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Dilation Exercise 111

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. It uses an illustration from his new novel, Say Anything But Your Prayers, released today by Lazy Fascist Press, and is inspired by the story. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. This time, since this image and text are a product of a finished work, please don’t elaborate on the story with comments. Need a further explanation about the Dilation Exercises? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

Tears ran down Elizabeth’s cheeks and into her blouse as she took the old woman’s cold, crooked hand into her own.

I might as well have cut her throat, she thought.

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

If you like Alan M. Clark’s artwork, please try his writing in both short fiction and novels.

Artwork: “The Old Woman’s Crooked Hand” copyright © 2014 Alan M. Clark. Interior illustration for Say Anything But Your Prayers by Alan M. Clark – Lazy Fascist Press.


The OF THIMBLE AND THREAT-Inspired Painting Raffle Winner, Plus New Ripper Essay

And the winner of the raffle is Sam McCanna

Congratulations, Sam, and many thanks to all who entered the raffle.

Brett McBean asked me to contribute an essay to his Saucy Jacky, a Ripper of a Blog.  Here’s the new essay about Jack the Ripper and his victims.

Jack the Ripper, London’s Murder Weapon

Was Jack the Ripper a monster, larger than life, beyond our comprehension? From all that has been written and dramatized about the killer, one might think so. But perhaps he was merely a man, with the fears and frailties of an average human being?

If I could go through his pockets, I’ll bet I’d find that he carried common, everyday items that helped him maintain his physical and mental wellbeing in the world of Victorian London. If that’s true, it would tell me that, although he was an extreme danger to society, he was subject to the physical and emotional trials we all go through in life.

The clothes we wear and the items we carry on our person say something about us. I wear shirts that button up the front. I never wear t-shirts. If asked why, I might say that I don’t think t-shirts are flattering to my middle-aged abdomen. I carry numerous keys because I want access to areas and items I lock up. One can easily deduce therefore that I’m doing more than most would to secure my stuff against theft, and that might say something about how many times I’ve been robbed. I slip my keys into a flexible glasses case before putting them in my pants because they chew holes in my pockets. I got tired of paying for new jeans just because the pockets were ruined, so it’s reasonable to assume I have been concerned about money during my life and learned to be frugal. I carry lip balm because I have the nervous habit of chewing my lips and making them chapped. What have I to be nervous about? That’s a good question. I carry a cloth handkerchief to wipe my nose instead of using paper tissues which might have something to do with my desire to preserve the natural world. For reasons I won’t reveal here, I carry a pocket knife and have no cell phone.

All these things say something about what I think and feel in my daily life, most of it of no consequence to anyone, but if I were a suspect or victim in a crime and the truth was important, useful conclusions about who I am might come from considering these things.

Beyond the savagery of the Jack the Ripper killings, the murderer is perhaps most defined by his choice of victims; common, poor women who would have been forgotten in time if not for the compelling manner of their deaths.

With the idea that to know something of the women is to know something about the Ripper, I became interested in the possessions of the victims. The possessions of the murdered women, found at the crime scenes, provide a glimpse of their lives and speak volumes about the time in which the White Chapel Murderer lived. The people of 1888 London didn’t have the mp3 players and electronic tablets we have today, they didn’t have car keys and water enhancers, thumb drives and anti-anxiety medications, but they did carry items useful to them in their time and circumstances.

Here are the first four victims of the Ripper and their clothing and possessions found at the crime scenes:

Mary Ann Nichols (Polly Nichols)
Clothing:
A black Straw bonnet trimmed with black velvet
A reddish brown ulster with large brass buttons.
A brown linsey frock
A white flannel chest cloth
A pair of black ribbed wool stockings
A wool petticoat stenciled with “Lambeth Workhouse”
A flannel petticoat stenciled with “Lambeth Workhouse”
Brown stays
Flannel drawers
A pair of men’s boots with the uppers cut and steel tips on the heels
Possessions:
A comb
A white pocket handkerchief
A broken piece of mirror (This would have been a valuable item for one living in the work house or common lodging)

Annie Chapman
Clothing:
A long black, knee-length figured coat.
A black skirt
A Brown bodice
An Additional bodice
Two petticoats
A pair of lace up boots
A pair of red and white striped wool stockings
A neckerchief, with white with red border (folded into a triangle and tied about her neck)
Possessions:
A large empty pocket tied about the waist, worn under the skirt.
A scrap of muslin
A small tooth comb
A comb in a paper case
A scrap of envelope containing two pills.

