I blame it on Robert Bloch. I blame a lot of things regarding my writing on Bloch, frankly. But in the case of my debut novel from Emby Press, The Whitechapel Demon, I can trace it’s origin to three antecedents, the first of which is Bloch’s oft-reprinted 1943 short story, “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”. In it, the Ripper is revealed as a black magician whose victims are grisly offerings to inconceivable and unknowable entities, in return for immortality.
I read Bloch’s story at a very young age. An impressionable age, one might say. “Yours Truly…” is the whole package as far as I’m concerned. It’s got humor, scares, action and a killer punchline. And it’s got Jack. Smiling Jack. The Whitechapel demon, with his keen blade and, most importantly, his smile.
I saw that smile again in “The Ripper”, the first episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, which first aired in 1974. Jack was back, and in a similar form, if thirty odd years removed from Bloch’s outing. The Ripper was embodied here in full regalia–the hat, the cloak, the blade; a demonic anachronism come to call. Too, he was more monstrous than Bloch’s cunning infiltrator. This was the Ripper as matinee monster…he tore through prison cells and fought off the entirety of the Chicago police department, the latter in a memorably kaleidoscopic brawl.
Then came Joe R. Lansdale’s “The God of the Razor”, which cemented for me the idea of the Ripper-as-eldritch-monster, rather than a man driven by understandable, if stomach-churning, psychopathic urges. Lansdale’s description of the God, with its eyes like smashed glass and silvery stickpin teeth, and dressed like the Victorian ancestor of the cannibalistic Sawyer clan from Texas Chainsaw Massacre stuck with me. All the creepiest elements of Hitchcock’s 1927 film, The Lodger combined with the black magician from Bloch’s story and the murderous juggernaut of the Kolchak episode.
And out of that heady brew comes my contribution–the Ripper-entity that Charles St. Cyprian and Ebe Gallowglass face in The Whitechapel Demon. The Ripper-entity is a ravenous psychic predator, one of William Hope Hodgson’s ‘outer monstrosities’, drawn into our reality by a seance gone wrong, and taking the shape of one of London’s nightmares…Jack the Ripper. But a monstrous Ripper, an exaggerated pantomime version of the killer, composed of corpses and ectoplasm. There are bits of Bloch’s black magician, Kolchak’s monster and Lansdale’s devil-god in my Ripper, in the descriptions of it, combined to come up with something different, but, I hope, equally memorable.
If you’d like to see if that’s the case, I encourage you to pick up The Whitechapel Demon. It is available both in trade paperback and electronic format from Amazon.com, Smashwords,Barnesandnoble.com and other online retailers. For a free PDF preview of the the first three chapters, click HERE. And if, after you read it, you’re interested in discussing it, or the world of the Royal Occultist, there’s a dedicated forum at the Emby Press site HERE or you can stop by the series’ Facebook page.