Recently I’ve been reading Philip Sugden’s comprehensive history of the Jack The Ripper Murders. Aside from the enduring mystery as to the identity of Britain’s most famous serial killer, the book’s pages contain some fascinating social history.
The picture, so often presented of ‘Jack’ stalking his victims through the deserted streets of London’s Whitechapel couldn’t be further from the truth. In the 1880’s the area’s tenements and ‘doss’ houses were crammed full of the transient working classes and of course prostitute,s who were up and about at all hours of the day and night. It was quite common for these workers to be setting out for, or even starting work at one, two, three or four in the morning! The Ripper frequently risked discovery and may even have been disturbed at his grisly work on several occasions.
For instance, Elizabeth Stride was killed in Dutfield’s yard just a few feet away from The International Working Men’s Club, some of whose members were still singing and drinking at the time of the murder. Her throat had been cut but, she hadn’t suffered the mutilation visited on many of the other victims. Several of the club’s members had stepped out into the yard close to the estimated time of the murder, so it’s quite possible that The Ripper was disturbed before he could do anything more.
One passage in the book leapt out at me more than any other. This was a statement made by Major Henry Smith, Acting Commissioner, who describes being roused from his bed at Cloak Lane Police Station, and jumping into a Hansom Cab on the night of the Catherine Eddowes murder. Licensed to carry two, the Commissioner was joined inside by a 15 stone Superintendent, whilst three detectives jumped on the back.
The passage was so redolent of Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet where Sherlock Holmes hops on the back of a Hansom, in order to follow the ‘old crone’ who claims the ring, thought to have been dropped by the murderer of Enoch J. Drebber. ‘That’s an art which every detective should be an expert at,’ he informs Dr. Watson when retelling the story. A Study in Scarlet was first published in 1886, just two years before the Ripper murders began. This connection with Sherlock Holmes set me wondering – if a real-life Sherlock Holmes had been around in the 1880’s would we still be wondering who Jack The Ripper was?
Holmes for all his skills would have had little to go on for the victims appear to have been chosen at random. The Ripper left nothing at the scene of his crimes that could be used to identify him and, there was little or no forensic science available. Crucially the five murders were committed over a relatively short period; the first in April, the last in November 1888. Most serial killers are caught because they go on killing and, becoming careless, make a mistake which eventually leads to their capture.
Some mysteries should perhaps remain a mystery; few of us would still be interested in the Whitechapel murders of 1888, if Jack The Ripper had been caught and the mythology surrounding him had been stripped away by his unmasking.
I painted this portrait of Jimi Hendrix back in 2006. It’s based on a photo from the album sleeve of Electric Ladyland. I could have sold it several times over but I had already made a present of it to my partner Maggie. Accurately rendering the colours and textures of the outfit Hendrix was wearing proved to be the hardest part for me. The outfit consists of what appears to be a velvet jacket, worn over a black, leather waistcoat and shirt of many colours which subtly blend into one another. It took many hours of work to get it right.
Artwork copyright Chris Niblock 2006
The search for the Higgs Boson took a bizarre turn this week with the announcement that there could be at least five different kinds of the God Particle, maybe more. Not so long ago the scientists at Cerne were confidently predicting that they would find the elusive Higgs Boson this year, now it seems the search could go on forever.
What’s going on here? Are the little devils breeding like rabbits or are the scientists simply trying to ensure that in these cash straightened times they will retain their funding. After all, once they find the God Particle, it will be a case of job done and so long professor!
You have to admit, it’s a pretty good wheeze. Anytime the boffins at Cerne feel their jobs are under threat they can simply increase the population of Higgs Bosons awaiting to be discovered. I doubt that Sherlock Holmes or even his arch enemy Professor Moriarty would stand much chance of unravelling this mystery.
‘The Clock Struck Twelve’
My four-year old grand-daughter loves animated films, which gives me a great excuse to watch them too. Amongst her favourites are the Disney versions of popular fairy tales. I was inspired to paint ‘The Clock Struck Twelve’ after watching Cinderella.
Original painting in oils on canvas: copyright Chris Niblock 2012
Size: 790 mm x 1000 mm £450.00
Back dated has been completely revised and edited to eliminate the typos mentioned by some reviewers of the first edition.Only £1.99 ($2.99 in the USA) and for Prime members it’s absolutely FREE!
