By John Verdon

[Editor’s Note: these are the opening paragraphs of an article currently appearing on the Publisher’s Weekly website. To read the complete article, please visit: On Serial Killers]

As the author of three novels involving serial murder, I’ve been asked to speculate on the reasons for the durable popularity of this grisly subject matter.

What indeed is it about this particular sort of crime that rivets our attention? More curiously, what makes this form of absolute horror an addictive form of literary diversion?

Perhaps there are as many answers as there are devotees of the genre. But there’s one that I find especially persuasive. It concerns that experience of diversion I just mentioned. To get to the heart of it, we need to ask one additional question, a crucial one: Diversion from what?

Consider the nature of the beast – the classic serial murderer, the sociopath with zero empathy, the pure predator who kills to feel alive. We’re not talking about someone who may be willing to employ murder as a crude means to an end – a way to eliminate some obstacle to the acquisition of, say, a large inheritance or a neighborhood heroin franchise or a lucrative construction contract.

Continued: On Serial Killers

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