Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Retreat Guest Blogger Rick Reed

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Rick Reed was in law enforcement for 30 years before retiring and becoming the author of the Detective Jack Murphy serial killer fiction series. Reed draws on personal experience as he brings serial killer-fiction to life in the small town of Evansville, Indiana.

His acclaimed true crime book, BLOOD TRAIL, is the account of Reed's capture of serial killer Joseph Weldon Brown in 2000 after Brown claimed his 14th victim.

The Detective Jack Murphy series begins with, The Cruelest Cut, and continues with, The Coldest Fear, available now in all bookstores and as e-books.

He now lives in the San Francisco area with his wife.


When I saw the Online Reader Retreat advertised I thought it was a great way to connect with readers.  I have to admit I was slightly intimidated by the represented genres because I write true crime and fiction---about serial killers.

I suppose my works could be interpreted as romance because all serial killers have a love/hate relationship with their victims and sometimes with the police investigators.  Also, serial killers have fantasies about their intended victims and some are only capable of a relationship with someone they have total control over.  These killers are both men and women, young and old, of every race and religion, and are out there, among us, and not hiding.

After retiring from almost thirty years in law enforcement, and having the distinction of being one of a handful of detectives to ever catch a serial killer, I became an associate professor of criminal justice at a community college.  One of the classes I taught was titled “Serial Killers—A Global Perspective.”

I was surprised to find that several students from other colleges had signed up for my class.  There is a strong interest among segments of the public that I would have never guessed possible.  Housewives and factory workers seemed to outnumber the young traditional students.  No one missed class or came late.

As a writer, I have read a lot of the research findings of law enforcement profilers and academics, and I have my own beliefs and opinions on the subject of serial killers.  But, from listening to my readers likes and dislikes in my books, I have some questions of my own.

So this is my chance to ask you, the readers, why you think murder—particularly serial murder—is such an interesting topic and what expectations do you have of law enforcements investigation and resolving of these types of killings?   Also what expectations do you have of the writer?

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Let's chat:  I’ve developed a few questions, but please, don’t restrict your comments to this list.  One thing I found as a detective was that the best information came from the questions not asked.

1. Do you relate to the victims of serial killers?  Do you tend to think, “That could have been me?”

2. Do you think that victims do something or have a lifestyle that brings them to the attention of their slayer?

3. Companion Question to #2:  If you answered the above affirmative, do you think there is something the victim could have done to avoid being targeted?

4. Do you think that all victims are targeted by their killer, or are they victims of convenience?

5. Do you read fiction or non-fiction?

6. Do you think serial killing only occurs within the United States?  (Acts of war or terrorism or religious jihad’s excluded.)

7. Why do you think a person becomes a serial murderer?  Do you think it is a mental or physical phenomenon?  For instance, do you think someone is destined to become a serial killer because of his or her genetic makeup or because of a brain injury or illness?

8. What expectations do you have of the writer of fictional serial killings?


53 comments:

Rick Reed said...

Hello and welcome to my blog. My post is designed to ask you questions, but if you have other questions or concerns, please feel free to post here. If you are familiar with my books please indicate so in your post. Let's get started...

brandi said...

I think a lot of people are curious as to what would make a person do something like that.

I, myself, tend to stay away from those types of books but could see the draw of trying to figure out a person's pyche.

I probably related to the victims just as a person who thinks what a loss of life.

I honestly think that most victims of serial killers are targeted for aspects that the killer wants to punish. (blond hair, fat, smart)

I don't think if targeted that a victim can do anything or change anything to avoid it. The killer already has it in his/her head.


I tend to be a fiction reader. I want something that will take me outside of myself. That being said I do tend to read some autobiographs on interesting people. My favorite being a book about Kathryn Hepburn.

I think serial killers are all over the world. We just don't always know about them due to the non-cover of local events in foreign lands.

As to why a person becomes a serial killer, I haven't the foggiest.

A good back story for a serial killer I believe is a must! If this person has become so twisted as to want to kill multiple people you have to be able to see why. and if it is because they are just that way so be it as long as we can understand that part.

Rick Reed said...

When I was in the Army in 1971 I was on Okinawa and part of a Psychological Warfare Unit whose job it was to translate media from North Korea, China, and North Vietnam, and this information was then sent to the U.S. after being 'keypunched' onto cards. That was state of the art!

Now, I'm sitting in a Peet's Coffee Shop in Livermore, California, and connected via the Internet to people all over the world. How many of you even remember the old 'keypunch' machines that made computer code onto paper cards that could be fed into another machine?

Rick Reed said...

