13 April 2011



In preparation for NaNoWriMo 2010, I read a book called The Evil That Men Do by Stephen Michaud, a study of serial rapists and killers, written in collaboration with Roy Hazelwood, a pioneer in FBI profiling. I knew that, even as she was gifted (read: cursed) with the ability to fight evil, my main character was also going to become a powerful magnet for evil. And it seemed logical that, since she was a cute young woman with a job that involved working in a semi-seedy neighbourhood, often late at night, she would become a magnet for the type of men Hazelwood spent his career profiling.

One of the things I found most fascinating about this book was the fact that until relatively recently, sex crimes like rape were almost impossible to analyze, because nobody wanted to do it. When Hazelwood started his career, anyone who was interested in trying to understand the motivations behind such crimes were considered perverts, especially by fellow law enforcement officers. So the intimate interrelationship between sex criminals and killers went long unacknowledged. And yet, many serial killers begin their careers as rapists. What begins as a desire to dominate women (and, more rarely, men) often culminates in the desire to take a life.

Hazelwood was unique in his day in noticing that not all rapists and killers are alike. He made important key distinctions between chaotic, spur-of-the-moment, opportunistic serial murderers, and those who were meticulous planners.

The discipline of serial killer profiling opened up a whole new world (or maybe dark underbelly) to writers. Killers are useful in our fiction, and may even be the focal character. Jeff Lindsay's Dexter series of books depends on playing the line between the cultural fascination with killers and fantasies of vigilante justice.   


jkraus8464 said...

Good article on this topic. I think that people, at least people like me, have gotten more into the minds of serial killers and killers in general because of the crime shows on TV. It is a little disturbing to note the trend that the defense often grabs onto some kind of emotional problem caused by family background. But the topic is interesting to me.

KM Nalle said...

Interesting topic. Dexter is one of my guilty pleasure favorite TV show. I swing between being digusted with myself for loving it and being enthralled by the main character and the way his mind works.

Luanne G. Smith said...

Yeah, I used to work with these kinds of guys (I worked in a jail many years ago). Not fun, but it has given me lots to think about as a writer.

And I think getting more women in law-enforcement has helped in the understanding of crimes against women. Interesting stuff.

Claudie A. said...

That's so interesting! I need to read that book. One of my WIP deals with rape, and I always feel I'm walking in a mined terrain. The more I know, the better. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

My character for the K post was a serial killer...great to find you discussing killers for K!

Unknown said...

Interesting that rapes went on without proof. People must've got away with a lot more in the past - but crime is still growing.

I wonder if Jack the Ripper also raped? Did they ever find that out?

Great post and happy A-Z

Elizabeth Twist said...

@Jeanne: according to Ray Michaud, it is true that many of these killers and rapists have terrible family backgrounds including hideous abuse. I don't think that's an excuse at all, it just extends the tragedy.

@Kari Marie: love Dexter. The way it plays with your emotions is brilliant.

@L.G.: Wow. That is some amazing experience for you to draw upon in your writing, but I don't envy you.

@Claudie: I agree. Rape is a major theme in my WiP, and I wonder if I'm dealing with it appropriately.

@damyanti: I'll be stopping by shortly to check that out!

@Lauracea: My understanding is that Jack the Ripper did not have sexual intercourse with his victims, but profilers have argued that the evisercations he performed were a kind of rape proxy / symbolic rape.

Susan Oloier said...

Your post was a very interesting read. I would love to read your 2010 Nano Book. It sounds very compelling.

Talei said...

Definitely interesting reading this. I think if you're writing crime fiction, the research would be pretty intense.

Nioe to meet you via A to Z.

Doreen McGettigan said...

Very interesting topic. I worked as a sexual assault counselor. Much more research needs to be done...
I really like Dexter too; and I am so against violence. He does kill the bad guys though.