Carla Acheson

Historical Fiction Author

My latest novel, The Whitechapel Virgin, has just hit the Amazon store this week, and I am thrilled.


The book took a year to write, on and off, and the story centres around the prostitutes who lived in Whitechapel during the autumn period when Jack the Ripper embarked on his well documented mission of terror.

I have to say that it was really interesting to base a story during this time period. It gave me a chance to research who these women were and what exactly happened to them.

As many ripper-enthusiasts can confirm, the results were gruesome beyond belief, and the second half of my story revolves around the murders as they occurred.

Several characters have a ‘voice’ in the book. This accurately emphasises the contrasting opinions and attitudes that the varying classes had on the subject of sex at the time.

The main character, Catherine, is a fifteen year old orphan who stumbles into a seedy tavern lodging house in Goulston Street, Whitechapel, run by Madame Davenport, a sixty-something, miserly brothel-mistress and business-woman.

Initially, Catherine is given a job as a serving girl and meets Eddie, a young man who grew up in the lodging house and quite quickly takes a shine to her, but it is very unlikely that Madame will let her new girl, a prized virgin of all thingspotter around in the tavern bar for too long.

Soon the girl is shown the ropes and sufficiently groomed to begin work servicing the Madame’s long list of clients, many of whom would be willing to part with a handsome fee to procure the services of an unsullied girl.

350px-Harris_covent_garden_ladiesAnother ‘voice’ in the book is given to Edward Cross, an ambitious, thirty-four year old middle class bachelor, who like many men of the period, often enjoyed the delights of whore-dom on a regular and discreet basis. I take delight in explaining to you the creation of this interesting character.

In the latter part of the eighteenth century a ‘yellow pages’ of Covent Garden prostitutes became a successful enterprise selling eight thousand copies annually.

It was a publication purchased by men who required ‘solitary sexual gratification.’

Society dictated that for any single male to touch a decent maiden out of wedlock would have been an unspeakable act of disgrace, so the natural course of action for these single and virile young men would be to indulge in the pleasures offered to them by seasoned whores.

Incidentally, Harris’ List is a real publication which ran to the end of its print life in 1795. More information on Harris’ List can be found here on wikipedia.

Early last year I purchased an original copy for my own research purposes.

Funny that because now (adding in post-script) I find it interesting that HARLOTS a Starz Play drama starring Samantha Morton and Jessica Brown Findlay is very much based on the findings in this very publication!

I can only say it was descriptive, shocking and a very enlightening read, but it served to help me carve Edward Cross’s character perfectly.


Edward Cross, a one time writer and reporter, quite fancies reviving this sordid publication by indexing the ladies he has frequented in the Whitechapel area.

In fact he has spent the last five years secretly penning a diary of sorts, with entries containing the physical attributes and costs of each woman in the seedy district. He immerses himself full throttle, honing his writing skills accordingly.

His snobbish arrogance does little to deter him from his ambitious sexual perversities. In the late summer of 1888 Cross suddenly hits a brick wall with his diary. He feels his entries are lacking. Most of the washed out whores in Whitechapel are above the age of forty. But a virgin would make his publication a bestseller.

Enter young Catherine Bell.

Edward Cross seduces her effortlessly, for he is a handsome man of tall stature, with very beguiling green eyes and his handsome reward in monetary terms is far more than the unskilled orphan girl could expect to receive within any other occupation.

For the time being Madame Davenport, Catherine and Edward Cross are smug and satisfied with their illicit intentions, but just as all things appear rosy – of course they are not.

Annie and Nellie, two older prostitutes who have worked and resided at the lodging house for more than thirty years, are quite infuriated by this new social climbing nymph.

Jealousy and back stabbing soon erupts and Catherine begins to witness the true misery of life within a seedy whore house in the east end of London.

The story climaxes to a peak when the murders begin with the slaying of Martha Tabram, at George Yard Buildings in the early hours of a chilled August morning.

The horrific wounds she bore that night struck fear into the hearts of every female prostitute in Whitechapel. But life goes on, and they must continue to earn a living.

We go into Annie and Nellie’s point of view and find out exactly how they react to the murders. Nellie, the weaker of the two, succumbs to her fears much more easily than her friend and staunch supporter, Annie.

The story ends revealing who the culprit is in these murders.

But of course, it couldn’t be that simple could it?

Jack the Ripper could never have been just an ordinary man, or could he?

In any case each thread is sufficiently wrapped up to an ‘alternate’ conclusion and the characters themselves will lead you there. You will discover that no-one in this murderous tale is by any means innocent.

Some will reveal their anguish and regrets, other’s will continue to hide beneath their own discreet absurdities.

Nonetheless, my earnest intentions for this tale was for the reader to come away having witnessed a new scene within the real Whitechapel drama of August 1888.

This fictional tale blends in with the facts, as they stand amongst recognised documented statements. The murder victims known as the canonical five, street names and other details too, are accurately portrayed within the story.

The book is newly published and available at Amazon stores in paperback and Kindle priced at around £10.00

The Whitechapel Virgin


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