Brandi,

Thanks for your comments. You're right, people are curious about what caused a killer to commit his act or acts. For instance, the guy in Colorado that went into the theater and killed so many. He would be considered a mass murderer and not a serial killer, but I still haven't heard 'what' made him decide to kill.

My wife is with you on her reading tastes, and I thank my stars that she doesn't try to psychoanalyze my writing. haha

The reality of most serial killers (television and books aside) is that they don't usually target a person and stalk them. They don't usually have a preference for blonds or other personal characteristics. Of course, if you wrote the truth, it wouldn't make for very interesting reading.

The serial killer I caught was merely picking targets of convenience. All women, all, in his mind would not be missed.

brandi said...

too young to remember it myself but have seen them before.

Rick Reed said...

I have given you an idea of my age, but I have to keep my audience age in mind when I'm writing or giving a talk. I taught for several years, and would have to change the material I used to fit the age group represented by the class. Of course, in writing that's hard to do.

debraaparmley said...

1. I have an incident in my past (when I turned 18) and I'm lucky I didn't wind up in a ditch. I must have had guardian angels by my side because I was about as naive and unaware of my surroundings as a girl could be.

2. I believe most victims are naive and unaware and the more they are that way, the more they become a target.

3. So the answer to 3 would be, become more aware of your surroundings.

4. If the books and movies I've encountered are correct, serial killers are smart and plan things out. Though I suspect they'd jump on an opportunity which presented itself.

5. I read widely, both fiction and non-fiction.

6. I doubt serial killing only occurs in the United States. And if it did, I'd sure like to know why and if there's a way to stop that. But really, if there was a serial killer in Russia, or China, I doubt we would be hearing about it.

7. I have no idea why a person becomes a serial murderer. Though I believe they're addicted to killing and probably enjoyed killing creatures as a child.

8. I expect the writer of fictional serial killings to be responsible in showing what ways victims become victims, like the cautionary part of a Grimm Fairy Tale. Stories can teach us to be careful and to stay safe. Beyond that, like all stories, just write a good story.

Mybradybunch6 said...

I have read several True Crime stories. What has me curious is what makes a person snap like that.They have families yet lead another life when they take a life.

debraaparmley said...

1. I have an incident in my past (when I turned 18) and I'm lucky I didn't wind up in a ditch. I must have had guardian angels by my side because I was about as naive and unaware of my surroundings as a girl could be.

2. I believe most victims are naive and unaware and the more they are that way, the more they become a target.

3. So the answer to 3 would be, become more aware of your surroundings.

4. If the books and movies I've encountered are correct, serial killers are smart and plan things out. Though I suspect they'd jump on an opportunity which presented itself.

5. I read widely, both fiction and non-fiction.

6. I doubt serial killing only occurs in the United States. And if it did, I'd sure like to know why and if there's a way to stop that. But really, if there was a serial killer in Russia, or China, I doubt we would be hearing about it.

7. I have no idea why a person becomes a serial murderer. Though I believe they're addicted to killing and probably enjoyed killing creatures as a child.

8. I expect the writer of fictional serial killings to be responsible in showing what ways victims become victims, like the cautionary part of a Grimm Fairy Tale. Stories can teach us to be careful and to stay safe. Beyond that, like all stories, just write a good story.

Lorna said...

To answer one question, serial killers are not just limited to the US. We have them in Canada as well.

I don't think the victim is always a predetermined target. It seems like some victims just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As for the mental vs physical, it's hard to say. Some convicted serial killers appear to be mentally I'll, while others appear to be perfectly normal. Either way, there is something seriously wrong with a person that does that.

What was your greatest challenge when you wrote your first book?

Carin said...

I think reading about serial killers is fascinating, I love to try to understand the mental process that allows people to go so wrong. Thanks for appearing here

Rick Reed said...

Mybradybunch6,

In some of the cases I've been involved with, it's the first murder that is the hardest. After that, the killer doesn't snap, but decides that he will commit further murders. The serial killer I caught, Joseph Brown, had a dysfunctional family life, abusive father, non-supportive mother, and he turned to a life of gambling and theft. This landed him in prison for a kidnapping robbery charge. He spent his developing years in prison and when he emerged he was a serious criminal. He hated his family for not visiting him in prison or contacting him. He got out with the idea of getting even one day. He was on his way to kill his brother and the brothers family when I caught him. He had just killed his last victim before that.

Mybradybunch6 said...

I made a comment aboutbeing introduced to new Authors. I will have to check out your books. Even the title seems to turn you head and say read me.

Rick Reed said...

debraaparmley,

You are right on the button with your answers. Have you taken my serial killer class? Just kidding.

