Books I Loathed discussion

Loathed Titles > OMG. I almost forgot...(Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed)

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message 1: by Izajane (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:42AM) (new)

Izajane I've tried to delete the ridiculous ones...however, I imagine our reading will take us down some of the same lines of inquiry as these questions.

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2. What qualities do you most admire in Henry, and what do you think we can learn from his story?
3. What do you think cured Henry?
4. After outliving his diagnosis, why do you think Henry chose not to return to his sons in Idaho?
6. Brother O’Neil says: “Books and writing are agents for the accumulation of ideas and your minds are overfull.” What do you think of this statement, and what do you think of Henry’s strategy to quiet his “overfull” mind?
7. Author Sonny Brewer is the editor of Stories from the Blue Moon Café, an anthology of Southern writing. What do you think makes a novel “Southern,” and do you consider The Poet of Tol­stoy Park a Southern novel?
8. How would you characterize the female characters in this novel?
9. Henry believed that “no work is wasted,” that work, philosophi­cally, is a means without regard to its end. What could be the value to a man of constructing a house of concrete if he might die before he finishes it?
10. What do you think motivates Henry to go barefoot? What do you think of the statement, “If all the hobnail boots were put away, wars would end”?
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12. Do you wish the author had written more romance into the re­lationship between Henry and Kate? Why or why not?
13. What do you think is in the shoe box that Thomas gives Henry at the end of the book?
14. An osprey appears to Henry when he falls down in the creek. What do you think the osprey symbolizes?
15. What role did Black Elk play in Henry Stuart’s life?
16. John Lennon sang “Imagine” with lyrics that imagined people living at peace in a world with “no religion too.” Do you agree that would be a good idea? Henry did not go to church, but did he have “religion”?
17. When the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke exhorted readers to “be ahead of all parting” what did he mean, and how might this relate to The Poet of Tolstoy Park?
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19. Robert Frost said, “Writing is as good as it is dramatic. Period.” Where’s the drama in The Poet of Tolstoy Park?
20. How would you characterize the author’s writing style?

message 2: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:42AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments A friend of mine just reminded me of the Worst Book Ever Written. My bookclub decided to read something non-fiction and chose Portrait Of A Killer: Jack The Ripper -- Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell. Not a single person in the bookclub got past the second chapter. Our conclusion was that, as a vanity project, no editor felt the authority to come within 100 yards of the manuscript. It was so bad that I refused to even donate it to the charity bookstore. I literally threw it away.

Now, does this constitute a "Book I Loathed" or is it in another category?

On Amazon, there are multitudes of positive reviews but they're all by people who are avid Cornwell readers anyway... And, her fiction is pretty much crap. I don't know why we thought this would be different.

Live and learn.

message 3: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments Okay...point taken. And, frankly, composting the pages would have been more satisfying than just chucking the book in the rubbish.

You guys will love this...somewhere in the first chapter she spends about a page and a half describing some lunch she had with her girlfriends - one of whom is some famous t.v. news personality (I can't remember which one). *Sidebar: What this has to do with Jack the Ripper, I still don't know.* I was so turned off by the self indulgent name-dropping, I almost threw the book out at that point. Of course, I managed to torture myself for a few more pages before I put it down in disgust.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Jack The Ripper is a book I almost bought. What stopped me, and I definitely should listen to this voice more often when I need to make decisions, was this little voice inside that reminded me I could barely tolerate her fiction -- why would this book be any different. I seem to remember this book being reviewed well, but then there are those who think Patricia Cornwell has the talent to write. I'm just not one of those people.

BTW - I'd have been torn between tossing the book (although throwing away books is almost an act of sacrilege to me) or giving it to the library. Given the hype surrounding that book, the library probably had a waiting list for it. But then why help circulate such garbage? Very hard choice.

message 5: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments Manky - Exactly my dilema! Throwing the book in the trash was one of the hardest things I've even done and, I can honestly say, it's the only time I've ever done it.

message 6: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments I agree. We didn't choose the book based on Amazon blurbs, of course. We picked it because the idea that someone would spend $2 million of their own money to do research as well as stake the claim to have definitively solved the "who was Jack the Ripper" question was intriguing. I'm sorry to say that the subject matter simply couldn't make up for the UNBELIEVABLY BAD WRITING. LOL!!!

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

I've often wondered if that Harriet Klausner (sp?) who is supposed to be the top rated reviewer at Amazon actually reads anything she reviews. She says she's a speed reader and can read something like 3 or 4 books a day, but c'mon. All her reviews begin with a retelling of what's on the book jacket and the blurbs on the back. MAYBE the last paragraph is her actual opinion. She's a recognizable name, sure, but I wouldn't buy anything based on her recommendation.

message 8: by John (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:39PM) (new)

John Notice Kausner's never had a critical/negative word about anything she'd read. It's ALL good ...

message 9: by Tara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:12PM) (new)

Tara | 66 comments I borrowed Cornwell's Ripper book from my mother after she raved about it, and usually I like the books my mother raves about (as much as that makes me shiver, it just puts me one step closer to becoming her *shiver*). The only thing that kept me from ripping the book to shreds and feeding it to the fireplace was that it was my mother's book and therefore I had not spent any money purchasing it so I didn't really need to take out any sort of destruction against it.