“Back Dated has an original and interesting plot that engages the reader very quickly and holds them right up to the end. Niblock maintains tension and interest throughout and Ray Flaxman is a flawed but interesting character. This is a book from an author with great potential.”
Jill Murphy – The Bookbag
Synopsis: In the post crash Britain of 2009, the state of the economy is the least of sci-fi writer Ray Flaxman’s problems. His fiancée Francesca is pushing him to set a date for their wedding; an unknown admirer is bombarding him with love letters, and he’s not going to meet the deadline for completing the last of his Halgaar trilogy of novels.
Returning to London after a romantic weekend in Oxford with Francesca, Ray is dismayed to find his flat has been ransacked. When he discovers only the love letters and a photo of his fiancée have been taken he fears his little secret is about to be made public. Matters become even more complicated when a strange young woman claiming to have come from the future, turns up at the flat and demands Ray get her pregnant – again!
At first Ray dismisses her wild claims as the ravings of a deranged fantasist but then the girl mysteriously disappears. After a bruising encounter with her formidable mother, and her violent henchman, Ray begins to take the girl’s story far more seriously.
As the odds against him mount, Ray is forced to confront a future in which men are facing extinction and women no longer need them. A reluctant hero, Ray has to step up to the plate to save not only himself and the girl, but the rest of the male species.
“In the lounge, the entire contents of a large bookcase had been thrown out onto the floor. Spines broken, dust covers ripped off, the precious volumes lay there like a flock of birds with broken wings.”
“She was so close, I could see the tiny beads of perspiration that had gathered in the notch at the base of her throat, the quickened beat of her heart pulsing in a vein in her neck. Our eyes caught and held for a moment, then each of us, embarrassed by this shared moment of intimacy, turned away and busied ourselves with other matters.”
“One look into their eyes and I knew I was in big trouble: there was nothing there. It was like gazing into the eyes of the dead. Testosterone oozed from every pore and fibre, reminding me of those Russian female shot putters and javelin throwers from the Cold War period, whose gender couldn’t be determined, even after exhaustive scientific tests. Bond got Pussy Galore. I’d got the ugly sisters, but there would be no pantomime play acting from these two: these ‘Ladies’ meant business.”
Just click on the links below the smaller pic of the book’s cover on the right and it will take you straight to Back Dated’s page on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Don’t have a Kindle? No problem, Amazon thoughtfully provide FREE App’s which enable you to download my eBook onto an iPad, iPhone and similar devices, or onto your laptop or PC. You can even read the first couple of chapters for Free before buying! So, what have you got to lose?
Now available in the epub format from Smashwords and Kobo.
If you are an author yourself, and you’re looking for someone to format your book for you, I can thoroughly recommend a fellow author and eBook formatter, Tim C. Taylor. You will find a link to his site at the foot of the list of links to my novel.
The group behind proposals to build a replacement for the royal yacht Britannia have been unveiling some of the ideas under consideration; these include a design based on a roman galley. In roman times these largely muscle-powered ships were manned by slave labour, but a group of tory back-bench MP’s are said to be very interested in a scheme which would see crews being drawn from amongst the unemployed, and in particular those receiving job seekers allowance.
‘It would give the unemployed a chance to serve their country and at the same time earn some of their benefit. It would also be good for the environment, so it’s a win/win situation for everybody,’ the spokesperson gleefully declared.
It’s envisaged that each of the unemployed workers would be expected to spend at least one week a year rowing members of the royal family and visiting dignitaries up and down the Thames.
The unions have condemned the proposed scheme outright but when asked to comment, a labour spokesperson said, ‘We haven’t ruled anything in and we haven’t ruled anything out at this stage’. When it was pointed out that this sounded very like a rowing analogy, the spokesperson admitted that he had rowed for his college whilst at university but was somewhat rusty with an oar these days.
Anyone eager to be shackled to the royal rowlocks should e-mail their cv to:
Oarspersons will be required to sing work songs including:
Row, row, row Britannia gently up the stream,
Verily, verily, verily, verily forget the downturn, live the dream.