Elizabeth Stride
Clothing:
A Long black cloth jacket, trimmed with fur at the bottom
A red rose and white maiden hair fern pinned to the coat.
A black skirt
A black crepe bonnet
A checked neck scarf knotted on left side
A dark brown velveteen bodice
Two light serge petticoats
A white chemise
A pair of white stockings
A pair of spring sided boots
Possesions:
Two handkerchiefs
A thimble
A piece of wool wound around a card
A key for a padlock
A small piece of lead pencil
Six large and one small button
A comb
A broken piece of comb
A metal spoon
A hook (as from a dress)
A piece of muslin
One or two small pieces of paper
A packet of Cachous. (a pill used by smokers to sweeten breath)

Catherine Eddowes
Clothing:
A black straw bonnet trimmed in green and black velvet with black beads
A black cloth jacket with trimmed around the collar and cuffs with imitation fur and around the pockets in black silk braid and fur.
A dark green chintz skirt with 3 flounces and brown button on waistband.
A man’s white vest.
A brown linsey bodice with a black velvet collar and brown buttons down front
A grey stuff petticoat
A very old green alpaca skirt
A very old ragged blue skirt with red flounces and a light twill lining
A white calico chemise
A pair of men’s lace up boots. (The right boot was repaired with red thread)
A piece of red gauze silk worn around the neck
A large white pocket handkerchief
A large white cotton handkerchief with red and white bird’s eye border
Two unbleached calico pockets with strings
A blue stripe bed ticking pocket
A pair of brown ribbed knee stockings, darned at the feet with white cotton
Possessions:
Two small blue bags made of bed ticking
Two short black clay pipes
A tin box containing tea
A tin box containing sugar
A tin matchbox, empty
Twelve pieces white rag, some slightly bloodstained
A piece coarse linen, white
A piece of blue and white shirting
A piece red flannel with pins and needles
Six pieces soap
A small tooth comb
A white handled table knife
A metal teaspoon
A red leather cigarette case with white metal fittings
A ball hemp
A piece of old white apron
Several buttons and a thimble
Mustard tin containing two pawn tickets
A Printed handbill
A printed card calling card
A Portion of a pair of spectacles
A single red mitten

I have not included the possessions of the Ripper’s fifth victim, Mary Kelly, because she was killed in her own bed, in her abode, and her possessions were not listed in the same manner in police report.

These lists speak to me of women who had little of material worth in the world. Not one of them had any money. During the period in which they lived unemployment and severe poverty were widespread in Great Britain. Regardless of whether the Ripper’s victims had few opportunities to live better lives or were responsible in large part for their predicaments, their legacy is pitiful and poignant. Items such as the brown stays, the comb, and the packet of Cachous suggest vanity or at least the need to maintain appearances. The tin of sugar, the one of tea, and the black clay pipes speak of a desire for creature comforts. The bloodstained rags, the pieces of soap, tooth combs (toothbrushes) were aids to bodily functions. Those things that are part of a incomplete set, such as the single mitten, and the broken items, like the partial pair of spectacles and the piece of a comb, suggest that nothing could be wasted, that everything, even if seriously flawed and deficient was irreplaceable.

With little imagination, the lists speak of skills, preparedness, resourcefulness and even aspirations on the part of these women. The list of Catherine Eddowe’s garments and possessions conjures for me the image of a Victorian-era bag lady, wearing many layers of clothing and carrying too many items in her bags (the many pockets, most of which were probably hidden under her top skirt). The only thing missing is the shopping cart. We have limited information about Eddowes’s life, and most of it leaves out the emotional aspects of her existence. We can assume she didn’t set out to become a bag lady, to be homeless and poor.

What events in her life led to her demise on the streets of London? How much of the way she lived was a result of the choices she made? What was beyond her control? Was she chosen randomly by her killer?

I became fascinated enough with the questions that I explored her life and presented possible answers in my historical fiction novel, Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim, published by Lazy Fascist Press. Katherine Eddowes had led a hard life and was very ill at the relatively young age of forty-seven when she died. My impression is that her choices had something to do with her wellbeing, but much of her existence was beyond her control. A life of poverty in London was slowly killing her, and the final blow, London’s murder weapon so to speak, was Jack the Ripper.

