Sunday, 8 May 2016
Portrait Of A Killer.
I have to say though I feel that the quality of the writing is such that it does not leave much wiggle room to think other than she does. I felt at the end of this book as though I had been peering into a microscope at some hungry cancerous lifeform, One bereft of an empathic appeal for mercy while a Doctor explained to me the details of its vampiric growth. There is a tone I find in some writers work. A dark certainty and belief in ones clarity of vision that allows one to see monsters and describe their gruesome aspect in very real terms that warns the viewer or listener to disregard their insight at ones own peril. Thomas Harris has it. Patricia Cornwell has it also. A morbidity of the soul for want of a better description.
One of the aspects of the Rippers crimes during that Autumn of Terror that frustrates is his seeming elusiveness and even invisibility. In a area saturated with policemen looking for anything suspicious and a local population on their guard he was able to flit among his victims and slay and slice and vanish. I used to scoff (oh yes even the most cringing of the proletariat is allowed the occasionally "scoff".) at the very idea of some top hatted opera cape wearing Gladstone bag carrying spat tapping dandy slashing his way unseen through the Whitechapel streets. A posh gent would have stood out either on his way to or way back from a ripping. I just cannot see a gentleman slipping unseen about the area without someone screeching "Oi,Jack the Ripper,You Been Nicked". Then I saw this photo of Walter Sickert; Whenever someone would present their notion of a new ripper suspect and also present their own reasons for such a suggestion I find I can often follow their line of reasoning up to a point..then ..it tends to fall apart for me...
It was the sheer savagery of the man's actions and their very clear escalation, I could rarely detect in the suggested suspects history a trigger or an event in which such a revolting anti-life gestation could have taken place. In other words what could possibly warp a personality to the point where hacking and slashing and stabbing at the body of a human being could be an expression of that trauma set loose. Well, just such an incident took place in young Walter Sickerts life. A violation perpetrated upon his person that could well have lead to an untethering of his humanity . Not an excuse for his possibly monstrous actions but certainly a causal factor in their inception. A trauma which untreated or un-addressed could well have grown to terrible proportions.
I will not go into that incident here. I would be wary of sensationalising his treatment and am wary of any suggestion of justification. Only that there is a possible inkling that the ingredients were in pace for the making of a monster. Or at least the making of a monstrous pathology.
In her work Patricia Cornwell switches on a light illuminating some very dark places. She can take the reader on a long and disturbing journey into these places and such journeys are not for the faint-hearted. Nietzshean warnings aside there are other hazards involved with abyss gazing. Her brutally direct and honest assertions with regard to the most disturbing pathology would lead one to make sure one lock one's doors at night.
Not a bad idea in any era.
Case Closed? I am not so sure. Walter Sickert is not the man who will be blamed for nothing but the Ripper crimes? Patricia Cornwell puts forth a compelling and disturbing vision that also works as a window into the dark soul of a man who put more than talent into his creations.