There is a line of research that claims victims create their own victimization. While I don't subscribe to that theory, I do believe that if people are more aware of where they go, who they're with, what they are doing, that it would make life difficult for the killer.

It's unreasonable and not helpful to blame the victim. However, if the news media gets the reports right it sends a message to other possible victims to change their risky behavior.

There are serial killers in almost every country, but they study and categorize it differently that the U.S. One killer in Russia got away with it for 8 years and killed over 50 children because he was protected as a 'good party member.'

Blogless Pat said...

Let me say up front reading about serial killers creeps me out. Okay that being said I'm skipping to question 5. I'm mostly a fiction reader; but that doesn't mean there's not serial killers in what I read. I recently read a book that was about a defense lawyer who is defending a serial killer. A young woman goes to see the lawyer to see if he can help her find her find her sister who she believes is a victim of the killer but her body has never been found and the young woman is looking for closure. I think that for victim's families this is important because without closure there's no goodbye. Reading about murder always makes me think how in the world do you come up with some new way to do away with somebody.

Rick Reed said...

Mybradybunch6

Thank you for your kind comment about my books. I can't take the credit for the titles or the covers, as that was done by the fantastic and talented people at Kensington Books in Manhattan. I write them, they name them. But I hope you'll read my books and then write me and let me know what you think. I love reviews, good or bad.

Mybradybunch6 said...

When writing this type of book is it hard to not get angry and yell. I would think it is emotionally draining by the end of the book.

Rick Reed said...

Lorna,

I don't believe that any killer is mentally ill. Otherwise, every child molester would be considered so. I think they are just different in the way that they won't stop themselves from acting on a desire.

The first book I wrote was BLOOD TRAIL, a true crime book. The hardest thing was interviewing the family and friends of both the victim and the suspect. A lot of innocent peoples lives were changed for the worse by the acts of the killer and I didn't want to add to that anguish.

Writing fiction (THE CRUELEST CUT, THE COLDEST FEAR) was much easier in that way, but hard to get it out of my head when I wasn't writing. I've been involved in so many violent crimes and death investigations that I still remember great details about the past.

Rick Reed said...

Carin,

Thank you for visiting the blog! I hope you'll check out my books.

Carin said...

1. I think that serial killers are so individual that, yeah I think gosh that could be me

2. I think that may be the case sometimes but a serial killer usually has a victim he is fixated on so it could be that its because they are a hooker or it could just be because they have long brown hair.

3. until a profile of the killer's victims is made widely available then they only thing you can do is the standard protect yourself measures.

4. I think some are targeted but if someone meets the killers "needs" then he (and I say he just cause most are male) will take the target of opportunity

5. both

6. I think that we hear about it more in the western world just because of the avalability of the new media. I think serial killers are in every country at some time.

7. That is the standard nature or nurture question and I have to think it is some of both.

8. I like them to know what they are talking about, in this day and age there is no reason for an author to not get the facts about police procedure correct

Rick Reed said...

Blogless Pat,

I answered part of this in the response to Lorna. I want you to read BLOOD TRAIL because that case was all about the families of the victims and the killer. Even the killer was brought around to the idea that we had to recover the last victims body so that her daughters could visit her grave and know she was really gone. I used a new type of interviewing skill that I developed to interview the killer and it worked. He led me to all the dismembered body parts and then asked "Do you think they'll show her at the funeral?" He wasn't being facetious.

Rick Reed said...

Mybradybunch6,

I was desensitized early in my career and so I learned that it was counterproductive to show anger or yell at the suspect.

When you put yourself into your book it is always a roller coaster ride. I feel what the characters feel and that helps drive the story. Yes, it's draining at times, but all my books have a happy ending (for the protagonist at least) and so I leave the story feeling like justice has been served.

Raonaid Luckwell said...

1. - Anyone could be a victim so yeah I could see me saying "that could have been me"

2. - With serial killers anything is possible. Sometimes a hairstyle, color of the hair, little things that we would see commonplace would mean something different. Okay maybe I watched FAR too many criminal Minds. Favorite show of mine

3. Really not. Only because until they are labeled a serial killer and what each victim has in common comes to light there is really no way to prepare.

4.Both

5. Fiction

6. No - we just hear about it more here. Every civilization had or has one. For example Jack the Ripper. Wasn't he in England? We just really don't hear too much from other countries.

7. Really hard to say what causes a person to be what they are. Some are saying chemically imbalances. I can guess there are scentific studies. Sometimes a person is just disturbed, having a scewed way of seeing things.

8. Guess in a way I would want it to be as real as humanly possible, believable, and that the author really knows what he or she is talking about, procedures that go into such investigations.

