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Jack the Ripper's biggest fan

Colin Wilson Confidential


Mad, bad and dangerous to acknowledge. HAWLEY GRIFFIN waves repeatedly across a crowded room at a blissfully unaware COLIN WILSON, then pounds off, huffily, to pen this bad tempered and spiteful tract.


Jack the Ripper was a rum old cove.

Dashing about the Eastend gutting prostitutes whilst wearing full evening dress and carrying a gladstone bag, witnessed only by the pea-souper fog that clings to the walls of Pinewood studios to this very day. He did this for a couple of months and apparently got it out of his system as the crimes stopped almost as suddenly as they started. What happened? Why did he stop? Did he kill himself? Was his greedy bloodlust finally satiated? Did an arcane ritual dictated by a strange Masonic cabbala finally run its course? Did he get a proper boys hobby like coarse fishing or pannini sticker albums?

We shall of course never know. After all, it happened a long time ago when police investigations were less sophisticated, when the tabloid press, already in its infancy, fanned the flames of public hysteria, and any empirical evidence has long since crumbled to dust. Let it go. It was a long time ago. It's in the past.

But not for Colin Wilson. Everytime the scantiest piece of evidence filters through from whichever dubious source (a hidden journal, previously unreleased police papers, backwards masking on a heavy metal record, etc.) Colin and is intrepid band of 'Ripperologists' appear on our screens weighing up the evidence like an Italian buying a cantaloupe.

Unchanged and unnourished by time, Colin appears to have plundered Jerry Leadbetter's wardrobe - positing his wayward conspiracies in the same tan leather jacket and fawn roll neck for the last three decades. His glasses, a Simon Batesian tinted monstrosity, his hair tortured into corrugated, dandruff-flecked grooves.

He appears as a harmless English eccentric, a lovable buffoon, the uncle who you see every other Christmas who thinks that birds are talking about him. Sadly 'twas not always so. There was a time when this shabbily upholstered
workaholic (at last count, he has published well over 50, 000 books - most of which are available from wire baskets in Tesco Metro) was the avenging angel of British literature. A steel-capped, proletarian boot to the tweedy arse of the post-Bloomsbury set.

Born the son of a Leicester cobbler in 1931, Wilson was a relentless autodidact, consuming books like a Nazi bonfire, determined to get out of Leicester and live the life of the mind. To this end, he ill-advisedly joined the army and after excusing himself on grounds of homosexuality (and fair play to him. Although, it can't have been too hard to convince a 1940's Sqaddie you were gay. A couple of pointed observations about his curtains should have done the trick) he found himself sleeping on Hampstead Heath each night and spending each day in the British Library working on his first completed book : 'The Outsider'. (His first attempt at fiction, later completed, had been 'Ritual in the Dark' about...Jack the Ripper!)


After sending off 3 sample chapters, he struck up a publishing agreement with Victor Gollancz and the book was published to rabidly enthusiastic reviews in 1956. He was 24, had a full head of hair and a regional accent. At a time when angry young men were stepping blinking into the light and being generally awkward and stuck - he was a godsend. He had actually written a book about these people and apparently they were not just a modern phenomenon but
had appeared throughout history in both life and art. Lawrence of Arabia, Steppenwolf , Najinsky, Van Gogh. Men of genius out of step with their times, giants in a balsa wood world, the thin fabric of society smothering them like a gauze pillow case. The carcass of the Lion devoured by ants. Y'know, the usual post-Neitzchean, existentialist stuff devoured by thin young men in long black coats, who need to go outside and skim pebbles.

'The Outsider' did well and Colin set to work on the second part of what would ultimately prove to be a trilogy. But when it became clear that the follow up, like its predecessor, would be named after a Camus novel ('The Rebel') alarm bells began to jingle with the press.

Following a ludicrous incident involving his Father-in-Law and a horsewhip, the press pounced, compounding his 'Bad Boy' image and the literati turned on him.

In a fit of near palpable jealously, he was attacked for being callow and jejune; a whipper-snapper trading in second-hand European ideas. It's an image that has never really left him, and one that, perversely, he doesn't seem to want to shift.

Over the last thirty years, his steady stream of books have explored every avenue of the esoteric; a rambling, grailess quest. A journey through everything, which ultimately leads to no where and nothing. Perhaps, the pointlessness is the point.

Arriving at a site outside of popular convention, outside of the literary world, outside of respected academia, he has managed to emulate his heroes.

Colin recently convinced Ian Brady, celebrated moors murderer, to write a book.('The faces of Janus', I think is the title).

Whilst putting together this opus, Brady returns the favour by abusing Wilson throughout for his prurient interest in crime (and transgressive crime, in particular), sending him up as little more than a ghoulish voyeur, who for all his purported interest in the subject has not contributed anything of sociological (or even material) use.

There's still time. Go on Colin, do 'im...