How often are you, crime writing friends, asked why you write about such a dark subject? Moreover, as a reader, do you wonder why you like to read about crime?
Is the reason I am fascinated with crime and horror a reflection of my fears and concerns? Or is it a reflection of something dark living inside of me?
When I was a kid and my mom and I would visit the library, I would sit in the adult section, while she combed the stacks, and pour over THE MAMMOTH BOOK of MURDER. Eyes big and the hair standing up on the back of my neck.
The first short stories I wrote, years ago, and submitted for publishing were vicious and horrific. So disturbing, I was often turned down for inappropriate content. As I matured, I realized that a tale must be more than just intense snapshots of savagery and brutality took a back seat to story.
After becoming a mother and stepping up as caretaker in my family, the idea of the victim became one I couldn’t let go. I was plagued by thoughts of the helpless falling victim to horrible fates. It seems apparent why my thoughts would hover over these ideas. I was overwhelmed by the vulnerability of those I love and mowed down by such intense and enormous emotions.
Experiencing all these emotions and even knowing the reasons, I still find myself obsessed with the dark. Why?
There's this book...
by Rachel Monroe
Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession
Journalist Rachel Monroe, recent finalist for a Livingston Award for Young Journalists, named as one of 56 women journalists everyone should read by New York Magazine, and admitted fan of true crime fiction, brings us SAVAGE APPETITES.
This is Monroe’s first book and is part personal account and part social research. It explores the darkest part of the human mind and attempts to understand the fixation our society has with violence and brutality.
In SAVAGE APPETITES we meet four women, each a perfect example, each obsessed with true crime. First, Frances Glessner Lee, who created the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, composite crime scene models recreated on a one-inch-to-one-foot scale. These were dioramas used as police training tools to help crime scene investigators learn detailed forensics-based detection. Her fascination with murder gave the crime fighting community a new tool for justice.
There is Alisa Statman, a writer and director who inserted herself into the myth of the Manson murders, living in the very house where Sharon Tate and others were killed and eventually writing a book. All of this without proper authorization or research.
Lori Davis, a landscape architect, who fell in love with—and set out to prove the innocence of—one of the West Memphis Three. Her story being one of perseverance.
Finally, there is Lindsay Souvannarath, a young woman obsessed with the Columbine killers. Enthralled and inspired by the massacre, Lindsay began to make and move on her own plans of mass murder.
Rachel Monroe delves into possible reasons why women are drawn to tales of brutality. Do we read violence to prepare for violence? Women are constantly reminded, by deeds or by stories, of their fragility in this world. Is it possible that we read James Patterson, Thomas Harris or TRUE CRIME magazine so we are prepared for what we think will eventually happen to us?
Or, do we read violence because we like it, because we see a reflection of our own desires in the acts we are reading? Is it a release or a danger sign?
In searching for an answer Monroe presents each woman’s narrative alongside her own, making this a personal read and pulling together all of the stories so that they relate. SAVAGE APPETITES is a well-written, well-researched book that does not offer up easy answers. By the end, Monroe seems to infer that there are too many reasons to count. Every individual has their own, complicated reasoning.