Thursday, May 03, 2012

A Conversation with N. S. Patrick

Omnimystery News: Author Interview

We are delighted to welcome crime novelist N. S. Patrick to Omnimystery News today.

Mr. Patrick's new book is The Mysteries of Jack the Ripper (Silver Knight Publishing, Trade Paperback and eBook editions, May 2012).

We recently had a chance to talk to the author about his new book and his approach to writing about this historical figure.

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Omnimystery News: Your new book is a fictional account of the "Jack the Ripper" murders. Tell us a bit about it.

N. S. Patrick
Photo provided courtesy of
N. S. Patrick; photo copyright Larry Graham.

N. S. Patrick: The Mysteries of Jack the Ripper is an intelligent look at what man/woman might have committed five brutal murders in Whitechapel, London, 1888. I approached it from the mindset of the four classes of Londoners during that period.

One — Queen Victoria and the Royals.

Two — The upper class such as lawyers, doctors, financers.

The question: Would the royals or upper classes consider the murder of a prostitute important enough to ponder? No. They would need a stimulus to take more notice than a cursory glance at a newspaper. Therefore, forensics, as it was, was sloppy and negligible. I came to the understanding that a great deal of germane information went missing or was considered inconsequential.

Three — The middle class who worked at jobs that allowed for median incomes; The middle class would ho-hmm the murders and go on about their business. But action would be taken if they felt threatened.

Four — The lower class into which the murdered women fell. The lower class would plunge in with gossip and speculation but would not exert effort to find a killer.

In short, no one would come forth with any information they might have and time and distance took a toll on truth. And there is one incredible oddity. The first two murders occur one week apart. There is then a three week period before the next two arise. And these two are within an hour of each other. There follows a five week period before the last murder. There had to be a cause for the interruptions in time. What was that cause? It is the search for this reason that let me to my conclusions.

My study began revealing underlying philosophies and facts. None of the five murdered women feared their killer. In a macabre way, the killer was able to lull his victims into a feeling of safety before striking, and "Jack" struck only on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. This supported the theory that the killer lived away from the city and visited on weekends. But this idea could not be set in stone. Using a map with marked locations of the murders disclosed that the killings were in close proximity to the other. This supported the theory that the killer knew Whitechapel. Then there was a breakthrough of understanding. "Jack" was an everyman/woman. "My" killer was not confined to dark alleys and shadows and all of England became suspect.

This theory made sense of everything I was reading. I verified the theory against facts, and the answer to 124 years of silence was startling. The more I deliberated on my assumption, the more I realized it was the solution to an old, unsolved mystery.

My problem then became: How to weave my findings into a readable story? The best way was to tell a straight forward account, and along the way, to poke subtle fun at all the pontification and guru-izing previously expounded. The result of my labor is The Mysteries of Jack the Ripper. And I was gratified when an individual who read the final draft wrote: "I never saw the end coming." I met further acclaim when I received the following: "A brilliant solution to an old, unsolved mystery."

OMN: The Mysteries of Jack the Ripper is a stand-alone mystery. Did you have any thoughts of developing a series from it?

NSP: With all the historical confusion and misdirected information regarding the murder of five prostitutes in Whitechapel, this novel must be a stand-alone. Jack the Ripper is content to kill five times then disappear into the London fog. "Jack" does not make the error of talking about the acts or doing "just one more". Jack is quite content to laugh at the wild guesses as to who "Jack" is. For the remainder of "Jack's" days he/she preens his/her pride with the folly of the press and police force and the singular knowledge that "Jack" has "got away" with murder.

OMN: One of the first rules of any writing class seems to be to write what you know. How much of you is in your books?

NSP: Not to be flip but all of me is in this book. I immersed myself into 1888 London. I became Jack the Ripper with all his/her feelings, and in a sense, wrote an autobiographical account. My writing is combination of research, talking with those who know or "might" know, and putting myself into the character. The wonderful result of submerging my soul into my character(s) is I can commit murder, accept the feelings of the murderer, and not go to jail.

OMN: Many readers have a mental image of what the series character (or principal character in a stand-alone) looks like. Indeed, it's likely you have a mental image yourself of the character. If your book were to be adapted for television or film, who do you see playing the part(s)?

