Jack the Ripper Dossier, Part XIV – “life changed when Kate was 13”

Welcome to the 14th episode of Richard Walker’s weekly podcast series on Jack the Ripper.

This episode is 10 minutes long. If you’re asking. yourself, “do I have 10 minutes for this?” listen to the last 30 seconds. That’ll answer the question for you. Affirmatively – “omg yes, I have 10 minutes for this.”

Which is by way of saying, with a guide of this calbre, you’re getting the complete package: the selection of detail, the mastery and the delivery.

The selection of detail, well, with a couple of exceptions, I’ll leave that to Richard. Exception number one is when they locked Catherine Eddowes up that night she gave her name as ‘Nothing.’ You want a crystallisation of the depths of despair, of psychological devastation, there it is in that moment, in that one word. And all the more so for the way this gifted actor-guide “delivers” that one word, that “line.”

Ok, tracking back, this episode is about the Ripper’s fourth “canonical” victim, Catherine Eddowes.

For a peroration I’ll repeat what I’ve said before about Richard, his walk and this series. To some extent it recapitulates what I’ve said above, but it bears repeating.

As usual, it’s not just what you’re told, it’s how you’re told it. This is a great storyteller at work. We see the superb craftsmanship of the writer-editor-storyteller in the selection and ordering of detail – every last word is perfect and perfectly placed; and we hear the superb craftsmanship of the entertainer-storyteller in the rustling, dry leaves quality of Richard’s voice and especially in the pacing and cadence of the presentation. This is speech – storytelling – as music. Lines like ‘the gas jets were regularly left on to deter the rats” and “their baby Harriet died of malnutrition” are compelling on the page – when you hear Richard say them they have a ring of fire round them. You know – recognise perhaps intuitively, perhaps consciously – that you are in the company of somebody who does this sort of thing at a very high level. You know that you’re with someone you want to listen to; you know you’ve found your storyteller for Jack the Ripper.

A penultimate point. The podcast is not a walk. Richard has more elbow room in the podcast. But an important takeaway from the podcast is: “my god, this guy knows his stuff, if I have any questions – either background questions or questions that hug the belt of this subject – I’m going to get an informed, judicious, very interesting answer. I’ve made the right choice here.

Richard is the actor, adventurer (he sailed across the Pacific in a tiny two-man skiff) and masterful Ripperologist performance artist who’s created a new version of the Ripper Walk. His walk is called Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel. It’s an exclusive VIP Ripper walk (it’s a guaranteed small group tour – the numbers are strictly limited).

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