I didn’t spend the evening writing. I spent it researching. During the fourth hour of research, I realized that sometimes, my job sucks.
I don’t mind research, I really don’t. It’s a way to gather new information to store in my already overcrowded brain. Unfortunately, researching serial killers (around the world, captured and not, from now to the beginning of recorded history) can be a bit depressing. As a writer, I occasionally ask myself where these depraved ideas come from… The truth is, anything I can think of, someone else has probably already done.
For example, tonight, I discovered a serial killer in France before the French Revolution, who enjoyed feeding his victims to dogs, while they were alive. It isn’t a jaguar or another human being, but does it matter? No, absolutely not. It doesn’t say if the feedings were sexually motivated, it was the 1600’s after all and that stuff just wasn’t recorded or talked about. But I have a feeling it probably was.
And it isn’t just serial killers and mass murders that are required reading. I read books about murders that aren’t perpetrated by serial killers or mass murderers, because sometimes, they have the more useful information. After my journey into historical serial killers ended tonight, I grabbed a book on unsolved murders in the US. It was pretty much a book of gruesome murders that had taken place before the publication date.
I learned some new stuff. It gave me some ideas. It also filled my mind with death and destruction. I try not to pick books that have photos, my imagination is sufficient (I’ll never get the crime scene photos of poor Elizabeth Short – The Black Dahlia – out of my brain) and my memory seems to store those sorts of things all too well.
Ah, but research, even for a fiction novel, must be done. Can a handful of people kidnap ten women in a single night? As a matter of fact, they can. There is a not so famous case of this happening, three men kidnapped 8 women in the space of five hours. When one of the women managed to escape, they shot her and replaced her within the hour with a “substitute” that had already been picked out. They had stalked the women for nearly three months before they kidnapped them, intending to make them sex slaves. They screwed up and were caught a few days after the kidnappings and with the exception of the woman the shot the night of the kidnappings, all the women were found alive. Can a person be skinned alive? Absolutely, but it’s hard to remove the skin from the hands, feet and wrinkly part where the calf and ankle meet and it doesn’t take days. It can be done in just a few hours, with the right experience. And yes, mercury is relatively safe to drink (I wouldn’t recommend it!), but the fumes are toxic and when injected into the blood stream, the heavy metal has trouble flowing through the arteries, resulting in death, not by poisoning, but by internal hemorrhaging as it causes the blood vessels to rupture and organs to fail.
As a writer, I can only ask you to suspend so much disbelief and with the Cain novels, it is the reality that she lives in (The Rise of the Serial Killer as I call it), I can’t ask you to also believe fantastic means of murder… For that part, I must do research.