Michael Slade is the author of a series of hard-hitting horror novels which include the best-sellers Headhunter and Cutthroat. His latest novel is Ripper, in which Slade reveals who Jack the Ripper really was. David Howe met up with Slade recently to talk about the new book.
The first surprise is that Michael Slade doesn’t actually exist, and the person sitting opposite me is a genial and chatty Canadian criminal lawyer named Jay Clark who is part of a changing trio of criminal lawyers and their families who write as Michael Slade.
Their latest book, Ripper, is based on London’s most famous murderer. Someone is killing women in Vancouver in a manner reminiscent of Jack the Ripper. In solving the murders, the police must work out the motivation and rationale behind the killings, which research also explains who the ‘real’ Jack the Ripper was.
I asked Jay how Ripper came about. ‘After Cutthroat I was looking for a subject for a new book,’ he explained. ‘And a friend said look, you’re a lawyer, now imagine the Director of Public Prosecutions wants to charge someone for the Ripper murders. Take all the suspects who have been offered forward and come up with a case that would stand up in front of a jury. When the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] do a drug sweep, what they do is they put up a board called a hit board, and they get photographs of all the various people in the Skid Row area and they put pictures up of everyone who they think might be the main traffickers. Then they go out and get evidence and they fill it all in on the hit list. So what we did was we took a board and we got pictures of all the Ripper suspects and put them along the top and then isolated the evidence against each person. We then took the Ripper crimes and isolated all the objective evidence. We know there are five certain Ripper cases so what is there? The chalk thing: “The Juwes are the men who will not be blamed for nothing”. What does it mean? You have to have an explanation for it. Your suspect has to have been in London at the time and has to have been known to have been in London at the time. You’ve got to have a motive.
‘So what we did then was we worked out in the evidence against each person something which answered each one of the questions and when we worked it all through, the only person who answered every single one of the questions was Aleister Crowley’s suspect: Stephenson. Crowley believed that the Ripper was forming the sign of the cross with the locations of his killings. The head of the Order of the New Dawn, to which Crowley belonged at the time, S. L. MacGregor Mathers, wrote a book called Astral Projection, Ritual Magic and Alchemy, which was published in 1888, the year of the Ripper. And the idea was that if you ritualistically form a cross, then you will open the way to the astral realm. The occult belief was that the “now” we’re living is a reflection of the astral realm. If you can project yourself into the astral realm through ritual magic, you can change things there which will have an effect in the “now”. And that’s how you conjure demons.
‘So when I linked that to the Tarot, which is a means of reading the astral plane, lo and behold, there is an upside down cross on the Hanged Man, and there is also the triangle, because the fellow who was Crowley’s suspect, also wrote about the Ripper using the pen-name Tautridelta, which means Cross Three Triangles. In this tarot card is the cross and the triangle. Triple the triangle and you can form a pentagram and then in order to get into the astral realm, you use a live woman as an altar, and the female sign is also present on the tarot card.
‘Whoa! I thought. Just a second here. Because I’d worked on a hundred murder cases; and after you deal with these people for eighteen months biweekly you begin to realise how the mind works. When you see people going psychotic there are common themes and this linking of symbolism with ritual murder is a classic symptom. One other thing I did was get a mathematician to work out the probability of the Ripper’s murders taking place at the points of a perfect cross and it came out as one in fifteen million two hundred and forty-nine sevenths. That’s the point at which I rested my case.’
Jack the Ripper was back in the news last year with the publication of a manuscript that was claimed to be his diary. ‘Luckily for me it was proved to be a fake,’ says Jay. ‘They put it through tests and determined that the paper was okay for the period but the ink was about thirty years out and there just isn’t that large a margin of error. Before they proved it … Jeez! … I just couldn’t sleep. What if my publishers said, “Oh Jay, we don’t need your novel anymore you’re going to have to go away and write another one to match the diary!”
‘There was my professional reputation to consider as well. If I’d picked the wrong man! They ended up marketing the diary in Canada and England with a sticker that asks the reader to make their own mind up as to its validity. You match wits with the professionals and weigh the evidence, which makes you into a juror. It gives you all of the counting down of the Ripper at the beginning of it, so it’s a good edition even if it isn’t genuine. And of course their suspect couldn’t be the Ripper, because the real Ripper was the fellow who’s identified in Ripper!’