Confessions of a Criminal Kind

Posted: December 10, 2019 in Blog
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I’m not sure when it began, but I’ve always held a fascination with serial killers and to a lesser extent, the True Crime genre. I recall as a young child being more afraid of someone breaking into our house with ill intent as opposed to monsters lurking under the bed or in the closet. As I got older and learned more of these heinous things going on in the world, they drew me in like a dark magnet. It bothered me that people behaved this way. It haunted me that I might become a victim of such. But instead of shutting it behind locked doors, I dove in.

I used to hunt books voraciously. My consumption has not necessarily decreased so much as the method for acquiring books has changed. I rarely go to the brick & mortar book store anymore, but back in the late eighties and early nineties, there was no other choice. I enjoyed it, and I would often browse the shelves, looking over books, reading their synopses. I might spend a good deal of time at this quasi-investigation even if I had already made my choice of what next to buy.

Zodiac Cover

I recall seeing the cover of Zodiac by Robert Graysmith. It felt like a beacon, like I was a moth involuntarily drawn to this light. I thumbed through it, noting the pictures, and it scared me. I was actually worried about how I might digest this information, so I didn’t buy it. I did the same with books on John Wayne Gacy, Henry Lee Lucas, and Charles Manson. Instead, I continued reading “safer” books like those by Stephen King and Clive Barker.

Silence of the Lambs came out around that time, and the dam broke. It seemed the country was in the throes of a similar fascination. Maybe it had always been. I gave in and began my own journey with books on Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer (this was years before Ridgway was arrested). I eventually bought and read the Zodiac book. It was certainly chilling, but it didn’t drop me down some inescapable, dark well as I feared it might. I also got a hold of several encyclopedias of crime and serial killers, gaining limited insight into more and more that might lead to avenues of further delving.

Eventually technology gave us better access to lesser known fare like documentaries. I have always enjoyed them, and it pleased me when they began gaining more popularity. Now you can watch well done documentaries on all sorts of true crime. I’ve seen plenty. Some are clearly better than others, and some are chilling right to the bone. I watched Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes and hearing Bundy’s voice felt like a haunting hypnotism. It didn’t even feel horrifying until some time later, and that made it even scarier to me.

Tedd Bundy Tapes

In addition to Silence of the Lambs, there have been plenty of fictional movies made about, and often inspired by, serial killers and true crime. I used to work at a video rental store when I was in college, and I can tell you, I watched just about all of them I could get my hands on. None were as good as Silence, but several were just as horrifying. Most were formulaic crap.

And now we have the amazing series on Netflix, Mindhunter. This is another one that is based on true events, and it shows how American law enforcement at the time began to deal with serial killers. It comes from the book of the experiences of John Douglas, one of the pioneers in criminal profiling and a consultant for Silence of the Lambs.

mindhunter-s1

This dark interest has undoubtedly influenced some of my writing. As much as such criminal behavior scares and sickens me, it is, unfortunately an actual behavior. I’ve made myself go further and further into horrific explorations just to try to not pull punches, since reality doesn’t. I’m not entirely sure how much it has affected me as a writer, but it’s there. I like to think that exposing and facing it is how we eventually eradicate it. Maybe that’s naive, but I’m not sure any of us have a perfect crystal ball. Besides, I need to cling to some optimism in the face of such darkness.

Sleep well …

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