published in 2014. Because I haven't read the original edition, I can't compare the two versions of the book. But, of course, you should stick with the 2014 edition, since it's the more recent one.
As the title indicates, Mr. Badal's book is about the Cleveland Torso Murders, a series of twelve unsolved homicides that took place between 1934 and 1938. The story of the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run doesn't seem to be much discussed these days, which is odd, since these serial murders intersected with the career Eliot Ness, who became the Cleveland safety director during the time of the murders. Given Ness's place in American popular culture, regardless of how inaccurately his exploits are usually portrayed, you would think that more attention would be paid to his hunt for a serial killer. It's hard not to think that we won't eventually see a major Hollywood movie based on this story.
Mr. Badal makes a good case that Ness and the Cleveland police managed to identify the murderer, a doctor named Francis Edward Sweeney. Unfortunately, though, they were never able to prosecute him for the crimes. He spent much of the remainder of his life in and out of mental institutions, occasionally sending a taunting postcard to Ness through the mail.
If you read much true crime writing, you've no doubt noticed that a lot of it, stylistically speaking, doesn't rise above the level of semi-literacy. Fortunately for us, Mr. Badal's book is highly literate. I found his book to be well written and properly sourced. He does his best to support his conclusions with real evidence, and thus avoids the sort of speculation that sometimes ruins an otherwise good true crime book.
In some of my earlier crime posts I complained about a lack of maps. Mr. Badal's book contains maps of the relevant areas of Cleveland, but I have to say that they strike me as being somewhat rudimentary. Here are a couple of examples:
As maps go, these aren't especially informative, and since Cleveland doesn't have much of a place in our popular imagination, I sometimes had trouble getting a sense of where the murders took place. Some aerial photographs of Kingsbury Run would have been helpful, I think, but perhaps there are no such photos from the 1930s.
Since part of the mystery surrounding the murders involves precisely where Dr. Sweeney (if he was in fact the killer) killed, decapitated and dismembered his victims, perhaps it was fitting that from time to time I had trouble imagining the killer's hunting grounds. But don't let the poverty of my imagination deter you from reading this excellent book. I highly recommend it.
One word of warning. Mr. Badal's book contains several grisly photographs of the Mad Butcher's victims (or, in some cases, merely their severed body parts). So just keep that in mind if you're squeamish about such things.
I'm reading a lot about crime these days, partly because the general topic interests me, but also partly because I've read a bunch of Colin Wilson's books during the past few years. I mentioned my interest in Wilson's work in an earlier post, and I hope to post about his ideas about crime in the near future. My own work has been taking up a lot of my attention, and so recently I haven't had much free time for blogging about my reading.
But I just finished Robert D. Hare's Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, and I thought that I should say something about it. It's a fascinating book, and certainly one that is relevant to criminology. After all, many criminals have psychopathic personalities. Consequently, some rudimentary knowledge of Hare's work might come in handy to anyone interested in crime, be it fictional or non-fictional.
Below you'll find two images: one of the book's cover, another of Hare's list of the ten key symptoms of psychopathy.
I have to admit that I was struck by how restrictively Hare formulates his concept of psychopathy. His checklist seems, at least to me, to epitomize confidence tricksters and unscrupulous glad-handing businessmen. Prior to reading his book, I assumed that lack of remorse and lack of empathy were the two salient features of psychopathy. Many people I would have characterizedin my casual way as someone who has not been trained in psychologyas psychopaths don't really meet Hare's more stringent criteria.
On page 175 Hare writes of psychopaths as leading "lives of callous self-gratification." I'm not sure that I've ever known someone who could be described in this manner, although I've known self-absorbed people who often acted in a callous fashion. Maybe that's the same thing under a different description. But there are self-absorbed people who can be brought to think and care about the consequences of their actions. It's just that they have to be pushed by outside influences to do so. Psychopaths, as Hare diagnoses them, just don't care, although they're often good at pretending that they do.
When I taught at the University of Pennsylvania, I met a few business students who almost certainly were the unscrupulous glad-handing type, but I never got to see them in their full glory in the business world. But they have to come from somewhere, and I'm sure that Wharton graduates its share of them. How else can you explain the financial crisis of 2008?
When I was in academia, I met many people who obviously possessed several of the traits on Hare's list. I guess, though, that their lack of imagination, their dogmatic certainty that they and they alone were in possession of the truth, and their indifference to the welfare of other peopleall of which taken together often produced behavior that seemed psychopathic to mewere what you should expect from highly introverted people whose scholarly training has convinced them that they belong to a special elite. But according to Hare's criteria, they shouldn't be classified as psychopaths. These people, whatever their faults, I would never have characterized as glib or impulsive. Some were certainly egocentric and grandiose, and obviously had shallow emotional lives, but they typically had tight control over themselves.
You might say that their personal rigidity was intellectual and emotional. They easily excluded other people from their moral purview, and probably did so because they did not regard others outside of their elite groupings as worthy of respect and decent treatment. Hence their abominable behavior. That seems psychopathic to me, but Hare's research indicates otherwise. I guess that for Hare it's just a rather involved form of learned callousness (perhaps grounded on a natural shortage of sympathy and empathy) that doesn't go all the way down to the roots of their personalities as psychopathy does with psychopaths.
