Talking Serial Killers – Vol 2
12 months ago I had the opportunity to chat with David McCaffrey, author of Hellbound. David had introduced a twist to his serial killer story and I was offered the opportunity to chat with David about Hellbound and about serial killers! During the course of our conversation I asked:
“Why do you think we (as readers) enjoy serial killer stories given the reality is such a horrific concept?”
It is a question that I have re-visited several times since my chat with David and I have been fascinated with the different responses that I have received so decided to collate the replies.
In April Alexandra Sokoloff visited and I asked: why do we love a serial killer story?
I think the serial killer has become an iconic monster, like a vampire or werewolf or zombie (maybe replacing the pretty much defunct mummy!). This icon is of course a very idealized version of what a serial killer actually is. And I think it was Thomas Harris who mythologized the serial killer to classic monster status, although Stevenson’s Jekyll/Hyde, Stoker’s Dracula (supposedly based on the real-life Vlad the Impaler), and various depictions of Jack the Ripper were strong precursors. We are fascinated by the idea of pure evil in a human being.
However, the other component of why we love a serial killer story is because most authors (and screenwriters and filmmakers) who write about serial killers are dishonestly romanticizing them and leaving out the unmitigated, repellent malevolence of these men. About which more in a minute.
And there is also an unfortunate percentage of the population that gets off on reading about rape, torture, and murder.
But that was not where it ended as, during the preparation for our Q&A, Alex indicated that she had lots to offer on the subject of Serial Killers! Manna for a crime blogger…a full Q&A just around serial killers was the result and is one of my favourite interviews that I have hosted. You can read our conversation in full here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=696
In February I had the chance to chat with Karen Long about her second Eleanor Raven novel The Vault. Raven hunts down a killer who likes to keep his victims around long after their death…
Why do you think that we all seem to enjoy reading about serial killers?
It is one of the defining aspects of the conscious mind that we seek to understand the mind of another. Have you not said to a loved one, “What are you thinking?”, “Penny for them?” or you see the personality and empathy in a pet? We look for the similarities and fear the differences. A great white shark is more terrifying than an orca, both are apex predators, roughly the same weight but we feel less threatened by the orca (count the ratio of shark to orca documentaries on the Discovery channel). It looks back at us with an intelligence and complexity of purpose that we believe we can understand. It’s more like than unlike us. The unconscious mind is terrifying; simple motor responses that can’t be tempered or reversed by logic, emotion or negotiation leave us vulnerable and afraid. Those atavistic fears, tamped down by collective intelligence and analysis need an airing if we are to survive. What better way to practise than from the safety of your own living room, protected by hearth, locks and a telephone. When we confront the serial killer in the safety of our imaginations, we look into the shark’s mind. It is a lesson in survival that dares us to look into a mind devoid of reason.
You can read our Q&A in full here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=520
Most recently I was delighted to welcome Marnie Riches back to Grab This Book. We were chatting about the first two books of The Girl Who series – Marnie’s hero (George) has had more than one brush with violent killers so naturally I wanted to ask Marnie about her thoughts on Serial Killers:
Why do readers love serial killer stories given how horrific the concept is in reality?
Serial killers form an intrinsic part of our collective oral history, like childhood tales of the bogeyman or urban myths. Every grown-up has heard of the Moors Murderers, Fred and Rose West, The Yorkshire Ripper… They’re gruesome anti-legends. Serial killers are so rare, that they always make headlines, and we read their stories with macabre fascination, precisely because they are such an anomaly in our otherwise ordered, safe and fairly predictable lives. Death is inevitable, but premature death at the hand of a violent killer is a primal fear, statistically founded on very little, but which we nevertheless experience with perverse relish and vicariously through the suffering of a few unfortunate individuals who do fall victim to society’s worst predators. Serial killers will always be fascinating.
You can read our Q&A in full here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=1078