The Fox and the Flies: The Secret Life of a Grotesque Master Criminal

Front Cover
Bloomsbury Publishing USA, Aug 9, 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 672 pages
1 Review

A chance encounter with Silver's career in South Africa set Charles van Onselen on a twenty five-year obsession: a journey to reconstruct the shadowy life and times of-in some ways to match wits with-a devious master criminal. From Russian Poland in the 1860s, where Silver was born Joseph Lis, to London in the 1880s, turn-of-the-century New York, Argentina, and Africa, van Onselen recaptures the dangerous demimonde of the Atlantic world. Silver's notoriety was found among the most confidential correspondence of a dozen countries; what those in law enforcement kept to themselves, however, was how their officers had attempted to use Silver as an informer to infiltrate syndicates built on vice, only to have him outwit them as he moved in the risky space between police and prostitutes.

Such is the meticulousness of van Onselen's research that The Fox and the Flies is as rich in history as it is in the detail and drama of Silver's career, as layer after layer of his life and times are revealed. And it has an extraordinary pay-off, for van Onselen contends that Joseph Silver's darkest secret of all lay in London in the autumn of 1888 when, before he embarked on his legendary life of crime, he was, indeed, Jack the Ripper.

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - solla - LibraryThing

The book jacket presented this as a book about a criminal who was theorized to be Jack the Ripper. It was not much about that but did tell the tale of a Polish refuge Jew who went to London and later ... Read full review

THE FOX AND THE FLIES: The Secret Life of a Grotesque Master Criminal

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Longwinded, heavily researched biography of a really bad man who may or may not have been a mass murderer.Born to a wanton mother in a Polish village in 1868, Joe Lis (usually aka Joe Silver) died ... Read full review


Kielce 18681884 I
SantiagoValparaiso 19101912
Johannesburg 1899 I6 I
To Kimberley 1900 I 8 I
Cape Town 19011902 I9 I
KimberleyBloemfontein 1902
Cape Town 19031904
I5 Cape Town 19041905 2 5 L
ValparaisoSantiago 1913
London New York and Rio de Janeiro 19141916
Jaroslaw 19171918
Whitechapel 1888
Clio and the Fox The Hunt for Joseph Silver
Notes 5
Select Bibliography

Swakopmund 1905
Neumünster and Paris 19081909

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2010)

Charles van Onselen is an acclaimed biographer who has held visiting fellowships at Cambridge, Oxford, and Yale. His works on the social history of southern Africa have won him, among others, the American African Studies Association's Herskovits Prize, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies' Trevor Reese Memorial Prize, and the Sunday Times' Alan Paton Award for nonfiction. He is currently research professor in the faculty of humanities at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

Bibliographic information