How do you write something as gruesome and graphic and twisted and sick as LUSTMORD: Anatomy of a Serial Butcher and live with yourself? How do you sleep at night?
I'm not making excuses, but this is who they are, how they behave. Take a pit bull pup, mistreat it, beat it––abuse it––and you end up with a killing machine. Why should a human be any different? Granted, the occasional bad seed happens. Have been reading true crime for decades. You pick up knowledge, learn how serial killers operate. I know how the cowardly fuckers think, and what they're about. Bundy, Gacy, Manson––pussies and punks. Prey on victims who can't fight back. Having said that, yes, there were two scenes, well, more than two actually, but two specifically that literally caused me to lose sleep. One in particular, that I won't mention, that during the initial two-and-a-half years it took to write the first draft, I kept taking out and putting back in, taking out and putting back in. It was no easy task, mind you, since the four-hundred thousand-plus word novel was written (primarily) on a typewriter. Taking out the scene made me feel that I was being less-than-honest with what I was dealing with, the material that I was tackling; leaving it in turned my stomach because the scene, in its graphic depiction, and it is graphic, is absolutely abhorrent. Finally, I said: Fuck this shit. Leave it in. I'm leaving the goddamn scene in. Not only that one, but the others as well, because that's the way these assholes (serial killers) are. Very few give a damn about the victim, very few feel any remorse afterwards. It's all about them, getting their rocks off, having their fun––or else it's about filling that void, the hollowness within––that never gets filled; the "wound" never heals; the psychological wounds caused by a brutal childhood are never mended, not by hurting the innocent who never did them any harm, anyway. But they have themselves convinced that killing is the answer, that taking life, crushing, destroying, maiming, torturing, will somehow make them whole. . . It gets convoluted, because you're dealing with psychosis; it ties in: getting their jollies, while at the same time needing to "fill the void." In BTK's case, for instance, I doubt he was needing to fill any void; he was strictly out for kicks, thrills––and in doing so left devastation in his wake. Ruined lives. Every now and then you get one of these guys (even their female counterparts, who do exist, by the way) who feel a degree of remorse and turn themselves in, or commit suicide––but it's rare. It happens, but not very often. In BTK's case, he was heartless, so was Bundy, so was Gacy; Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, is another one. Just cold-blooded sociopaths. Selfish and remorseless. I know it's a long answer, but it's also a tough question. Also, you want to keep in mind that the book was begun way back around 1987, and wasn't finished until about 2013. That's how many years? Twenty-five, twenty-six years? Give or take. Long fucking time. On and off. Still a long time to spend on a single book. Because the subject matter is so brutal and psychologically taxing. Somewhere in there was a five year period when I wouldn't go near it. In the mid-90s, I believe. I'd done several drafts by then. . .still felt it needed more work, polish, revision. The characters wouldn't let me be. They had additional things they wanted to do and say. The way it is when the people in your tale are three dimensional; they tell YOU what they want, and not the other way around. I go along with the flow when it gets like this. The book leads, and I go along where it wants to take me. In addition to the above, there was a period after that five year hiatus when I could only bear to work on the book four, five, maybe six months out of the year (for about three years)––and that was it. I'd be off working on other things that had nothing to do with killing and mayhem. That shit can pull you down, give you nightmares. Like I said: That's the subject matter, that's the tale. I wanted to do it justice. I refused to whitewash any of it.
All right. Fine. But why horror?
Why not? I have as much respect for horror as I do any other genre. Horror is just as valid, if not more so. I feel the same way when it comes to horror flicks. To me, the great ones, and they are few and far between, but the best ones like Polanski's Repulsion, or The Tenant; George Romero's and John Russo's Night of the Living Dead (Yes, I'm aware they "borrowed" heavily from Matheson's Last Man On Earth, starring the late, great Vincent Price); Fred Walton's (original) When A Stranger Calls; Friedkin's The Exorcist; the 1974 original Texas Chainsaw Massacre; John McNaughton's Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer; William Lustig's (original) Maniac, starring the late, amazing Joe Spinnel; I'll even toss Bergman's Virgin Spring in there (and I'm no Ingmar Bergman fan, by the way)––are as worthy of praise as any of the great films in the other genres, be they drama, western, comedy, etc. That's part of the reason, the other reason is I'd rather not keep painting the same painting over and over, working in one genre, writing the same type of book each time out. I can remember when I was down, as a young man, broke, living in tiny furnished rooms in LA, on my own, no prospects, no woman in my life––no one to love, or be loved by––and there you are, feeling worthless, no money in the bank, no car, between cab gigs, or some kind of low-wage day gig––but I'd always been able to scrape together enough change to go see a horror flick, because nothing takes you away from your troubles the way a good scare flick can. Nothing. Not for me, anyway. Sure, running helped, but you can't do that night and day; guzzling brew helped––but you can't do that 24/7. It's no good to sit there in the dark playing Billie Holiday records or Janis Joplin or Roy Orbison and sucking down brewskies, because that's a sure way to push yourself over the edge. So, I'd find a movie, preferably a horror flick––to take my mind off my troubles. Mind you, we're talking when I was in my 20s, 30s. But finding a great horror film is not easy––because most of them suck. Hell, most films, most of anything sucks: books, music. Just the way it is.
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