Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Geez, I almost forgot!

“Today is Tuesday because Monday was a holiday.” Maybe I should stamp it backwards on my forehead whenever we have a three-day weekend so that I’ll see it when I brush my teeth in the morning. Unless it’s attached to the date of a specific holiday like Christmas, all our free days from work involve having Monday off not Friday. Since my posting date is Tuesday, you can see the dilemma I often find myself in. This time, it was nearly 4:00 pm by the time I realized what day of the week it is. How embarrassing! I hope you will all forgive me.

John Wayne Gacy
Tom’s post of yesterday brings something to mind for me: what is it about serial killers that we generally find so fascinating? I could go down a long list of the famous ones, starting with Jack, and I bet that nine out of ten people on the street would say that they’d heard of them at the very least.

Serial killings are just about the most horrendous of crimes, to my mind. You can almost sympathize with a murder, such as a crime of passion, that happens when someone just snaps and does something so very drastic, but only does it once. Serial killers do it over and over, often with no remorse whatsoever, and then often try to manipulate the police, the media, the families of their victims. You would think we would all be so repelled that we’d simply turn away, not wanting to know anything more about something so awful.

But most generally don’t turn away. Some of the most successful of all non-fiction crime books have serial murder as their subject matter. Tom points out that Jack the Ripper’s story has spawned 114 books and numerous movies and TV shows. That is truly amazing when you think about it. Part of it is because the identity of the Ripper was never uncovered, certainly. But here are some more figures: there are at least 10 books about John Wayne Gacy, plus numerous TV shows; Ted Bundy’s story has resulted in at least 15 books. I could go on, but I won’t. A number of these books have sold millions of copies. There’s even a serial killer calendar, for pity’s sake!

Is it voyeurism? Is it for the vicarious thrill? Simple curiosity? What?

Another thing that crosses my mind is how many other serial killers have their been? You can be sure that Jack the Ripper was not the first.

Speaking as a crime writer, you can see why serial killers make good subject matter for mysteries and thrillers. First off is the public’s seeming appetite for the material. You can make your plot zip along quite easily since the race for time in stopping the killer is a natural. Even though many publishers say they won’t offer a contract for a novel about a serial killer, the books keep on coming out.

My question is why? I find it hard to even look at photos of these monsters. I cannot imagine living inside the head of one for the months it would take to produce a novel or book.


Charlotte Hinger said...

Rich, I'm worried that some days, getting inside their heads would come a little too easily to me.

Rick Blechta said...

I'm not teaching anymore, so it doesn't come that easily to me. Guess I'm out of practise!