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RIPPING YARN

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The Diary of Jack the Ripper isn’t dead yet. Three weeks ago Warner Books declared the purported confessions of the 1888 serial killer a hoax and withdrew its six-figure bid to purchase the U.S. rights from London publisher Smith Gryphon. But now Hyperion Books, a division of Disney, has announced that it will publish the ”diary,” which contains lurid descriptions of the Ripper’s bloody misdeeds. Documents expert Kenneth Rendell, who uncovered the alleged forgery while writing an introduction to the book, debunked Ripper, which was set for a printing of 200,000 copies by Warner. ”From three totally independent standpoints (Ripper) has been proven fake,” says Rendell, who also helped to expose the bogus Hitler diaries in 1983. ”The ink isn’t old enough, the handwriting isn’t Victorian, and it obviously doesn’t match that of alleged Ripper James Maybrick (an arsenic- and strychnine-addicted cotton merchant slain by his wife in 1889).” Hyperion, which intends to publish Ripper in late October with additional material on the controversy, believes there is still some validity to the much-debated book. ”I can’t say for sure this was Jack the Ripper’s diary,” says Hyperion publisher and vice president Robert Miller. ”It remains a mystery.” Smith Gryphon, which denounced Rendell’s report, is proceeding with plans to publish the book in Britain earlier in the month. Warner’s action comes on the heels of William Morrow’s cancellation of A House Divided, purportedly a memoir by Abraham Lincoln’s laundress, because of doubts about its authenticity. Publishing insiders feel Warner did the honorable thing by pulling the plug on Ripper and urge more caution when acquiring controversial manuscripts. ”This is a reminder that you can make a mistake in a minute,” says Harry Evans, publisher and president of Random House, ”but it might take six or seven months to undo it.”

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