Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My Strange Addiction. Or Is It?

That's the cover of the book I've been reading—just came out a few weeks ago.

As the image flashed onto my Kindle screen this morning, I felt a tinge of relief that nary a nosy bus passenger would catch a glimpse of my guilty subject matter. I mumbled a silent affirmation, grateful for the technological anonymity that has ushered public scrutiny of hard copies toward the same splintered bench on which VHS tapes, compact discs and Mitt Romney huddle in the cold.

I'm not exactly proud of this reality, but I'll share it anyway; I love books about murderers. Okay, maybe "love" is a bit muscular for describing the attraction, but I must admit that I'm drawn to this stuff like a stoned teenager to a Dr. Pepper and a bag of Red Ropes. How else can I put this? 

It's not cool, but I'm a fool for Ann Rule.

Obviously, I'm not alone. Otherwise, Barnes & Noble wouldn't offer a complete section of shelves stocked with red- and black-splashed paperbacks with crooked headlines in 22-point Impact Extra Bold. But still.

I suppose my mom is to blame (Sorry, Mom). She was the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate person I've ever known; hell, she taught freaking first grade for something like eighty-seven years. But she had a streak in her.

My earliest recollection of her fascination with the macabre dates to 1974, when young brunette women began disappearing from college campuses and state parks in western Washington. In the pre-politically correct Puget Sound era of the 1970s, news of missing white girls grabbed and held the local Seattle headlines. Clues slowly emerged from a handful of witnesses—he drove a tan Volkswagen, he introduced himself as Ted. I remember my mom's face as she carefully studied the perpetrator's composite police sketch.

When Theodore Bundy was finally detained as a suspect in August of 1975 and his image flashed across our color Motorola, I hadn't heard that type of conviction in my mom's voice since the time she vowed to never again buy Froot Loops or anything else that disappeared during one episode of Kaptain Kangaroo. "That's him," she said, pointing at the screen. "He's the one. He did it." She was right.

The table next to her favorite recliner was always overflowing with paperback true crime, from Helter Skelter to In Cold Blood to The Stranger Beside Me. Due to my Raisinet-sized attention span, I'd merely peruse the photo sections in the books' middles, my twelve-year-old sensibilities reeling at the atrocities portrayed, wondering what could cause one human being to deliver such savagery upon another. As I matured into a seasoned enthusiast, I read them cover to bloody cover.

I eventually flew the nest, but my fascination never waned. And when Gary Ridgway, the notorious "Green River Killer," was ultimately nabbed in 2001, I found myself lamenting that my mom passed away before she could get a little closure on that historic freak. This guy grabbed the bone-flecked baton from Bundy and tested my mom's theories for decades.

And now, here I am, reading about Charles Manson. Again. There's something about that whole story, the manner in which a complete loser, a lifetime illiterate, racist, petty criminal, can persuade people to kill, that will always whet my felonious taste buds.

Hang on a second. If that's the case, why don't I care about George W. Bush?

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