Q&A with Alex Grecian

Alex Grecian’s latest book, The Devil’s Workshop, has a thrilling plot with notorious characters including Jack The Ripper. This is the third book in the series out of six. The plot takes place in London during the 1890s with a theme comparing law and justice. It is more of a “who done it” than an actual mystery since the readers know the villains and their deeds.


Elise Cooper: Why did you include as a character Jack The Ripper?


Alex Grecian:Anybody writing about Jack The Ripper is essentially working with a made-up character since no one knows who he actually was. I went to great lengths to put my own interpretation to him including giving him certain quirks. I hope I succeeded in having you feel sorry for Jack The Ripper. I wanted to make him unpredictable, which is why I wrote those scenes where some of his actions can be considered good. Yet, I also had him do some really evil things. I did this to keep the reader guessing as to what he might do. He will hardly be in the next book, but comes back strongly in the fifth.


EC: Did you use the secret society to illustrate law versus justice?


AG: I wanted to make the society have lofty moral ideals. That is why I included in the book the quote, ‘Law doe not concern itself with justice.’ The law is set up to serve the people but it cannot serve every specific person. Sometimes justice is not served since a guilty person can be found innocent and vice-versa. I guess I would summarize it best that the law is concrete and justice is slippery. For example think of a murdered child. Even if the perpetrator was found guilty that does not bring back the child.


EC: How did you come up with the beginning quote, “Push me down and shut my box, And Twist my arm about. And Listen to my merry tune. I’ll soon be coming out. Push me down again, Dear Childe, I’m safely hid away. But I’m not gone; it won’t be long Till Jack comes out to play.”


AG: I used poems at the beginning of my previous books. I looked everywhere for a nursery rhyme that would convey the coming of Jack The Ripper and his craziness. Since I could not find any I chose to make something up because I wanted it to seem realistic. I attributed it to Claire Day. Eventually, as the series continues, Claire is going to publish the nursery rhymes she’s been writing under a pseudonym. She’ll use the late Constable Winthrop’s name as a kind of tribute to him. I used the quote to get the reader in the mood for what was coming. BTW, I also made up the name of a book for the Karstphanomen definition I wrote in the front of Devil’s Workshop.


EC: In the book you refer to prisons as cages and not as reform institutions. Why?


AG: I don’t think very many people in prison are being rehabilitated. I also think there are cases where those in prison should not be there. I wanted the reader to ask the question, ‘Is prison really doing the job for everybody we put there.’ Personally, I do not think so.


EC: When you wrote how people changed in London after Jack The Ripper I thought of a JFK analogy. Do you agree?


AG: That is a very interesting analogy. Yes. After Jack The Ripper killed those five women people stopped trusting each other and the police. People became more scared, cynical, and bitter. It does seem to parallel US society after JFK was shot where people moved inward, were not free willing towards strangers, and wanted more security.


EC: Why did you write some of the book with italics?


AG:The villains’ POV chapters in all my books are italicized.


EC: What do you want the readers to get out of this book?


AG: I hope they have fun and see it as a modern thriller set in Victorian England. I want people to be scared and thrilled as they read it.


EC: Can you give a heads up about your next projects?


AG: The next book in the series will concentrate on the killer “Harvestman” who looks for his parents by carving up people and looking inside them. One of the detectives, actually my wife’s favorite, will be back but in a different profession. The next book, just as with this one, will end in a cliffhanger. I am also writing a graphic novel, a comic book, with artist Riley Rossmo who I wrote with years ago. This new series, due out in November, is about Rasputin, taking place during and just after WWI. It will be a fictional version of his life and times that will include the conspiracy theories. I explore the possibility that MI6 killed him to keep Russia in the war, something Rasputin advocated against.