I refer to the Ripper as male because of the name Jack, but, of course, we don’t know the gender of the killer. Although we can’t know much about the Whitechapel murderer, we have information that tells us something about him and offers a glimpse of the world in which he and his victims lived. We can know that he was in most ways as vulnerable as his victims in a dangerous, often merciless, world, that he was as aware as they were of the need to maintain appearances and to achieve the highest social position possible in order to ensure survival in a swiftly changing environment, and that he knew that eventually disease and death would claim him without ceremony and he would die alone just like everyone else. No doubt, as he considered these things, he was filled with a pitiable fear much like that experienced by his victims.

Most of us spend much of life feeling confidently alive, solid and incorruptible, not thinking about our demise, our eventual loss of facility and faculty, our loss of awareness and identity and finally the decay of our flesh. Those of us who have not seen war or violent crime and disaster turn to face our demise slowly over many years as it dawns on us that we are just like those who have gone before us, that we all suffer and die. But to face that terror precipitously, to have the process demonstrated within moments, to be the playwright and director of that drama—that is what the Ripper experienced.
Could he identify with the women he’d murdered and feel their suffering? Having revealed to himself by his own cruel acts the heights of fear and pain and the terrifying frailty and ephemeral nature of flesh and awareness, was his dread of a particularly intense nature?

The question I’m left with is, if his freedom or his life were never taken from him in answer to his crimes, did he at least suffer from the revelations of his own mortality?

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon


Drawing for OF THIMBLE AND THREAT Painting in Less than a Week

Less than one week left before the the raffle of a free painting by Alan M. Clark to promote Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim, published by Lazy Fascist Press. The image on the left is the painting by Alan M. Clark for the raffle [details below]. The image is inspired by Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim, and is currently unpublished. The painting is acrylic on hardboard with dimensions of 12″x18″.

For those of you who missed the initial announcement, here’s how to enter the raffle:

A. Take a picture of yourself with Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim and post it online (on your blog/website, Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere). Send a link to the photo to lazyfascist@gmail.com.

OR

B. Correctly answer the following trivia questions (send your answers to lazyfascist@gmail.com):

1. What song did Katie sing in the novel during her cousin’s execution?

2. What was given to infants by the childminder, Patricia Ennis, in order to quiet them?

3. What item in the novel is referred to by the slang expression “nose warmer”?

No purchase necessary. If you have any questions about the raffle, please email lazyfascist@gmail.com. The winner will be announced on June 4th, 2012.

Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim is a story about the intense love between a mother and a child, a story of poverty and loss, fierce independence, and unconquerable will. It is the devastating portrayal of a self-perpetuated descent into Hell, a lucid view into the darkest parts of the human heart.

Alan M. Clark is a World Fantasy Award-winning artist. He has illustrated the works of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale, Richard Laymon, Brian Lumley, F. Paul Wilson, Brian Keene, William F. Nolan, George Orwell, Poppy Z. Brite, and Christopher Golden.


In 2 weeks the Raffle Alan M. Clark’s OF THIMBLE AND THREAT-inspired Painting

Two weeks left before the the raffle of a free painting by Alan M. Clark to promote Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim, published by Lazy Fascist Press. The image on the left is the painting by Alan M. Clark for the raffle [details below]. The image is inspired by Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim, and is currently unpublished. The painting is acrylic on hardboard with dimensions of 12″x18″.

For those of you who missed the initial announcement, here’s how to enter the raffle:

A. Take a picture of yourself with Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim and post it online (on your blog/website, Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere). Send a link to the photo to lazyfascist@gmail.com.

OR

B. Correctly answer the following trivia questions (send your answers to lazyfascist@gmail.com):

1. What song did Katie sing in the novel during her cousin’s execution?

2. What was given to infants by the childminder, Patricia Ennis, in order to quiet them?

3. What item in the novel is referred to by the slang expression “nose warmer”?

No purchase necessary. If you have any questions about the raffle, please email lazyfascist@gmail.com. The winner will be announced on June 4th, 2012.

Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim is a story about the intense love between a mother and a child, a story of poverty and loss, fierce independence, and unconquerable will. It is the devastating portrayal of a self-perpetuated descent into Hell, a lucid view into the darkest parts of the human heart.

Alan M. Clark is a World Fantasy Award-winning artist. He has illustrated the works of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale, Richard Laymon, Brian Lumley, F. Paul Wilson, Brian Keene, William F. Nolan, George Orwell, Poppy Z. Brite, and Christopher Golden.


