It is not, I think, generally known that the notorious killer Babinsky was also a man of letters. So the imminent publication of The Complete And Staggeringly Voluminous Correspondence Of The Notorious Killer Babinsky, in no fewer than forty volumes, is to be welcomed. Babinsky, it seems, when he could tear himself away from the committal of blood-drenched enormities, wrote dozens upon dozens of letters, every day, to a bewildering number of correspondents, some of whom actually replied.
An unexpectedly high proportion of his letters are on the subject of moles, and are of scant interest to the general reader, although no doubt those as mole-dazed as Babinsky will find much to interest them. But the great fascination of these huge fat volumes lies in the very occasional letters written by Babinsky which address wider topics. Those of us who have long wanted to know more about the lumbering, murderous, walrus-moustached psychopath are well-served by this excellent collection.
Consider this, for example:
Dearest Tod [or possibly ‘Tad’ or ‘Ted’ – Babinsky’s handwriting was atrocious], I am currently hiding in a cave by the mighty, pitiless sea. Can you do me a favour and bring me a goat, so I can slaughter it with my bare hands and eat it raw?
The very next day, before he has received a reply, Babinsky writes to Tod again:
Beloved Tod, Is there such a thing as a goat suitable for vegans? One made out of marzipan or No-Egg™ and suet substitute? It clear slipped my mind, when I wrote to you yesterday, that I have decided to eschew all animal products. While I take a distinct pleasure in acts of sickening violence such as the Blister Lane Post Office Horror of a few months ago, I would not wish to hurt a hair on a fly’s head. I am not entomologist enough to know whether flies actually have any hair on their heads, but my point, I hope, is clear. When I am brought before the tribunal of beasts, in a dingly dell, like something out of a Hicks painting, I want to be able to hold my head high, and preen my walrus moustache, and cry: “I vowed, when hiding in a cave by the sea, never again to harm a single animal nor eat one, and I have kept my promise, O beasts, and survived on lettuce and radishes and many types of fruit and marzipan goats!” I will be very grateful if you can sort something out, because the night is drawing in and the waves are crashing on the rocks and I am getting quite peckish.
Elsewhere, Babinsky can strike a surprisingly plaintive tone:
Dear Spleen-Boy, You will probably be surprised at my plaintive tone, but I have been sobbing quite bitterly. I have had to take refuge in a lair in the blue forgotten hills, because I learned that the coppers wanted to have a word with me about the gruesome slayings at Sawdust Bridge. I am woebegone and emotional and have pins and needles in various limbs as I huddle here in the darkness, listening to the gruntings and howlings of creatures of the night, some of which might discover my lair and attack your poor tearful Babinsky! What is to become of me?
Fortunately, we know from other sources what became of Babinsky after that. Even if we did not, a letter he wrote some three weeks later sheds some light:
Hey there, Dot! By now you might have heard about the coppers who were found dead in a pit in the blue forgotten hills, their heads turned inside out by some inexplicable act of violence. Well, when they do the forensics, it will be my great grubby thumb-prints they’ll find. But what do I care? I fled the scene as they gasped their last and am now quite safe, holed up in a seaside boarding-house, plotting an enormity at the docks. If you could see your way to stuffing some flies into an envelope and sending them to me, that would be grand.
Babinsky does not state why he wants an envelope stuffed with flies. It may form part of his plot, or perhaps he is just being enigmatic, as he is in this later letter, also addressed to Dot:
Dear Dot, I have been thinking for some time now that you have signally failed to realise just how enigmatic I am. This grieves me. You really need to appreciate that when I am not committing gore-splattered killings or keeping up with my mole correspondence, I am just about the most enigmatic person you are ever likely to receive a letter from. Note, for instance, the exquisite notepaper, its edges trimmed with pinking shears, its lavender-and-cauliflower scent, and the way I have folded it so that if you cut along the creases you will have sixteen pieces which can be formed into a lifelike paper model of David Blunkett’s guide dog, complete with harness. PS: Many thanks for sending the envelope stuffed with flies so promptly. I made very, very enigmatic use of it, so enigmatic I am not going to tell you, in order to preserve my considerable mystique.
