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Book Review: The Laughing Gorilla by Robert Graysmith 
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Godzilla

Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2015 7:53 am
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Location: Woodstock, IL
Robert Graysmith is currently the single best true crime book writer in America today. He really goes into the nitty gritty, seemingly leaving no detail overlooked. For instance, he looked into the Zodiac murders case and out of all the evidence, was able to deduce that one Arthur Leigh Allen was the mass murderer. To this day, it seems completely incomprehensible that the legal system failed to arrest Allen and try him on charges of being the Zodiac killer. His books on that case, Zodiac & Zodiac Unmasked remain must reads. When you read one of his books, it seems a shame that he never became a police detective.

His book The Laughing Gorilla tells the story of the first serial killers to afflict America. These were the first killers to go from one town to another
leaving corpses in their wake. This was different from previous murder cases that law enforcement had to deal with.

The book's title derives from the fact that the original serial killers were large, hulking
brutes popularly known as "Gorilla Men." All of these real life monsters were described by witnesses as laughing maniacally. These Gorilla Men were fodder for the yellow press of the time who used their sensational coverage of the Gorilla Men and their crimes to sell boatloads of newspapers.

These crimes infuriated Captain Charles Dullea, who was the leading advocate of reform in the notoriously corrupt San Francisco Police Department (SFPD). He led a campaign that literally turned the SFPD upside down. The end result was that the SFPD became a much better and more effective organization.

The Laughing Gorilla is an excellent True Crime book that really delves
into an important, though neglected, real life mystery that played a role in
the evolution of one of this nation's most important police departments.


Tue Jan 10, 2017 3:35 am
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Burning Godzilla
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Joined: Sun Dec 16, 2001 2:48 am
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Location: Brighton, MI
I greatly enjoyed this book, too, to say the least. I was astonished and grateful to see him pay so much attention to "Slipton Fell," a man I read about briefly in Bloodletters and Badmen but could never find any other reference to, anywhere. That story was almost a book in itself. I agree Graysmith is a master at ferreting out information and presenting it well.

Have you tried Graysmith's The Bell Tower? It was very thought-provoking for me.

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Girl in bar: "They're lying to you."
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Sample piscatorial love at Cliffie's Notes! Now in blog form for the greater good of the Fish Conspiracy!


Sat Jan 14, 2017 5:26 pm
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Godzilla

Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2015 7:53 am
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Location: Woodstock, IL
Cliffie wrote:


Have you tried Graysmith's The Bell Tower? It was very thought-provoking for me.



That's one of the few Graysmith books that I have not gotten around to reading yet. If its a book that accepts the conventional wisdom that there were 5 murders committed by the same killer, then I probably will not agree with it. The very last murder, that of Mary Jane Kelly, was committed completely different from the others. The first four killings were all committed by someone in a hurry to get away from the scene of the crime. The Kelly murder was committed by a guy who took his time to mutilate her body. Since criminals tend to commit their crimes the same way every time, it seems clear that the 5 murders commonly ascribed to Jack the Ripper were actually committed by at least two different persons. Given the fact that there are differences between the ways that the other 4 murders were committed, it's a very real possibility that there could have been 5 different killers.

Remember, the state of police science in the late 19th Century was at best pretty rudimentary, so just because the likes of Inspector Abberline took it for granted that there was just one killer, does not make it a done deal.

Don't know if you've read it, but a similar case is that of the Boston Strangler and the best book about it at least in my opinion is The Boston Stranglers by Susan Kelly at
https://www.amazon.com/Boston-Strangler ... ngler+book
It was after reading both Kelly's book and Patricia Cornwell's book on the Ripper case that twisted and distorted the evidence to support her preconceived idea that the artist Walter Sickert was the killer, that I came to the above conclusions about the Ripper case. Since then, although there have been several interesting books about the Ripper case, I have not seen anything to challenge the idea that there was more more than one killer.

Given the quality of Graysmith's other books, I'd wager that his suspect may very well have committed at least one of the murders, but not all of them.


Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:45 am
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Burning Godzilla
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Joined: Sun Dec 16, 2001 2:48 am
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Fornax wrote:
Cliffie wrote:


Have you tried Graysmith's The Bell Tower? It was very thought-provoking for me.



That's one of the few Graysmith books that I have not gotten around to reading yet. If its a book that accepts the conventional wisdom that there were 5 murders committed by the same killer, then I probably will not agree with it. The very last murder, that of Mary Jane Kelly, was committed completely different from the others. The first four killings were all committed by someone in a hurry to get away from the scene of the crime. The Kelly murder was committed by a guy who took his time to mutilate her body. Since criminals tend to commit their crimes the same way every time, it seems clear that the 5 murders commonly ascribed to Jack the Ripper were actually committed by at least two different persons. Given the fact that there are differences between the ways that the other 4 murders were committed, it's a very real possibility that there could have been 5 different killers.

Remember, the state of police science in the late 19th Century was at best pretty rudimentary, so just because the likes of Inspector Abberline took it for granted that there was just one killer, does not make it a done deal.

Don't know if you've read it, but a similar case is that of the Boston Strangler and the best book about it at least in my opinion is The Boston Stranglers by Susan Kelly at
https://www.amazon.com/Boston-Strangler ... ngler+book
It was after reading both Kelly's book and Patricia Cornwell's book on the Ripper case that twisted and distorted the evidence to support her preconceived idea that the artist Walter Sickert was the killer, that I came to the above conclusions about the Ripper case. Since then, although there have been several interesting books about the Ripper case, I have not seen anything to challenge the idea that there was more more than one killer.

Given the quality of Graysmith's other books, I'd wager that his suspect may very well have committed at least one of the murders, but not all of them.


It's well-written and well-thought-out, except for the title. I suspect an editor who didn't read the dang book gave it that title because the story has next to nothing in there about Jack the Ripper. He does get mentioned. The Ripper crimes are not in any way solved by this book.

To answer your other question, I have read Susan Kelly's book with great interest. Patricia Cornwell simply ripped off Stephen Knight's Jack The Ripper: the Final Solution -- and Knight admitted he pretty much fantasized that book. His source material, however -- Joseph Sickert's story about his dad Walter -- remains intriguing, and you might also be intrigued by Sickert and The Ripper Crimes, which is about Walter Sickert's own undeniable hang-up on Saucy Jack. I continue impressed by the fact that whether Joiseph Sickert's story was true or not, Knight was able to research and prove that all the people he was talking about really existed. Food for thought, but not quite enough.

I agree with the original coroner's conclusion that only three of the Ripper crimes (Cathy Eddowes, Annie Chapman, Mary Jane Kelly) were definitely committed by the same person. The signature was there in all those cases. Mary Jane Kelly looked so much worse because he wasn't killing her out on the sidewalk -- he had time to do everything he wanted in privacy. As for the others, I can't come any closer than "Well, maybe." Various authors keep saying that Jack was a sailor who committed identical crimes at other ports, but nobody ever gives a single case study of a single other murder. Again, gotta give that a "Well, maybe."

_________________
Guy in bar: "I got 50 dollars in my pocket saying you're coming home with me tonight."
Girl in bar: "They're lying to you."
(from Psychos In Love)

Sample piscatorial love at Cliffie's Notes! Now in blog form for the greater good of the Fish Conspiracy!


Sun Jan 22, 2017 8:24 pm
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