Having finished Sawney Bean (Fonthill Media 2015), I’ve been on a bit of hiatus from writing true crime. Truth be told, I’ve been doing some research into some murders, but have been focusing on writing a massive project in a fiction genre (Sci-Fi Military). I can’t go into details right now but I’m on book three of the effort and am sure that my BattleTech fans will love this. It is SO COOL.
True crime is calling me again though…most likely late this year. My daughter, Victoria Hester, and I have just inked a deal with a publisher for another true crime project in Battle Creek, Michigan. This one will deal with a murder that took place in 1895 and the string of crimes that led up to it. I’m kind of excited about this – the preliminary research so far is very promising and quite entertaining. I like that fact that it takes place in a period before Battle Creek was Cereal City. It is one of those eras that most people just don’t know much about.
I never really stop doing research of some kind. I’m a research junkie. Part of it is being an armchair historian, part is loving the thrill of finding new information or a new perspective on something. So even when I’m not writing, I’m reading, digging, writing archives, getting files, thinking and re-thinking information. Part of writing true crime is taking thousands of bits of information and organizing it in a way that makes some sense for a reader.
This new book project is one where we know who committed the crime, unlike my penchant for unsolved crimes. Sometimes you need a break from unsolved crimes. They take a mental toll on you that lasts far beyond the writing of the book. Every unsolved case I’ve written about weighs heavy on me. I become plagued with the same burning desire as the investigators – to find a resolution.
As a sidebar; Why write another book in Calhoun County MI? Do I have some morbid desire to cultivate old murders where I was raised? The truth is probably pretty simple: I like writing about my hometown. Battle Creek is a microcosm for every small city in America. Like every city, there are crimes that help define the collective memories of the citizens. Beyond that, I’m sure there’s some deep-seated psychological explanation for it. Hell, someone may get their doctoral work done analyzing why I live in Virginia but write about my home town. Until I do write about other crimes outside of Michigan, I ask that you just play along please and hold off on the psycho-babble.
On other possible fronts, I am scratching the surface on another Battle Creek murder, this one unsolved. It is the murder of Diana Black. From time-to-time I scan the newspaper accounts of her death and I have to admit it intrigues me. I’m a long way off from pursuing it as a book, but it is on the list for consideration. Strangely enough some folks have reached out to me asking me to look at this case, which always makes it more fascinating to me.
One closer to my current home is the murder of Tammy L. Thorpe in Fauquier County Virginia in October of 1988. This case speaks to me. I can’t explain it much beyond that. There is something about the nature of her death and the period it took place that draws me to this case. I strongly feel that whoever committed this murder knew the victim – it was deeply personal, and that’s interesting. Again, I’m a long ways off from tackling this, but it’s on “the list.”
With both of these cases I have to factor in two things; the cooperation of the authorities and the victim’s families. The first part is a requirement, and with cold cases that are still open, there is always a chance (pretty good really) that the authorities won’t release the case files via a FOIA. If that doesn’t happen, writing a book can nearly be impossible.
Support of the family is not a requirement but it sure can help. You might think that families would be behind such efforts willingly. As a true crime writer, I can tell you, that’s not always the case. Sometimes there’s a hint of opening old wounds. Other times there’s a feeling that, “you are going to make money off of a painful incident we still suffer from.” I understand that apprehension and I prefer to undertake a project if the family is willing to cooperate. That doesn’t mean I won’t do it regardless, but it is my preference.
The final consideration is if my daughter is willing to do the book with me. I like having a partner in crime (pun intended). We are the only father-daughter duo doing true crime and she’s a lot of fun to work with.