Truth is so often more horrifying than fiction, and this can be found in the multitude of true crime books available. So often, we are drawn to these books because we try so hard to make sense of what appears to be senseless. We want to know what the murderer was thinking, how he/she could so recklessly take another's life.
My guest today is one of the foremost writers of true-crime books. He has gone where many would like to in order to get inside the criminal's mind and let us know the answers to how those minds think, what motivates them. I am extremely honored to bring you an interview with Gary C. King, who took the time out of his busy schedule preparing for a new book release tomorrow (more on that in a minute) to share some thoughts with us.
Gary C. King, a freelance author and lecturer, is regarded by readers and critics alike as one of the world's foremost crime writers, a reputation he has earned over the last 28 years with the publication of more than 400 articles in true crime magazines in the United States, Canada, and England.
King’s stories regularly appeared in True Detective, Official Detective, Inside Detective, Front Page Detective, and Master Detective magazines, until those magazines’ demise in the mid-1990s. More recently he has found alternate venues for his stories, including Crime Library.
He is also the author of several true crime books including: Blood Lust: Portrait of a Serial Sex Killer, Driven to Kill, Web of Deceit, Blind Rage, Savage Vengeance (with Don Lasseter), An Early Grave, The Texas 7, Murder in Hollywood, Angels of Death, Stolen in the Night, Love, Lies, and Murder, and An Almost Perfect Murder. Butcher will be published in April 2009.
Driven to Kill, the story of serial child killer Westley Allan Dodd's killing spree, was published in April 1993 by Pinnacle Books and was nominated for an Anthony Award in the Best True Crime Book category at Bouchercon 25.
Blood Lust: Portrait of a Serial Sex Killer, details the bizarre case of Dayton Leroy Rogers, Oregon's worst serial killer to date. Blood Lust was published in December 1992 under NAL/Dutton's Onyx imprint as an original paperback and is now in its twelfth U.S. printing. A German language edition of Blood Lust was published later, in 1995. Both Blood Lust and Driven to Kill were chosen as featured selections of Doubleday's now defunct True Crime Book Club.
King has also written articles on several celebrated cases that include: "Son of Sam" David Berkowitz; the Hillside Stranglers; Jim Jones and the Guyana Massacre; D.B. Cooper; Gary Gilmore; John Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman; and Seattle's bizarre Chinatown Massacre in the 1980s. He has also contributed to several true crime compilations books with various publishers.
The subject of King's other books include: Blind Rage, about suspected serial murderer Darren Dee O'Neall, was published by Dutton-Signet under their Onyx imprint in August 1995, and was reprinted in 2001 by the Mystery Writers of America/iUniverse. Savage Vengeance was published in 1996. More recently King published An Early Grave, a book about the mysterious death of Las Vegas casino scion Ted Binion; The Texas 7: A True Story of Murder and a Daring Escape, about the infamous Texas prison break in which a dedicated cop with a family was brutally murdered; Murder in Hollywood, about the murder of Bonny Lee Bakley, actor Robert Blake's wife; Angels of Death, a story detailing the murder of Terry King in Florida, purportedly committed by King's 12- and 13-year-old sons, Derek and Alex King; and Stolen in the Night, about the horrific Joseph Edward Duncan III case out of Idaho. His latest, Love, Lies, and Murder, is about the riveting Perry March case, the shady Nashville lawyer who was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Janet, and for plotting the murders of Janet’s parents, from Pinnacle Books. He is currently at work on two additional books for Pinnacle.
King also writes the Bizarre Crime of the Week blog for Investigation Discovery.King’s television appearances have included Entertainment Tonight, Larry King Live, Inside Edition, Court TV, MSNBC’s Headliners and Legends, E!, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Extra TV, and several other programs. He also frequently provides radio interviews.King is an active member of the Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America, American Crime Writers League, The Crime Writers' Association, National Press Club, Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors (I.R.E.) and the International Association of Crime Writers.
Gary C. King is represented by agent Peter Miller, President, PMA Literary and Film Management, 45 West 21st Street, Suite 4SW, New York, NY 10010. Phone: 212-929-1222; Fax: 212-206-0238. You can find out more about Gary at his personal website at: http://www.garycking.com/index.htm
Now, let's take a listen to the interview:
1. First, can you please tell our readers about yourself. Who is Gary King, the person?
I am a person who enjoys solitude, but I am not averse to being sociable. I am a caring person who gives a lot of thought to the victims and their families in the stories and books that I write about. I try very hard to "humanize" the victims that the killers I write about have "objectified." I am family oriented, and am considered a workaholic by my family despite my best efforts to spend as much time with everyone as possible. My typical workday is 8-10 hours when I'm on a book project. In my off time I like to travel, read, and watch movies. I have been referred to as a cantankerous old fart, but I work hard to keep that label from taking hold!
