Researching Ripper

Catherine Eddowes, sketched as she appeared in life. Artist unknown.

By Sharon K. Gilbert

Though the core plot and characters of The Redwing Saga series of books encompasses far more than Jack the Ripper, this series of brutal slayings does play an integral role in the early books in the series. Researching these murders is made easier with the advent of Internet archives. There are numerous Ripper websites, but one that I’ve found very useful is, which not only provides commentary but also original texts of police reports, newspaper articles, and even post-mortem reports. This morning, I’ve been reviewing the report submitted by Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown, who examined the body of Catherine Eddowes, both on scene and at the Golden Lane mortuary.

It’s heartbreaking to read how this woman met her last moments of life. Photos show an emaciated form, striped with horrific cuts and slashes, but Brown’s description makes it more chilling, because the murderer clearly ‘staged and posed’ much of what the police discovered that night. ¬†When Catherine Eddowes lived, she surely never imagined that her name and final images would form substrate for a monster.


Illusionists in the Late 19th Century

Photo of John Nevil Maskelyne, Illusionist

By Sharon K. Gilbert

I’m currently working on Book Two (Blood Lies), and I decided to add a scene where Paul Stuart visits an informer at a west end music hall. Originally, I’d planned to use the Canterbury Music Hall, which was extremely popular and lay close to Westminster (just across the bridge in Lambeth), but I found a very interesting place yesterday called the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, which featured the stagecraft of a resident illusionist named John Nevil Maskelyne (and his partner George Alfred Cooke). Maskelyne and Cooke perfected the art of the cabinet illusion as well as ‘levitation’. Some in London even began to believe that Maskelyne’s talents were not so much illusory as spiritual in nature. Of course, since I’m writing about spiritual warfare, setting a scene here with this ‘magic’ act will provide for an interesting plot twist.

Spelling the British Way

By Sharon K. Gilbert

Because the novels are in many ways an homage to the beautiful British novels of the 19th century, I chose to use British spelling throughout the books. As an American writer, that presents a challenge, because I don’t tend to use those spellings on a day to day basis. Of course, I don’t generally say ‘whilst’ instead of ‘while’ either, but my characters do. In fact, because I have been using a more archaic form of speech ‘whilst’ writing the books this past year, I sometimes find myself speaking that way, and when writing or reading my first choice sometimes is the British version of a word.

So whilst reading the books, you may also be learning how Brits in the 19th century spoke and ‘spelt’ their words. Here’s a link to a site that’s helped me navigate these unfamiliar linguistic waters. If you spend much time here, you’ll soon find yourself writing ‘favour’ rather than favor and ‘licence’ rather than license.