Mary Kelly’s grave

On 19 November 1888 the woman who called herself Mary Jane Kelly was buried. Huge crowds arrived to mourn the victim of Jack the Ripper and she has since been portrayed in literature and films with her true identity still unknown. Claims that she was Elizabeth Weston-Davies prompted a team of researchers to conclude that […]

Never forget

In 2018 I contributed to a Doctor Who charity anthology, Time Shadows Second Nature. This week three separate things reminded me of this. The most recent Doctor Who episode is, like the story, set during the Crimean War. Secondly, I was revising my biography of William Onion, who joined the Marines when they were fighting […]

Letter to Old Boss, 133 years ago

On 29 October 1888 someone wrote a letter to Doctor Openshaw at the London Hospital. Earlier that month a kidney had been sent through the post to George Lusk, chairman of a vigilante committee, with a letter claiming to be from hell and Jack the Ripper. Openshaw’s professional opinion on the kidney was circulated in […]

Back into Fiction

For the last three years I have been working on non-fiction projects, having previously spent about half of my writing time on fiction. This wasn’t a conscious change in strategy, rather a response to the market. I still receive guidelines for fiction anthologies and see if I have anything suitable or enough time to create […]

Changing assumptions

When writing biography, you should understand your subject. After six years of researching William Onion’s life, I came to know him as an honest man. He admitted his many faults and his recollection of events tallied reasonably well with other sources. At the age of eleven he saw a woman executed for theft and claimed […]

Burns and Onion

In January 1888 two men were exercising in a prison yard. One had hidden a loaf of bread in his trousers and produced it for the other to eat. That was the start of a most unlikely friendship between John Burns and William Onion, who went on to become famous in their time for entirely […]

Partners in Crime available for pre-order

Partners in Crime is the fifth volume in The Best New True Crime Stories, edited by Mitzi Szereto. It contains my piece on the couple known as Peter and Helen Kroger who acted as spies for the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Writing about this era was a departure from my usual research into […]

Book or Film?

My eldest boy recently had a school project to analyse the differences between a book and the film of that book. Often these are considerable. Sometimes only the title of the book remains, leaving fans unhappy but potentially attracting viewers unfamiliar with the original. This can grant a longevity to outdated works. The original James […]

More than a song

It is six years since I first wrote about William Onion and now my biography of him is nearing completion. Every time I revisit the sources, I discover something new, which helps build a picture of his character to supplement the facts. In the early stages of his drunken career, that allegedly accumulated a thousand […]