Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Robert Ellis: THE LOVE KILLINGS, Murders in Newtown

Coming August 2, 2016

The only rule that I'm aware of as a writer is that stories need to build. How a writer creates that build, whether he or she succeeds or fails, is up to them. But the more dramatic, the more thrilling, the more insane the escalation of your hero's revelations and plight -- the better the story. Without increasing tension a story spins off the rails and dies without a single witness.

So here's the story problem that had to be solved while writing THE LOVE KILLINGS. As we spoke about in an earlier post, THE LOVE KILLINGS isn't a second novel in the Detective Matt Jones series as much as it's an actual continuation of the first novel, CITY OF ECHOES. The two novels are, ideally but not necessarily, meant to be read back to back. So if a story has to build, how do you get more intense than the serial killer in CITY OF ECHOES? What crime could possibly be worse than a killer infatuated with the Glasgow smile or the Chelsea grin?

One of the most compelling aspects of writing crime fiction is that we're working in a genre. Within the genre are different wings, thrillers in my case, detective stories in another, and crime stories in the last. But even more fascinating is the fact that the genre comes with a history; a past, a present, and a future.

What makes a serial killer a serial killer?

Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in PSYCHO
In Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho we have a serial killer like Norman Bates, but we also have Norman's mother (or should we say her corpse?). In Thomas Harris's Red Dragon the concept takes a step forward. We have Francis Dolarhyde, but we also have the horrific memories he can't shake of his sexually abusive grandmother. Oh, and let's not forget her teeth in a glass of water that Francis keeps in the bathroom!
Ralph Fiennes as Francis Dolarhyde in RED DRAGON

Norman Bates is a psychotic killing machine. Francis Dolarhyde is equally psychotic, but knows the difference between right and wrong, and can't help himself. So if we took Red Dragon a step forward, what would it look like?

There have been so many mass killings in the news over the past few years. So many real life fiends spilling so much blood in an elementary school like Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut, a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and now, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. While the mass killings in Newtown and Charleston are not directly related to my new novel, they are part of the world of the story. Both the crimes and the young men who committed them are referred to in detail. And their impact on Matt Jones is haunting as he investigates a series of horrific murders in Philadelphia and wrestles with a key question that surfaced more than once in CITY OF ECHOES, and will be brought home in THE LOVE KILLINGS.

How could anyone, no matter what their psychological issues in life, be brought to a place so dark that killing anyone or anything made sense?

I can see my readers shaking their heads because they know I'll try to come up with an answer, and while it will be thrilling,  it might be a bit scary, too. Here's a hint: Think RED DRAGON meets TRUE ROMANCE.

Sleep loose,

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