Rick Reed said...

Carin,

You are dead on for most of your answers. I've not seen very many 'real' serial killers that have pre-selected a target. It makes for suspenseful reading, but in reality, most are merely targets of opportunity. True, the killer may go on the search, but he/she doesn't select the victims based on personal characteristics (I don't think.) The serial killers in Russia are more interested in a source of income from their murders if you can believe the research. The serial killers here in the US are not completely about the kill or about the sexual pleasure. We've had some that killed for monetary gain (HH Holmes for example in Chicago).

Rick Reed said...

Raonaid Luckwell,

I liked your post by the way. Criminal Minds is a television show that is very entertaining but criminal profiling is not far from fortune telling to me. I know I'll catch some heat over that remark, but seriously, if you and I read the same fortune in a cookie, we will both take it to mean something different. You are right about anything being possible with serial killers.

Research shows that the lower the killers IQ, the longer he remains undetected and keeps killing. That seems contradictory to common sense, but I think it's true to a degree. You have to keep in mind that all the research and the television and books are based on the serial killings that we know about. Personally, I think there are a hundred times more of them out there that we don't know about. People go missing all the time in this country.

Shelly said...

I think serial killers draw interest because everyone wonders what makes them tick...what sets them off, etc. Personally, I find that stuff fascinating, but I can't read it anymore because it gives me nightmares. When I think of the things I did as a young single woman I cringe now, because I would've been a prime candidate for getting murdered! Thankfully, I live in an average size town that didn't have a lot of crime. It scares me when I think of young people falling victim to a killer.

Rick Reed said...

This is a very active group and I'm so appreciative of your interest. If I don't post immediately it's because I don't type fast enough. So I'll put your name at the top of the post and hope you will see it. I'm not the most tech savvy person and I'm working on it.

Rick Reed said...

This is a very active group and I'm so appreciative of your interest. If I don't post immediately it's because I don't type fast enough. So I'll put your name at the top of the post and hope you will see it. I'm not the most tech savvy person and I'm working on it.

Shelly said...

Debraparmley - One of the more scarey serial killer (from Russia) was depicted in the movie M -- gave me the heebies for weeks after watching it!!

Rick Reed said...

Shelly,

The size of the town doesn't make a difference. Richard Ramirez (The Railroad Killer) rode trains to different towns where he plied his trade. Not trying to scare you, but I don't want you to assume anything.

Thanks for coming on my blog! If you go to my personal blog you will find some interesting topics that won't give you nightmares. (By the way, I have nightmares too.)

brandi said...

Do you find it hard to come up with a concept for your story?

Rick Reed said...

Shelly,

Look up Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo. He is the Russian Serial Killer I referred to.

Shelly said...

Rick - thankfully, I'm older and wiser now and don't do risky stuff like I did in the 80's. I will check out your blog!

Shelly said...

Oops! I lied - M is about a serial killer in Berlin played by Peter Lorre - creepy. I have seen a documentary about Chikatilo - also very creepy.

Rick Reed said...

Brandi,

Your question was--Did I find it hard to come up with a concept for my story? Actually I have been writing fiction (for fun and not to publish) since about 1990. I have several more books in the works and am continuing a series of Detective Jack Murphy works, beginning with THE CRUELEST CUT and then, THE COLDEST FEAR. Those were ideas I had made notes on back in the day.

As my understanding of the publishing business and the readers needs grows, so does my writing evolve. My books are being picked up by Germany, Poland, and some others and so I have to keep in mind how they will translate.

As far as coming up with ideas...I've lived a long life with the dark side as my companion. I've investigated dozens of murders and hundreds of deaths. I think the next idea will be the best. haha

Rick Reed said...

Shelly,

I'm glad you are wiser. Policemen have three states of being...red, yellow, and green. Red is high danger imminent. Yellow is possible danger. Green is nowhere they want to be.

Beth Reimer said...

Rick
I do think that could have been me. I guess I try to make logical sense out why a serial killer does what they do but you just can't there ins't logic to it. So its a morbid fascination like having to look at a car accident. I don't normally read them, my mother on the other hand reads them before bed. - Beth

Rick Reed said...

One question that hasn't been asked is: "How do the family of victims and killers react to a book being written about the victim?"

I have only written one true crime book, BLOOD TRAIL, and I met with the victims family, and most of the suspects family, to get their permission and opinions. The victims family viewed it as a method of closure. The suspects family were not too happy and in fact, failed to speak to me during the writing of the book.

