To celebrate the launch of the latest in our Zombies, Run! New Adventures series, we spoke to Lulu Kadhim, writer of Track The Ripper about her thrilling dive into the story behind Victorian London’s most notorious denizen.
What made you pick Jack the Ripper as the basis for the race?
Who doesn’t love Jack the Ripper? The most fascinating thing to me is the fact we’re still captivated by the idea of him to this day. After spending much of my teenage years being obsessed with serial killers, I wanted to tackle Jack myself.
Catching Jack makes a great subject for a race, too — on the hunt through the old streets of London, all that atmospheric noise, and a burning question to be answered.
To keep it fresh, I tackled from a new angle: without going too far into spoiler territory, it was clear from the outset that the only satisfying way to end the run was to catch the Ripper. Therefore, I approached with a totally different question in mind: if the police caught him back in 1888, why don’t we know his identity to this day? This had all sorts of interesting implications, and I’m really excited to find out how people react to my answer!
How historically accurate is the race to Victorian London?
The race is set the night that Jack plans on a double homicide. I took some liberties here with history, since the double homicide night was not Jack’s last hurrah — he murdered one other woman afterwards, Mary Jane Kelly.
But in other aspects, I tried to be as accurate as possible. There’s very little light on the streets, there’s a fair amount of smog and there are tensions between the City and Metropolitan police officers.
My favourite part of the research for accuracy was forensics! There were a huge amount of forensic developments happening at the time, with handwriting experts, ballistics, pathology etc. all coming into general police use. So I had a lot of things I could use without making it complete fantasy.
As for the language, I had to make it easy to listen to & understand — you don’t want to be distracted trying to work out what the heck anyone is saying while out on the run — but also “sounded” Victorian-era. I think I struck that balance after some fiddling, and most anachronisms left in were probably done on purpose!
Which was the most fun part to write?
The most fun part to write was definitely the last scene, but since I can’t talk about that without spoiling the race, I think the second most fun part was when the police find the first body.
Audio can be very atmospheric, so I put a lot of thought into how I was going to make it so. I wanted it to be clear it was night, that there was some hubbub around the body, and for it to hit the runner hard. The audio design by done Mark Pittam is incredible, and he really brought that scene to life.
Anything you would have loved to include but had time limits?
I had a lot more about the tensions between the City of London police and the Metropolitan police, but I think I’m the only person who will miss those parts!
How did you go about planning and outlining the race script?
In the planning stage, I read a lot of articles and extracts from books to understand the Ripper murders, and the ways the police had handled them. I also went to visit the City of London police to get an understanding of the double murder, as well as police procedure at the time. I started collecting a folder of bookmarks with cool historical things I wanted to remember.
I then wrote 3 drafts of an outline, which went into details of what would happen each clip. The identity of Jack, and how it was revealed, changed each time, though the characters and structure stayed, more or less, the same.
Finally, on the third draft, I had that eureka moment, and realised there was a way for the story to work on more than one level, and for the reveal to be meaningful. That’s when I knew it was time to write it.
Is there anything you hope people take away from running it?
I hope they have half as much fun running it as I did writing it, really. While I baked deeper aspects into it, such as a look at power dynamics and certainly kinds of brutality common in the Victorian era (and arguably today), at its heart, it’s an exciting, fast-paced mystery!