Tuesday, 1 May 2012
The Whitechapel Map
1888: A Jack the Ripper Novel, is available to buy from Amazon now!
I have always loved books which begin with a map. When I was a kid these were usually fantasy stories, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit and others. I soon learned that mystery novels were oft to do this, (a personal favourite being, Agatha Christie's Death in the Clouds where the seating plan of each passenger is laid out.)
There was something thrilling about turning the first page of a new book and discovering that this otherwise fictional realm had been rendered physical, simply by being drawn on paper - as if the geography of the landscape was now something real, that could be navigated.
I'm no artist, and I'm certainly no cartographer, but I knew for certain 1888 had to begin with a map.
What you see above (and on the first page of the novel,) is a simplified version of a very famous map of the area from the time. Below is the original version.
The first and most apparent difference is just how simplistic my version is. Whitechapel is, and was, a labyrinth of narrow streets, constructed around a junction of main roads. However, the book itself limits its scope somewhat, not only to allow for efficiency in storytelling, but because Commercial Road, Commerical Street and Whitechapel Road, really were the hub of this overcrowded district. While almost everything else was domestic, these roads were the heart and thoroughfare of Whitechapel.
The other concession I have had to make, is owing to the constrictions of an ebook. 1888 can be read on a screen as small as an iPhone's and as such, certain streets have needed to be enlarged for ease of reading. For instance, Goulston Street was a narrow lane that can barely be spotted on the authentic map, but it plays an important role in the story. Unfortunately this means that it appears to be as wide and important a road as Commerical Street, to which it runs parallel. The same is true for Buck's Row, which was far more constricted than my map would imply.
Miller's Court and Mitre Square were simply too small to expand sensibly, so instead, they have been indicated by lines pointing to their locations.
Nevertheless, I am rather pleased with my little map. It may not be winning many awards for either beauty or accuracy, but all the streets are where they're supposed to be, even if they are completely out of proportion. But most importantly for me, my book begins with a map! And for that, I could not be happier.