Bradley Harper MD

A Knife in the Fog


The period of the Ripper murders in 1888 was an interesting one for Doyle, both as a writer and a physician. He had a successful practice as a general practitioner in Portsmouth and some small pieces of historical fiction accepted by minor publications but nothing that had attracted much notice. His first Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, was completed in April of 1886 and was his largest and most ambitious work to date. He sent it to various publishers and was hurt by what he described as the “circular tour” of his manuscript.

Fortunately, Jeannie Bettany, wife of the editor in chief for Beeton’s Christmas Annual, plucked it from the slush pile in her husband’s office and convinced him to buy it. They offered Doyle twenty-five pounds, which he found insulting as they also demanded full copyright, but he ultimately agreed. For the remainder of his life, Doyle never ceased to mention that those twenty-five pounds were all he ever received for his introduction to the world of his most enduring character.

In July of 1887, he began a historical novel entitled Micah Clarke about the English Civil War. When his story in the Christmas Annual was published, it proved an instant success, selling out within two weeks after a positive review from The Times. Doyle, embittered by his meager pay for the story, labored on finalizing Clarke, which occupied him for the next year. The second Holmes story, The Sign of Four, was not published until February 1890, roughly fifteen months after the Ripper’s last victim, and nearly four years since Scarlet. The Ripper murders, therefore, took place in the interim between Scarlet and Sign.

All the murders occurred in 1888, but there is still debate as to which women slain that year could be attributed to him. There are five all experts agree on, however, beginning on the 31st of August 1888, and the final “canonical” victim on the 9th of November. These five murders over seventy days within the narrow confines of London’s East End were so brutal that they made Jack the Ripper into an immortal figure of savagery and fear.

"I should dearly love that the world should be ever so little better for my presence. Even on this small stage we have our two sides, and something might be done by throwing all one’s weight on the scale of breadth, tolerance, charity, temperance, peace, and kindliness to man and beast. We can’t all strike very big blows, and even the little ones count for something."

– Arthur Conan Doyle, Stark Munro Letters (1894)

Selected Works

See main page for book's description. Counting down!
Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Arthur Conan Doyle hunts Jack the Ripper within the ill-lit slums of the East End.

Quick Links

Find Authors