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George Chapman

George Chapman

Jack the Ripper at last?

Described as a “well researched and beautifully written piece of history”, Jack the Ripper at last? is the newest work by Hastings writer Helena Wojtczak. Stepping aside from women’s history, Helena dived into the complex and painstaking world of psychology and crime writing. Jessica Parker speaks to Helena regarding her upcoming book signing.

Jack the Ripper at last? has probably been the most nail biting, uncomfortable read for me since Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. What Capote did so well was not so much retell the terrifyingly true Kansas murders, but put in years of strenuous digging. In similar style to that of Capote, Helena recaptures the horrific events which took place in Hastings Old Town 100+ years ago. Three years of extensive research and writing have finally paid off and Jack the Ripper at last? is now available for purchase.

As a writer of women’s history, Helena created a real challenge for herself when she fell for the alluring curiosity of crime writing. For the past twelve years Helena has been writing numerous books investigating the truth and appreciation for women’s history in the Victorian era. Her passion for female equality has led her to be, in my opinion, one of the greatest feminist writers of all time, so why did she decide to start writing about historical – and misogynistic – crime?

“I was already interested in Victorian women and fascinated by Jack the Ripper. I became intrigued by a video about him on YouTube. The presenter could not identify Chapman’s barber shop, and this challenged me to investigate further”. – Helena Wojtczak.

Jack the Ripper at last? is quite simply a book which helps uncover the mystery of who Jack the Ripper is, and whether he lived in Hastings at the end of the 19th century and murdered numerous wives. The book not only unravels the facts and myths surrounding the Ripper murders, but helps explore the lives of victims, family and friends of the killer and how the murders had a greater effect on the wider communities.

George Street, Hastings Old Town

George Street, Hastings Old Town.

Jack the Ripper at last? focuses on the Hastings killer, George Chapman. A twisted, psychotic Polish killer who apparently had no motive. Chapman owned a barber’s shop on the west side of George Street, which if I am correct, is currently Albion Books. “It is creepy to think the floorboards are the same ones he worked on. You can stand on that floor right where he poisoned his wives,” explained Helena. “Around the corner at 66 High Street was the chemist where Chapman purchased the poison in 1897”.

The book itself is an easy read, well designed and a favourable piece to stand proudly on your bookshelf. It will have you at the end of Chapter 4 before you realise you’ve begun. It will broaden your mind about Jack the Ripper and it may make you slightly uneasy about George Street. Last week was my first trip down George Street after reading Chapter 3 and it left an unnerving chill down my spine. The complex psychological relationships this book provides makes it a work of true crime writing.

To make Jack the Ripper at last? even more exciting – there is a book signing next week. You can find Helena with copies of various of her books, from Notable Sussex Women to Women of Victorian Sussex, and of course Jack the Ripper at last? The book signing will be held at Hastings History House, this Saturday – 7 June, at 12pm. For the full address, see the bottom of the page. The signing will act as a promotional podium for smaller circulation works as they are unavailable in larger book shops. All of Helena’s books are published and represented by The Hastings Press.

Helena’s works on Victorian women will be available at the signing and are currently available at the Hastings Library under Local History. She is also starting a new project based on the suffragettes of Hastings. To purchase any of Helena’s works, go online, attend the signing or raid your nearest bookstore.

Hastings History House is at 21 Courthouse Street, Hastings TN34 3AU
Tel: 01424 424744

Posted 19:04 Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014 In: Literature

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