Towards the end of last year, I was approached and asked to write one of the Haynes Books titles in a new series Crimes of the Century. I was offered a choice of two titles: Unsolved Crimes or Serial Killers.
Thinking that it would be more unnerving to find out about crimes, including murder, where the case was still open and the culprit at large, I chose Serial Killers.
More fool me.
I didn’t know much about serial murder before starting writing this book. I had read several of the usual off-the-shelf non-fiction books. One which featured Richard Ramirez had troubled me in particular. Here was a particular individual who revelled in evil and had no-one but himself in mind.
Reading Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test last year reminded of this sort of mind set, totally single minded, totally uncaring. It’s not a psyche I can claim to understand. I am if anything the complete opposite. The concerns and opinions of others as being important has been drilled into me from an early age. Too much so. But it has instilled in me a sense of appreciation of others, a sense of community, an appreciation of humanity.
These people are inhumane. Inhuman.
I had to hurry writing the book, unable to start it until mid-January of this year, and with a deadline in early March. I would have to go at it full on, totally absorb myself in the material. But I soon began to drown in death.
Each night my mind would cloud with my reading of screaming corpses, skinned cadavers, bodiless heads. Serial killers would stalk the shadowy recesses of my mind, scaring off jittery sleep, restless respite from incessant gore.
I started to feel like a victim. Not of a serial murderer, naturally, but, of the legacy of their despicable acts. I also started to feel belligerent. Even though this was a job, and a matter of choice, here I was being exposed to this most vile subject. Admittedly, I was delving deeper than most of those off-the-shelf books dealt with; but if I was having to deal with it, then why shouldn’t people who wanted and chose to read about this stuff, why shouldn’t they also be forced to deal with the more extreme material. The reality.
At that point I resolved to do two things: fill the current book with as much honest, blatant, matter-of-fact reporting of what actually happened, with as little self-censorship as possible, and, secondly, plan another book in the near future that would go even further. If people wanted to really meet face on the truth of these crimes, then they ought to be forced to confront the reality.
This next book will also provide a narrative of serial murder cases, but in a more encyclopaedic form, short entries, just the brutal, bare facts. These crimes will be put in context, and another dimension of comprehension will be added, with essays from experts in the field of forensic psychology. For the obligatory photograph section, instead of just unemotional mug-shots of the murderers, or innocuous house-fronts of places where murders took place, this next book will test obscenity laws. Copyright allowing, I intend to use actual crime scene photography, the horrible aftermath of extreme perversion, the reality that meets forensic teams when they first enter the premises.
That’s the next book in this genre. I can’t believe I’m even considering another. The characters from the last one are still in my head, still interrupting my sleep, still stalking my mind.