My original intention when I started this painting was to produce an abstract piece. After working on it for a while however, I decided that the idea wasn’t going anywhere. The vertical blue and whites stripes were suggestive of the ultra violet emitting flourescent tubes used in sunbeds, so I added the figure of a guy wearing sunglasses. I had employed a colour palette from the cooler end of the spectrum and this provided me with a title for the work.
Cool Shades is currently on show along with Cosmic Collision (previously featured on this blog) until 3rd February at the Ludlow Assembly Rooms gallery, Mill Street, Ludlow SY8 1AZ. Both Paintings are for sale. Cool Shades is priced at £250 and Cosmic Collision at £350. The artworks are painted in oils on good quality, deep profile canvas 60 x 76 cms in size.
Original artworks copyright Chris Niblock
The Scarlet Pimpernel is of course a fictional character: a foppish English aristo who risks his life to save French aristos from the guillotine during the reign of terror, but he does share a number of important characteristics with the Higgs Boson particle.
1) He constantly eludes detection
2) No one is quite sure if he exists or if he is just a myth.
Imagine the Higgs boson was a person rather than a particle. Say a clever and resourceful jewel thief, wanted all over Europe but no one knows for certain who he is or what he looks like. A French professor claiming to have seen him reports his sighting to the local gendarmerie.
‘So professor, you say you saw Higgs Boson.’
‘Yes. Yes, I did,’ the professor replies. The man is red faced and excited and the detective wonders if he has been drinking.
‘And where was this professor?’
‘It was in the tunnel at Cern.’
The detective leans forward eagerly. He can see the headlines now: Inspector Clouseau – the man who brought Higgs Boson in. ‘I need to know when, and more importantly I need a description – what did this man look like?’
The professor looks stricken. He hesitates. ‘Well, it was . . . erm, very dark in there. ‘
‘But, you saw him, right?’
‘It was more in the nature of a glimpse actually . . . ‘
‘A glimpse! The detective shouts, then in a calmer voice, ‘Just how long was he visible for?’
‘Well, it ‘s hard to be absolutely precise about that.’ The professor pulls a sheaf of computer printouts from the briefcase he’s been clutching, ‘If you take a look at these numbers, you can see there’s a spike in the data just here . . .’
The detective sighs. ‘Thank you professor. I don’t think we need detain you any longer.’
I was inspired to paint this after seeing Pete Postlethwaite perform the role of the eponymous clown in this one man show at Ludlow Assembly Rooms. It’s based on a publicity still for the show, but I decided to heighten the drama of the picture by adding a stronger background. Coincidently, a year or so later I found a buyer for the painting at the very same assembly rooms.
Scaramouche, a roguish clown character of the Italian Commedia dell’arte, also features in the popular song Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. The name was originally that of a stock character who featured in 17th century Italian farce, in which another regular character named Harlequin would beat him for his bragging and for his cowardice.
Original artwork: oils on canvas copyright Chris Niblock
In the year since she was deported from America in the biggest spy swap since the end of the Cold War, Anna Vasil’yevna Kushchyenko: aka Anna Chapman, has gone from undercover spy to pin-up cover girl. On her return to Russia, she was toasted by Putin at a private gathering and invited to join a pro-Putin youth group; her job to provide leadership advice to Russian youth. So far, so good, but then she posed half-naked for a men’s magazine holding a gun. Somewhat surprisingly, this embarrassed the former KGB agent Mr. Putin who has not only posed topless with a gun, but with horses and a fishing rod.
Then in an incident more reminiscent of a Carry On film than John Le Carre, the Bondski girl took to the catwalk during a fashion show brandishing a pistol, which, much to the delight of her detractors, she proceeded to drop in front of the attendant press corps. Now ‘the spy who came in from the cold’ could find herself back out in it. Given the scanty clothing she’s been wearing lately and with the harsh Moscow winter just around the corner, things could prove very cold indeed for the failed spy.
I don’t know if British Intelligence has someone like Anna working undercover in Moscow but I’m betting her choice of underwear will be far more sensible than Chapman’s: a nice warm thermal vest from M & S and some thick woolly tights. Let’s hope that like the Americans, would be Russian traitors will just love her English accent!