NSP: A wide range of British actors could carry off The Mysteries of Jack the Ripper. Sir John Gielgud, Sir Laurence Olivier, and John Thaw come to mind. Unfortunately, they have passed. I am sure there equally capable gentlemen in the English theater today. Playing the part of the bon vivant will take an actor of exceptional skill. This character will be the most difficult to translate to another medium.

Along this line, I have enjoyed immensely, the adaptation of Christie's Poirot (Suchet) and Marple (Hickson) to the TV screen. Here is a true amalgamation of media. The reason: the viewer's intelligence is respected. Unfortunately, the attempt to translate Inspector Morse (Thaw) to the tube did not prove as effective. Dexter's characters and storyline have been hyper-sexualized, filled with grotesque gore, and injected with unnecessary vulgar language and toilet humor to the point of degrading the written works and bring the TV productions down to the level of American television. What was not kept in mind is that what is in word form sometimes does not translate to visual form.

OMN: How did you go about recreating Victorian London in your book?

NSP: I am scrupulously exacting when depicting an actual place. However, working one hundred years back requires some intelligent guesswork as to how a location might have looked before the parking lot was built. Of course, imagined places are that, fictional.

OMN: What are your interests outside of writing crime fiction?

NSP: With the exception of writing, I do not have a hobby per say. I have enjoyed buying houses, renovating them, and selling back. This is known as 'flipping' a property. I enjoy the theater and have acted, directed and written for the stage. Surprisingly, I moved to New Orleans the city of jazz and seafood. Yet I feel music is nothing more than background noise and I don't like fish of any kind. The dismissal of music is very much a trait of one character in The Mysteries of Jack the Ripper. In my case, I enjoy music in a musical if the music moves the plot along.

OMN: Do you stick to crime fiction when you read for enjoyment?

NSP: I will read, at least start, any book (genre) I think might prove interesting. I have read all of Agatha Christie, most of P. D. James, some Ruth Rendell — I find her works too wordy. I have read but do not care for Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. I know I'm in the minority, but I have not liked anything Carol Higgins Clark has written. She is way too predictable.

OMN: What's next for you?

NSP: I am in the processes of writing crime novels that will be a series. At this time, I have two titles: 1) The Murder of Wednesday's Children (in rough format); 2) Murder at a Séance (in outline form in my head with approximately 10,000 written words on paper. I have assembled the characters. However, I do not know who the murderer is. The book and the characters will eventually tell me).

My protagonists are Archer Reed and Ione Wallace and the setting is Boston and surrounds in 1926. Why 1926? I am interested in history and fascinated by what 'everyday life' might have been like. There is a romance about going back in time. Into this, I inject murders. In this case, it is the Jazz Age, cement shoes, bathtub gin, flappers, and murder, murder, murder. In other words, all the things that made Prohibition fun.

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N. S. Patrick is a native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and therefore a true Yooper. He attended Albion College and obtained a BA in Business Administration. He served as an officer in the U. S. Navy from 1962 to 1969. Presently, he lives in Kenner, Louisiana.

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The Mysteries of Jack the Ripper by N. S. Patrick

About The Mysteries of Jack the Ripper:

On August 31, 1888, a prostitute is murdered in Whitechapel, London, England. When a member of a proper gentleman's club, Thayer Wickliff, hears local gossip, he begins reading the grisly details in the paper. Thayer discusses the murder with his peers, and soon, a debate on the reason a man would kill in such a gruesome fashion follows.

When a second, more horrific murder occurs the following weekend, the newspapers sensationalize. The City of London now believes that a frenzied lunatic is stalking the streets. Speculation arises that the murderer may not be mad — quite possibly, he was a solid, normally law abiding citizen walking among them, unnoticed.

At the end of the killing spree in November 1888, five prostitutes had been killed and mutilated. During this time, four members of the club had uncovered the identity of “Jack the Ripper” and knew why the murders were committed. Bound by a gentleman's code of silence, they allow history to be left with unresolved mysteries.

Find out how a twisted series of events unfold in this unexpected and brilliant solution to an old, unsolved mystery!

The Mysteries of Jack the Ripper is scheduled to be published on May 29th, 2012, and is available to be pre-ordered from the publisher.

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