A Night in the Lonesome October

In 1888 a killer stalked the streets of London’s Whitechapel district, brutally and ritualistically murdering women. The killer, dubbed Jack the Ripper, captured lurid headlines and the imagination of the public. Fictionalized versions of his story started appearing as early as October of 1888, only a few weeks after the discovery of the first victim.…

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A Choice of Evils: How Roger Zelazny Created a Heroic Jack the Ripper

In 1888 a killer stalked the streets of London’s Whitechapel district, brutally and ritualistically murdering women. The killer, dubbed Jack the Ripper, captured lurid headlines and the imagination of the public. Fictionalized versions of his story started appearing as early as October of 1888, only a few weeks after the discovery of the first victim. Since then hundreds of stories have been written about Jack, his victims, and his legacy. No fictional treatment of the character, however, has ever been approached like the character of “Jack” in Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October. Rumor has it that someone bet Zelazny that he couldn’t write a story in which the reader rooted for Jack the Ripper as a hero. According to the rules of the wager, Jack could not be a “modified version” of the character where it wasn’t “really” Jack who committed the murders; the character had to be the 1888 serial killer who committed the crimes. Whether the rumor is true or not, Zelazny created a fascinating narrative with a host of characters from literature, history, and film—including Jack the Ripper, Dracula, Frankenstein, Rasputin, Sherlock Holmes, and more—in which a deadly game is played in a rural suburb of Victorian London.

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