"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." Sir Richard Steele

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Interview with Jon Hartless and Review of Jack the Theorist

It is with a great deal of pleasure that I welcome my guest today, author, Jon Hartless. He has kindly agreed to answer some questions for us and will welcome any questions you may have. So, without further delay, Jon Hartless.

1-Tell the readers a little bit about your book, Jack the Theorist.

It’s basically a satire on Ripperology; that is, the industry that has grown up around the murders of certain women in the East End of London in 1888. At the core of this industry is the ‘character’ of Jack the Ripper, an urban myth created by ripperology and popular culture.

2- I have always been fascinated by Jack the Ripper, so I jumped at the chance to read and review your book. Tell us how your book came to be.

I found a second-hand book, The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper, edited by Maxim Jakubowski and Nathan Braund, a collection of theories on the killings, some plausible, some so utterly ludicrous I wondered if the writers were poking fun at the whole concept of ripperology. The Duke of Clarence as the Ripper is a well known bit of bunkum, but that is nothing compared to some of the barking mad ideas out there...

It was this which inspired Jack the Theorist. An early draft, somewhat absurdist in tone, was based on multiple ripperology theories, and featured multiple Rippers – the first murder is committed by an unknown, insignificant man, this spurs the second killer, a mad doctor, into action, the third murder is committed by the Masons for ritualistic reasons etc. Eventually this got refined to the finished work, in which the first ever ripperologist investigates the murders as they occur, and quickly loses all sense of scale, reality, and decency.

3- What was the biggest challenge you faced trying to get your books published?

There have been two problems. The first was with me and my writing style, which was far too overwritten for today’s market, for which I blame the nineteenth century; I started writing in earnest while I was doing my MA in English Literature, and what I was creating would have been fine for  Dickens or Wilkie Collins, but not for today’s market.

It wasn’t until a stranger saw my work online, and offered some very perceptive comments/criticisms, (in a very nice manner, I should add), that I recognised the problem with my prose and set about my work with the editorial chopper. It was harsh and unpleasant, and I lost a great deal that I liked, but it had to be done. For the patient to live, drastic surgery was required...

The second problem lay fairly and squarely with publishers and agents. I just do not understand why so many of them claim in their guidelines that they are open to new work, and will give everything consideration, when in fact they reject your work without even bothering to read it. I’ve submitted a manuscript via snail mail on a Monday and got it back by Wednesday with the claim that they’d looked at the work and decided it wasn’t suitable. Given that we are always told that hundreds of hopefuls send their work in each month, it is inconceivable that each manuscript is given a decent amount of attention. The pristine condition of the pages, showing absolutely no signs of handling, is also a bit of a giveaway.

4- Who or what has had the most influence on your writing?

That is difficult to say; I wonder how many influences there have been over the years and how they may have affected my world view, style etc. In books, as a child I loved Asterix, and from a young age I’ve enjoyed a good murder mystery, with the Sherlock Holmes stories being the all time favourite. As I got older, I discovered The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as well as Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, while at college and University I was reading widely for my English courses. (Our Mutual Friend is my favourite Dickens’ novel). On TV, probably the likes of the original Doctor Who, the original The Prisoner, The Avengers and Blake’s 7 also influenced me.

Looking at the list, it’s interesting to note how many of these works are concerned, in some way, with individuals trying to find their place in the world, (Arthur Dent) and/or retaining their sense of individuality against other (sometimes aggressive) ideologies, Asterix versus the Roman invaders, Number Six resisting conformity in the village, Steed and Mrs Peel fighting diabolical masterminds with their own style and wit. Even Our Mutual Friend is concerned with identity, both individually and as a society, in which the elemental rubbish dumps of civilization, and the filthy, polluted river, threaten to pull us back down to the dust and primordial soup.

Maybe I also want to impose order on the world in a way that I can’t in real life, which would explain the enjoyment of Holmes and other literary sleuths. And Blake’s 7 must shoulder some responsibility for giving me a rather dark view of the world.

5- What does Jon Hartless do when he is not writing?

Work, mostly. I enjoy my job, which is training people to use assistive technology, as I get to go out and about across the area, meeting new people, and seeing new places, but it does eat into valuable writing time.

6- Do you have any WIP? If so, can you tell us a little about them?

I’m writing a Young Adult novella that reworks the Greek Pandora myth, in which the moral minority - those outraged by permissiveness, youth, different opinions, people of the ‘wrong’ colour or class etc - attain supernatural powers that enable them to remove these ‘disruptive’ or ‘evil’ elements from the world. It’s turning into quite a disturbing work, not in the sense of being violent or gory, but in the theme of forcing an ideology on the world that everyone has to adhere to.

7- What do you do for fun and relaxation?

Writing is my fun and relaxation. I also enjoy reading, and when possible, getting out to new places, especially if there is a bit of history there; a good cathedral, an old church, some Victorian alleyways etc.

8- Tell us something about Jon Hartless that the readers may not know.

I now have three pen names on the go... I’m not entirely sure where they all came from.

Jon Hartless can be contacted at jjhless@yahoo.co.uk, or at

Reiew of Jack the Theorist

Jack the Theorist
Jon Hartless
Vagabondage Press 2011
Digital Edition

   London 1888: Jack the Ripper is stalking the East End striking fear in the community. Professor Wolf, the first Ripperologist, has the answers and he thinks he knows the truth of who Jack the Ripper is. There are many theroies going around ; but does anyone really know the truth?  A friend of Wolf, Sir Arthur Smythe,  has some theories of his own. Before it is all over, the East End may just never be the same. Is Wolf after the truth or out for his own ill begotten gain?
   I have been intrigued for many years with Jack the Ripper; so I jumped at the opportunity to read and review this novella. This story gives a totally different twist on the many theories behind the terror that wrought through the East End in the late 1800's. Professor Wolf had some dubious things to say from the very start; but he had some rather intriguing things to say also. It wasn't until the end when Sir Arthur gives his theories on the subject that a twist is thrown on the story. Little would you suspect that things will turn out the way they do. 
   I highly recommend this book. Not only will it give you something to think about; but it is entertaining as well. If you want a quick read that can be easily read in a single sitting, prop up your feet and get ready to go back and meet Jack the Rpper again.
   I wish to thank Vagabondage Press for providing me with a copy of the eBook for reading and reviewing purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. I was not compensated in anyway except for receiving the book to review.

I give Jack the Theorist 4.5 out of 5 stars



  1. Sounds good. I might recommend (And so would this author) the graphic novel 'From Hell" by none other than Alan Moore. It's a stark, very explicit book about Jack the Ripper, with all the usual tropes (The Queen, Prince Albert, The Masons) but also a supernatural element: the murderer was using murder to bring about the birth of the 20th century. It's a great and terrifying book, superbly researched, with a sideline about the great and mystical architect Hawksmoore.
    -Mac Campbell

  2. Thanks Mac, I will check that one out. Thanks for stopping by as always.