At other times, Babinsky was more forthcoming about his activities. In a letter to David Blunkett, he wrote:
Dear Mr Blunkett, I would have you know that recently I have been creating lifelike paper models of your guide dog, complete with harness. If you would like one, please let me know, and I will send the template by return of post, unless of course I am forced to flee from my current hidey-hole deep in the woods, sheltered by stark pines and majestic laburnums. Everything is fine at the moment, but there is always the possibility that I might betray my presence to the wizened old woodcutter who dwells in a hovel a few yards away, and he looks like the sort who would summon the coppers. They think I had something to do with the Unspeakable Stranglings in Pointy Town last October, which I did, of course, but who’s to know, eh? Keep it under your hat, Mr Blunkett, if you have a hat, which I’m sure you do, being a man of style and substance.
Babinsky’s own style and substance were occasionally to be found in foreign parts. Now and then he sailed across the mighty and pitiless sea, when, say, the police were hot on his trail, or he had it in mind to carry out some foreign killings, or he wished to familiarise himself with the ways of foreign moles. At these times, he kept up his correspondence with gusto, although he had to make use of airmail, and therefore of thin airmail notepaper, of which he did not approve.
My darling Blodwyn, I am sure you will agree that this airmail paper is far too thin. I have a good mind to scrunch it up in my big hairy fist, and then to calm myself down by going out and setting upon a foreign person and visiting upon them an unimaginably horrible and violent death, possibly involving pincers and bleach. Why can’t they make the aeroplanes bigger, so they can carry thicker paper? If I wasn’t lying low from the polizei, I would march into a large important building and demand something was done. But I need to keep out of sight, and the snowdrifts outside this remote chalet are so deep that I would leave telltale tracks, even if I just popped down to the jolly goatherd’s hut to abduct one of his goats. Thank Christ I put all that vegan nonsense behind me. I will have some explaining to do when I am hauled before the tribunal of beasts, but I will hope to distract them by allowing the gentle breeze in the dingly dell to waft my walrus moustache to startling effect. That worked for me before, when I was about to be arrested for the Cuxhaven Poisonings. Those Cuxhaven coppers were so bowled over by the elegant quivering of my moustache that I was able to make my getaway across the sandbanks.
Babinsky did not always escape arrest, of course, and an entire volume of the collected correspondence is entitled “Letters From Prison”. Here is one of them:
Dear Yoko, I was born free, but now I am in chains. Please take out full-page advertisements in all the major newspapers demanding my immediate release, alongside whatever else you might wish for, such as world peace or no possessions. We both know that you have global influence, and it will be a terrific boost to your moral fibre to use that influence on behalf of a wretched prisoner like me. So get with the programme, Missus!
This was not the only letter in which Babinsky babbled about the boosting of fibre. It is a topic he returned to again and again.
Dearest Ludovico, I’ve got some fibre here and I am going to give it a boost. If you want to watch, meet me behind the gasworks at dead of night. You will be able to recognise me by dint of my walrus moustache, lumbering gait, the blood of a freshly-slaughtered goat dribbling down my chin, and my general air of seething psychopathic violence. Don’t tell anybody you’re coming, and don’t make any plans for tomorrow, or, indeed, for the rest of your life, which I can assure you is going to be particularly nasty, brutish, and short. PS: Give my regards to your delightful wife and seven lovely children.
It is not often Babinsky allows himself, as here, to show his tender, sentimental side. One of the pleasures of this extraordinary collection is that we get to see the notorious killer in the round, warts, more warts, and even more warts. The warts, of course, were usually hidden under that majestic moustache. As he wrote to the Tod, or Ted, or Tad we met earlier:
Dear Tod, I feel I must let you know that my warts are mostly hidden under my majestic walrus moustache. Forever yours, Babinsky.
Somehow, those words serve as an epitaph of sorts.