Leigh Russell – THE APPEAL OF THE SERIAL KILLER
Today I am delighted to welcome Leigh Russell to Grab This Book.
This is publication week for Leigh’s new DI Geraldine Steel novel: Deadly Alibi. As we enter the last 24 hours before Deadly Alibi finds its way into the hands of the readers Leigh has shared her thoughts on my favourite question: “Why Do We Love A Serial Killer Story?”
The Appeal of the Serial Killer
After my debut novel featuring a serial killer, I introduced a different kind of murderer in my second novel, Road Closed. ‘I can’t have a serial killer in every book,’ I explained to my agent. ‘Oh yes, you can,’ came the prompt reply. ‘Readers love serial killers.’ Of course that wasn’t meant to be taken literally, although it’s an interest that crosses over from fiction into real life, with many women wanting to marry killers on death row in America.
So how can we explain this fascination we have with serial killers?
I have to confess that serial killers are good news for crime writers. They offer the perfect means to ramp up tension. Anyone who has seen the film Jaws will remember the first shark attack, all the more shocking because it was unexpected. After that first attack, the director can intensify the suspense any time he chooses. All he needs to do is put a woman in the water on her own, or have a child splashing happily in the sea, and the audience are on the edge of their seats, wondering whether this will be the next victim of a shark attack.
Crime writers have been exploiting this technique for a long time. First the writer establishes that a serial killer is prowling the streets. Then a potential victim – stereotypically a young woman – is placed out alone on the street after dark, and the reader is immediately afraid that another murder is about to take place. This expectation can be fulfilled or confounded. The reader never knows when the killer will strike again.
As well as the tension introduced by a serial killer, there is psychological interest in the character. What is it that causes someone to kill multiple victims? Perhaps if we are honest we can all understand how someone could be driven to kill once. Take the case of a wife who has been persistently abused only to see her husband start to abuse their child. While no one would condone or excuse killing an abuser, we could understand how a victim might lose control and lash out. But repeated deliberate killing is a different matter, and one that is intriguing.
Of course, there are many patterns of behaviour with which I can’t naturally identify. Recently I was invited to appear at a literary festival where I chatted to another speaker who has written a book based on his experience climbing Everest. That is something I could no more imagine doing than I could envisage committing a murder. So it becomes an intriguing challenge to explore what might motivate a serial killer.
Deadly Alibi by Leigh Russell is published by No Exit Press and is available to buy as an ebook: bit.ly/deadlyalibiebook