I tried to use compassion in areas where the victims family had concerns, and at the conclusion of writing, I discussed the book with them. They read the book and were totally supportive with going ahead with publishing.

For fiction, you just have to be careful not to write about anyone that is real, (without their permission) or to allude to someone that is real.

Rick Reed said...

Beth Reimer,

Your mother sounds like a woman after my own heart. haha

I think that some serial killer works (fictional) go way beyond what is comfortable with the public, but that is the writers choice.

My books are not too graphic, but they are about a serial killer so there is a certain expectation on the readers part. However, I want the book to be about the story and not about the gore. I write to tell a story.

brandi said...

Thanks for coming to chat with us, Rick!

Rick Reed said...

Brandi,

Thanks for visiting the blog. Just so you know, I have a blog at jackmurphy1010.blogspot.com.

Visit me anytime.

Linda Henderson said...

1. I think everyone at some time thinks that could have been me.

2. I don't think that they particularly have a lifestyle that brings them to attention. I think a lot of times it's probably just bad luck to be in the wrong place.

3. I don't think so.

4. I think some are targeted but a lot are victims of convenience.

5. I read mostly fiction.

6. I think serial killing occurs everywhere, we just hear more about it here.

7. I get a little tired of the defense of they had a bad childhood. A lot of people have bad childhoods and don't become a serial killer. I think a lot of them have something wrong in the head. They have no concept of right and wrong and no conscience.

8. I would say to make it believable but sometimes the real facts are unbelievable. So I guess just make it as accurate as possible.

Thank you for being here today.

Lettetia Elsasser said...

Rick, I have not read one of your books yet, but am going to buy one right away. Your books sound like the type to draw me in and keep me on the edge of my seat.

debraaparmley said...

Rick, I haven't taken your class, but I'll bet it is fascinating. :-)

I think when a person has a brush with a dangerous person intent on causing them harm, it makes them more aware of being aware, so that early incident actually has served me well.

I pay attention when persons such as yourself speak. ;-)

Do you ever offer classes for authors? The most I've added into my fiction is a creepy boss with an obsession for the heroine.



debraaparmley said...

Shelly, I'm not sure I could handle watching M.

With a book I can set it down for a few days and then come back to it if it's too intense for me.

Jan Douglas said...

Hello. Its nice to meet you. I have not read any of your books but now you are on my ToRead list. I teach special ed so my brain is mush so I'm going to answer the easy question from your list--I read fiction. I want to escape not live in the real world when I read.

Debby said...

I really enjoy detective stories. My husband retired from the state police. that may have some influence.

Rick Reed said...

Jan Douglas

Nice to meet you as well and I hope you enjoy my books. I'm a fiction reader as well.

Rick Reed said...

Hi Debby. I'm glad to hear your husband was able to retire. That's every lawman (and spouses) goal. Take care.

Alyn said...

Hello! I'm late but I'll leave my thoughts anyway.

I am interested in the topic murder because I want to try and understand why a person would kill another person. I want to see and try to understand what makes a person snap and pushes them to commit murder. I am also interested in why some choose to do it multiple times and why they choose certain methods. So in short, how their mind works.

Yes, I do try to relate to the victims and I do think that it could be me.

Yes, I think a victims lifestyle can draw the attention of a serial killer. There is nothing that the victim can do to prevent it because what one killer isn't attracted to can attract a different killer.

I think the first few targets are usually targets. It's only when a killer starts getting wreckless does it seem like it's more of a convenience.

I read mainly fiction but I do read a few non-fiction now and then. Usually first hand accounts about wars.

Serial killing occurs everywhere.

I think serial murder is more of a mental phenomenom. Serial killers seem to get a thrill out of killing people.

Rick Reed said...

Hi Alyn

Your thoughts are much appreciated and I hope they are read by others. Well done.

joder said...

I haven't read many true crime stories but enjoy seeing into the inner psyche of the villains to try to understand why they do what they do. A bit of heartpounding action also keeps me entertained.

gogi1_2 AT yahoo DOT com

June M. said...

I have always enjoyed reading about serial killers or other thriller stories, my favorite tv show is even Criminal Minds. It is sometimes scary to think about how easily these things can happen to a person. I think most serial killers do typically target certain types of people (blond, short, 20's, etc). I do read mainly fiction, but do from time to time read non-fiction, true crime type stories. I don't really know what causes people to become serial killers. I would think that many of them have some sort of mental problems, if nothing more than narcissism or anger issues. If I am reading about fictional serial killers, I do like some back history about what in their lives may have contributed to them becoming a killer. But really it would depend on the focus, who the main characters are. If the detective or ME or so on is the main character, I would not expect so much about the killer.