cover image The Women of Whitechapel and Jack the Ripper

The Women of Whitechapel and Jack the Ripper

Paul West, Author, Susan Bell, Editor Random House (NY) $22 (420p) ISBN 978-0-394-58733-2

Inspired by a recent journalistic view that the infamous Jack the Ripper actually was a trio--Sir William Gull of Guy's Hospital, impressionist painter Walter Sickert, and a coachman called Netley--West delineates the roiling lives of the women before their doom. Polly, Dark Annie, Long Liz, Catherine and Marie are sister-strumpets to Annie Crook, a voluptuous Scottish lass, a painter's model who sold bonbons before bearing a child to ``Eddy,'' the slumming bisexual Duke of Clarence. To hush up the affair, the royals permit Annie to be kidnapped, fed drugged grapes, lobotomized and institutionalized by Dr. Gull, ``the skull-puncturer, the vivisectionist,'' who has a fierce taste for experimenting medically on healthy females. Reduced to a bemused vegetable, Annie finally is released to end her days in the workhouse. But her women friends, who write letters to the queen, are scooped into an unmarked coach once used by the Duke of Clarence (hence a different theory that he was ``the Ripper''), knifed and dumped in the gutter. West ( Ratman of Paris ; Lord Byron's Doctor ) characteristically tricks out actual persons/events in fictional guise. A lavish verbal wizard, his current re-creation seethes with juicy Falstaffian fantasies of toping and tupping. (Apr.)