2. What drew you to the genre of true crime writing originally?
A case in Oregon about a child killer, Manuel Cortez, first drew me to true crime. It was a tough, emotional case, and one that I felt I could write. That case launched my writing career back in 1980 with the publication of "Tortured by the Sadist in the Press Box," which can be soon be read again on the Investigation Discovery site where approximately 50 of my earlier stories will be seen in the very near future (they may call that portion of their site "Classic Crime," but not sure yet). Readers will likely be able to navigate to the classic stories from my blog, Bizarre Crimes of the Week (http://discovery.blogs.com/bizarre ). After writing the Cortez story, I became hooked on researching and writing about crime and have been doing it ever since.
3. How much time do you put in, on average, researching each of your books?
The amount of time spent on researching a case for a book varies substantially. Some cases are easier than others, particularly when people are eager to talk. On average, however, I'd have to say approximately three months go into research and outlining, and another three to four months in writing. I have, however, written a couple of "quickie" books (which I will never do again), that required completion of the projects from start to finish in 35 days.
4. What draws you to a particular case?
Simply put, a case must interest me greatly before I will decide to write about it. The cases that interest me usually have many of the elements of a traditional mystery, a whodunit, and I typically have to "feel" some emotional involvement despite the fact that I am so detatched. The cases I like best are those that take me inside the mind of the killer.
5. Do you find interviewing those involved in your cases an easy task or do you run into a great deal of opposition?
Again, it varies greatly from case to case. Sometimes people are very eager to talk, other times they are very reluctant. I never know who will talk to me until I begin the research and tracking down the participants, whether they be the victim's family members or the cops. Sometimes I get to talk to the killers themselves.
6. Would you please tell us a bit about Butcher, which will be released tomorrow?
Butcher is the story of Canadian pig farmer Robert Pickton who, at some point in his life, decided that he wanted to beging killing and butchering women. It is a sordid case with gruesome aspects, but I tried to tone down the violence and the gore to some extent. Pickton is a fascinating case study of a serial killer, purportedly the worst in Canadian history. We originally had plans to release the book in Canada as The Pig Farm Murders, but the Canadian government informed my publisher that we cannot because of the publication ban still in effect regarding the case. Pickton's appeals have apparently begun, and the government is doing what it deems necessary to protect Pickton's rights.
7. What advice can you offer writers wanting to delve into writing true crime?
Be prepared for a lot of competition, as well as putting in lots of long, difficult hours for very little payment. The genre does not pay well unless one hits the bestseller lists, which is rare in true crime. Ann Rule has been one of the few to be able to accomplish that, along with Vincent Bugliosi and a handful of others. An aspiring true crime writer should be prepared to sit down and write a 10-15 page proposal about the crime that interests him/her, and do it quickly before someone else beats you to the publisher. While writing the proposal, find an agent for representation by sending out a short 1 or 2 page letter of interest, or query. Be prepared to send out the proposal as soon as the agent says okay.
8. Of all your books, which one holds you in its grip the most, and why?
Probably Driven to Kill, because it is about child serial murderer Westley Allan Dodd. Why? Because he did horrible, unspeakable things to little children, and I got to interview him for several hours and heard him tell me about his crimes in vivid detail as he relived them in a near-fantasy state of mind.
9. Do you have any other books in the works at the moment that we can look forward to reading?
I am currently working on a book that has been tentatively titled, Rage, which is about millionaire Reno businessman Darren Mack. Mack, true crime fans will recall, murdered his wife, Charla, because he was unhappy with the divorce settlement. He then went downtown and shot their divorce judge from a parking garage, through the judge's chambers window (the judge survived). There is a lot more to the case, of course, but that should give readers an idea. I have two additional true crime books to complete after that, but my editor and I have not settled on which cases those will be about just yet.
10. Is there anything else you would like to say--about yourself, your work or writing in general?
Writing for publication can be a very satisfying career, but aspiring writers should be prepared to face the difficult times (particularly economic) that go along with it.
Thank you so much for your wonderful answers, Gary. If you readers have any questions, please feel fre to put them in the comments section and I will see about getting them answered :-)
Now, for tomorrow's book release of Butcher (By the way, you can pre-order this book at http://tinyurl.com/ck6hqw ). I think the back copy will tell you better about this book.
From the back cover:
HIS GOAL: TO KILL AN "EVEN FIFTY"They called him "Uncle Willie." At night, Robert "Willie" Pickton visited the streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The women he picked up never came back...
HIS METHODS: RAPE AND TORTURE For years, police built a long list of missing prostitutes, women at the edge of society. Some people claimed there was a serial killer. One detective lost his job for saying so. But investigators didn't have a single body...until someone found a skull sawed in half...
THE PIG FARM MURDERS On land that had made his family millions, on a squalid pig farm near a school, a condo development and a Starbucks, Robert Pickton ran a house of horrors for decades. Friends, neighbors and community leaders came and went, while Pickton committed debauchery, torture, and bloodletting rivaling the worst on record. What he did to his victims was unspeakable. What he did to the bodies was unimaginable. How he got away with it is the most shocking crime of all...
INCLUDES 16 PAGES OF DISTURBING PHOTOS
BUTCHER will be released on April 7, 2009 to bookstores everywhere.
All true crime readers will be familiar with Gary C. King. For those who are unfamiliar with his work, this is your chance to get to know him. Again, please stop by http://www.garycking.com/index.htm to learn more about Gary and his writing. You won't regret this one!