Well, of course, I'm not in a position to settle this debate. I'm glad that I read Hare's book, and I recommend it to your attention. I'll take it as my starting point for future reading on the topic of psychopathy.
I added that parenthetical "continuing" since Mr. Edsall has been writing about this sort of thing since at least the early 1990s, when he co-authored a book entitled Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics. I read that book when it first appeared in hardback. Even though it's over twenty years old, it's still as relevant today as it was back then.
In two earlierposts I discussed two books about Jack the Ripper, Donald Rumbelow's The Jack the Ripper and Paul Begg's Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History. In this post I want to say something about Philip Sugden's The Complete History of Jack the Ripper. I suggest, though, that you read the earlier posts before reading this one.
I got the 2002 revised edition of Sugden's book through my local library, so, once again, my copy is a little beaten up. But these photos of the cover and the table of contents will give you an idea of what to expect.
First of all, hallelujah, Sugden's book contains maps! This addresses one of the main complaints that I have about Rumbelow's and Begg's books. At the very beginning of the book you'll find a general map of the Whitechapel Murders. Here's a photo of it.
As you work through Sugden's account, you'll find smaller maps relating to each individual murder.
Sugden's book is crammed with noticeably more detail than either Rumbelow's and Begg's books. So the maps are a great aid to understanding his reconstructions of the events. For this reason alone, I prefer his book to Rumbelow's and Begg's.
Sugden's book contains extensive notes to document his claims. He clearly did an enormous amount of digging. Unfortunately, however, there is no bibliography, although there is a long list of archival sources. It's not that I can't live without a bibliography, but it would be useful to have one.
One thing that differentiates Sugden's book from Rumbelow's or Begg's is that Sugden writes very little about the social history of the East End. Instead, he concentrates on the murders, and since his book runs to 500 pages, he provides a mountain of factual research and documentation. Sometimes it's a challenge to work through all of it, but ultimately it proves to be worthwhile. I admit, though, that some readers might find the level of detail overwhelming. In that case, Rumbelow's book might be a better choice, since even Begg's book is fairly heavy reading at times.
As to the identity of Jack the Ripper, Sugden regards Montague John Druitt, Aaron Kosminksi, Michael Ostrog, and George Chapman as the most likely suspects. He exonerates, as far as he is concerned, Druitt, Kosminksi, and Ostrog. He considers Chapman the best candidate, that is to say, the least unlikely suspect, and judiciously concludes that the case against him has not been proven (which, Sugden is careful to point out, is not the same as saying that Chapman should be considered innocent).
Of the three books, I like Sugden's the best, although it is certainly the most demanding because of its length and attention to detail. Readers should keep that in mind when trying to decide which of the three to read.
In an earlier post I wrote up a few of my thoughts on Donald Rumbelow's The Complete Jack the Ripper. In this post I'd like to say something about Paul Begg's Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History.
My photos of the 2004 revised paperback edition are of a somewhat battered copy from my local library. Thus they aren't of the best quality, but they'll give you some idea of the book's cover and table of contents.
First, a few words about the apparatus. Each chapter of Begg's book contains numerous endnotes that cite many different sources. In my post on Rumbelow's book I complained about the lack of notes. So in this single respect Begg's book is superior to Rumbelow's. Unfortunately, Begg's book, unlike Rumbelow's, doesn't have a bibliography, so you'll have to work through the notes if you want to find suggestions for further reading. This is annoying, since putting together a bibliography is not all that difficult to do. Begg's book, like Rumbelow's, does not contain a single map. Once again, as I mentioned in my earlier post, I don't have a map of the East End in my head. I assume that many readers are in the same situation. Consequently, a map would have been helpful. Overall, therefore, simply because of the endnotes, I prefer Begg's book from the scholarly point of view.
Begg's book contains much more social history than Rumbelow's. If you prefer to read
a Ripper book that mostly concentrates on the murders, then Rumbelow is probably your
man. Of course, the social history is interesting. The extent of poverty and violence in the East End matters for understanding the Ripper's crimes, but knowing about it doesn't really help in trying to determine his identity. So you can take your pick based on the degree of your interest in historical context of the murders.
As for the identity of Jack the Ripper, Begg looks at the traditional suspects at some length and, fortunately, doesn't pay much attention to the wilder candidates. Begg ultimately plumps for Kosminski. Here's what he says on page 351:
So who was Jack the Ripper? The sad fact is that nobody knows and nobody is likely to know. Having said that, somewhere there may be a document - perhaps misfiled at the Public Record Office, in the archives of a library or maybe sitting in a dusty box in someone's loft - that will reveal all. As things stand, I think Aaron Kosminski is the leading contender, not because I think he was Jack the Ripper, but because of all the policemen who expressed an opinion, Anderson is the only one to have expressed certainty. We need to find out why.
Begg is referring to Robert Anderson, who was appointed to the CID during the Ripper investigation. He fingered Kosminksi in his memoirs, but not by name. Only Donald Swanson, in his marginalia to his copy of Anderson's book, identified the killer as Kosminski. Subsequent research by Ripperologists has found only one Kosminski who fits the bill, namely, Aaron Kosminski. Begg's case against Kosminski isn't conclusive, but it's certainly food for thought.
In conclusion, I should say that I greatly enjoyed Begg's book. I recommend it to anyone interested in Jack the Ripper.