Raffle of Alan M. Clark’s OF THIMBLE AND THREAT-inspired Painting

This is the final announcement for the raffle of a free painting by Alan M. Clark to promote Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim, published by Lazy Fascist Press.  The image on the left is the painting by Alan M. Clark for the raffle [details below]. The image is inspired by Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim, and is currently unpublished. The painting is acrylic on hardboard with dimensions of 12″x18″.

For those of you who missed the initial announcement, here’s how to enter the raffle:

A. Take a picture of yourself with Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim and post it online (on your blog/website, Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere). Send a link to the photo to lazyfascist@gmail.com.

OR

B. Correctly answer the following trivia questions (send your answers to lazyfascist@gmail.com):

1. What song did Katie sing in the novel during her cousin’s execution?

2. What was given to infants by the childminder, Patricia Ennis, in order to quiet them?

3. What item in the novel is referred to by the slang expression “nose warmer”?

No purchase necessary. If you have any questions about the raffle, please email lazyfascist@gmail.com. The winner will be announced on June 4th, 2012.

Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim is a story about the intense love between a mother and a child, a story of poverty and loss, fierce independence, and unconquerable will. It is the devastating portrayal of a self-perpetuated descent into Hell, a lucid view into the darkest parts of the human heart.

Alan M. Clark is a World Fantasy Award-winning artist. He has illustrated the works of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale, Richard Laymon, Brian Lumley, F. Paul Wilson, Brian Keene, William F. Nolan, George Orwell, Poppy Z. Brite, and Christopher Golden.


Win an Original Painting by Legendary Artist Alan M. Clark

Enter to win an original Alan M. Clark painting inspired by his new novel, a heartbreaking tale of life in London during the Jack the Ripper killings.

Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim is a story about the intense love between a mother and a child, a story of poverty and loss, fierce independence, and unconquerable will. It is the devastating portrayal of a self-perpetuated descent into Hell, a lucid view into the darkest parts of the human heart.

Alan M. Clark is a World Fantasy Award-winning artist. He has illustrated the works of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale, Richard Laymon, Brian Lumley, F. Paul Wilson, Brian Keene, William F. Nolan, George Orwell, Poppy Z. Brite, and Christopher Golden.

There are two ways to enter:

A. Take a picture of yourself with Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim and post it online (on your blog/website, Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere). Send a link to the photo to lazyfascist@gmail.com.

OR

B. Correctly answer the following trivia questions (send your answers to lazyfascist@gmail.com):

1. What song did Katie sing in the novel during her cousin’s execution?

2. What was given to infants by the childminder, Patricia Ennis, in order to quiet them?

3. What item in the novel is referred to by the slang expression “nose warmer”?

No purchase necessary.  The painting will be posted for viewing at a later date.  If you have any questions about the raffle, please email lazyfascist@gmail.com.

The winner will be announced on Monday, June 4th, 2012.

Click on the image above to view Alan M. Clark’s online gallery.

Click here to order Of Thimble and Threat.


Dilation Exercise 25

In an effort to further promote my new novel, Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim, released by Lazy Fascist Press, my Dilation Exercise for today is based on a Jack the Ripper illustration I did many years ago.

I’ve brought in a guest trainer, Randy Fox, for this week’s Dilation Exercise. His captions, seen with the image below, first appeared with the painting in a slide show of my artwork that he and another friend, Peteso, helped me work up to show at SF and Fantasy conventions back in the 1990s. The slide show was called “Dexter’s Funny World.” It breaks my Dilation Exercise rule of limiting the text to two lines, but rules are made to be broken. Randy expanded his caption into a short story, titled “Dexter’s Great Adventure,” that appeared in More Phobias, edited by Wendy Webb, Richard Gilliam, Edward E. Kramer and Martin Greenberg — Pocket Books Horror 1995.

Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires a story, please say something about it in a comment. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

His hobby of people-watching was made all the more difficult by his fear of looking directly at them. After much though, he had solved the problem by always carrying some kind of reflective surface with him.

In the case of the butcher knife, that new dish detergent had really made a difference. During his late night constitutional he could watch everyone around him, and no one would suspect a thing. People were sure acting funny tonight, though. But that was the whole reason he liked to watch them. People were just doggone strange.

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

If you like Alan M. Clark’s artwork, please try his writing in both short fiction and novels.

Artwork: “Shadow Games” copyright © 1993 Alan M. Clark.
Cover illustration for Shadow Games, by Ed Gorman, published by Cemetery Dance Publication. Captions seen here are original to this post and have nothing to do with the literary project with which the artwork first appeared.