I also saw the documentary Cornwell did about how she went about researching the mystery behind Jack the Ripper and talk about a bunch of glorified Hollywood special effects. There were scenes where her and the "team" she assembled to conduct mitochondrial DNA tests were walking in slow motion outside some stone building. How cheesy is that? Slow motion? Really, who are you Wyatt Earp on your way to the OK Corral?

I am really fascinated by the whole mystery surrounding the identity of Jack the Ripper and her supposed "solution" was so ludicrous I think I wet myself laughing. Unfortunately, I did not stop reading early on, I should have though. No, I suffered through the whole thing and got to the end and that's when I wanted to destroy it but didn't. I politely returned it to my mother and told her, through clenched teeth, that it was the biggest pile of bull droppings I had every read in my entire life, and if I had the ability to do so, I would probably wash my brain in acid, anything to get that book out of my head, and call it a day! My mom's mouth dropped, she just couldn't believe I, a Jack the Ripper fan, didn't like that book.

I'm so glad I'm not the only one!

message 10: by Chrystal714 (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:12PM) (new)

Chrystal714 | 47 comments I hated this book also. I couldn't even finish it. It was repetitive and self indulgent.

I was in London recently and did a Jack the Ripper walking tour. It was great fun. He went over a few of the suspects why they could of or couldn't of done it. Our guide stated that Patricia's suspect was out of town for one of the murders. I think... my memory sucks. However, he did give a very valid reason that it could not of been him.

He believed it was a man that lived in the area and was friends with the final victum. George something.. Anyway he was seen hanging out out side the final victums room. Also the third victum had stated that she wasn't afraid of the killer because she never went with anyone she didn't know, and she would of known this man.

I ended up watching the movie "Zodiac" on the plane home. I guess it was just an unsolved serial killer info kind of trip.

message 11: by Tara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:12PM) (new)

Tara | 66 comments I had also heard that there was information out there that refuted the claims Patricia Cornwell made about Jack's identity.

I like reading the theories on the "Casebook: Jack the Ripper" website. There are theories on the various suspects and victims and I think there are discussions about Cornwell's book as well the theory in the From Hell movie (and graphic novel). I haven't read that graphic novel, but I have seen From Hell and thought that was enjoyable. The Casebook website is It's a pretty neat site, there are even pictures of some of the victims at the inquests.

Chrystal -- was it George Hutchinson the tour guide mentioned? He's listed in the "suspects" section on the Casebook website. There's also a link to an article that pokes holes in Patricia Cornwell's theory that Walter Sickert is the Ripper.

message 12: by Chrystal714 (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:12PM) (new)

Chrystal714 | 47 comments Yes! It was George Hutchinson. My memory is not the best. I do have the excuse I was on information overload by then though. To much site seeing, to many tours, in to short of time.

Thank you for the web site, I can't wait to check it out.

message 13: by ABC (last edited Feb 27, 2008 03:37PM) (new)

ABC (mary6543) | 10 comments I read the whole book. (I borrowed it from the library, expecting it to be interesting.) I kept getting angry at Cownwell because her conclusions were so faulty. I finished the book thinking that Sickert was NOT the Ripper.

And now a year later, I see that I am not alone in hating this book! Yay!

message 14: by Sean (new)

Sean Little (seanpatricklittle) I don't know why people read Patricia Cornwell in the first place? I tried to read one of her Kay Scarpetta novels and after she spent a paragraph wallowing in purple prose to describe a glass of whiskey, I couldn't stomach it and I gave up. I don't do that often...I will usually rake my way through a book to the bitter, bitter end...but, with her, I just couldn't do it.

Now, I watched her TV special on it, and I can buy what she's saying. The Sickert paintings alone are more than enough to raise suspicion in my mind, but I can also buy everyone else's opinions.

Short of a time machine, this is a case that will never be solved.

message 15: by Galen (new)

Galen Johnson (galenj) I too made the fatal flaw of forgetting that her recent fiction was so bad that I probably would hate this too (the early Scarpetta novels were SO good!) Luckily I bought it at the used book store. This could have been so much more convincing, and so much more readable, if she had not made herself rather than the case the main focus. I can't think of any other modern author who has SO let her/himself get swept away by their fame. Rule number one of getting the reader to believe you when building a real world case: build up your credibility. Name-dropping, as mentioned above, does not count. How about a degree? Some writing in forensic journals? Invited criticism and your response? I'm so sad that she made money off of this.

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