WAG: You've been writing Burke
crime novels for close to twenty years now. How
do you keep it fresh?
Well, if I had to be a conventional writer,
I probably would have burned out fifteen books ago.
But because the material from my actual life is
so deep, I probably have enough for another fifty
books, if I live long enough to write them.
I know there
would be a lot of readers willing to read all of
You know what? I'd rather the well dried
up. I'd rather that the freaks stop surprising me.
I'd rather that newer and uglier ways to maltreat
human beings didn't show up. I'd rather have no
material. In fact, if I had a wish, it would be
that the books were all the work of the imagination.
Your role as
a novelist is certainly complicated by your own
I don't see myself as a novelist
so much as a journalist. I'm using a fictionalized
form because I include a wealth of important, brand-new
scientific information in my novels. If I were writing
a nonfiction text about the traumatology of brain
development, how many people would read it?
If I've done my job right, by
the time you get to that stuff in my book, you're
sufficiently engaged to want to see how it comes
out. It's part of the mystery, and so you read it.
On the name
of Burke: there was an English criminal—
Exactly. Burke was, in Old England, a
cadavers to medical students.
And when he ran out of graves and they
offered more money for fresher bodies, he started
making his own. 'To burke' at that time in England
meant to strangle to death without leaving marks—that
you didn't know what hit you. And since these novels
are all Trojan horses, that's the name I picked.
to writing the Burke novels and working in the graphic
novels field, you are a successful attorney who
represents hundreds of children each year in New
Yeah, I have a full-time law practice.
And part-time, at least, I have a consulting, training
and public speaking business. And I write the books.
However, it's all the same work. These are just
different manifestations of it.
But you've used
the Burke novels to educate more people than you
ever could as a lecturer or a nonfiction writer.
True—because there's no audience
for that. People have to read the books and talk
to other people. Because the truth is educating
the American public is a bloody waste of time. This
nonsense about 'consciousness raising' is a shock.
It's based on the idea that a) people have a consciousess
and b) that if it's raised, they'll do something
about it. The failure to impact self-interest equals
the failure to get anything done.
Do you think
that the people who would come into a consciousness-raising
are already intending to raise their consciousness
Truthfully, I don't understand the purpose
of it. How much consciousness-raising do we really
need? You don't think people stalk other
people? You don't think people rape their
own babies? You don't think...what? I mean,
what does your consciousness really have to raised
I'm always surprised
by the people who just ignore it, thinking that
it will never happen to them.
I prefer the term 'collaborator.'
is a good term. It reminds me of the people in wartime
who collaborate simply by looking the other way.
They don't join the resistance. There
is absolutely no way to opt out of this.
The family by
choice: that is an undercurrent in all your books.
Burke was raised by the state and has nothing but
contempt for his own biological parentage.
All it says on his birth certificate
is 'Baby boy Burke.' And he knows his mother was
an underage prostitute—or at least, that's
what he was told. He's never seen either of them.
And never cares
to. But he has created his own extended family.
Not 'extended.' This is his intimate
family. These are not aunts and uncles. These are
his brothers and sisters. Close as they can be.
And the Nazis
in the Burke novels are also forming their own families.
Do you see this actually happening today, as we
break away from the Leave It to Beaver
nuclear family? Are we going out and forming our
own substitute family?
I don't think we ever had these
damn families that everybody thinks existed. I think
journalists ought to take responsibility for that.
The truth is, if you picked up a newspaper—any
newspaper—from the 1950s and read it from
cover to cover and you were an alien from another
planet, you would think child abuse did not exist
in the United States of America.
It was certainly
Right—and that's my point. 'That
which was never reported' doesn't mean 'that which
never existed.' So I don't know that we've had this
cosmic change, and I'm tired of this "destruction
of the family" being blamed for every social
evil. What's being destroyed, as near as I can
determine, is our biological imperative because
we are the only crew left on the planet that tolerates
unprotected parenting and same-species predators.
What can we
do to change?
Very simple: focus. People who care about
decent things tend to have smorgasbord mentalities.
Now, you look at the NRA—what do they care
They care about
Anything else that you can think of?
Not a thing.
Right. And so they're very effective.
You scratch your typical—I don't know what
you want to call them—liberal or nice person
or caring person: they care about the whales and
they care about the trees and they care about kids
and they care about air pollution and on and on
and on. So they take all their energy and spread
it. It's like taking a pat of butter and spreading
it over a twenty-foot-long piece of bread and saying,
"I can't taste the butter."
Why is it we
as a nation have become so obsessed with serial
Because we're a nation that worships
And the serial
killer represents the ultimate power.
He takes life. Of course, if you look
objectively at it, you'll realize this country's
not obsessed with most serial killers—only
the ones that have the good tastes to kill young
women. Look at books written about serial killers.
Look at John Wayne Gacy versus Ted Bundy. Bundy
outsells John Wayne Gacy a hundred to one. Why?
Because he was more of a monster? Of course not.
He was more interesting? No. He killed young women.
And if you go into any of these foul places that
call themselves bookstores, you can find all kinds
of books about the joys of torturing women. But
you won't find many about the joys of torturing
men. And that's why the fascination with serial
killers is aimed more at a Richard Ramirez or a
Ken Bianchi than a John Wayne Gacy.
I remember True
Crime books from when I was growing up and reading
about various aspects of law enforcement. There
were people like Rob Nash, who was writing books
on whether Dillinger was actually killed by the
And I'd vote no. I kind of agree.
his evidence, I'd have to vote no as well. He was
very thorough in his research, very well detailed.
But now I go into the True Crime section of a bookstore
and all I see are things that look like they were
culled from the various Tattler magazines and pasted
together on pieces of paper with the most lurid
pictures one can find.
If you want to read classy True
Crime, you have to read Jack Olson. He's superb.
And he's a real journalist because there isn't but
one god and that's Truth. A lot of this stuff is
just porno masquerading as True Crime. In fact,
if you look at the way journalism covers stuff and
you read the account of a rape victim, she'll be
an 'attractive' blonde—as if that's got anything
to do with the crime. They never say that a male
victim is handsome. There's a lot of prejudice in
the media. If a male molests a five-year-old boy,
the media reports it as 'homosexual' child abuse.
But if it was a five-year-old girl, the media doesn't
say 'heterosexual' child abuse. And indeed, if you
molest a little girl, you have a much better chance
of getting off in this country.
We know how
to create a monster. How do we reverse that?
I'm not sure we can reverse that. We
might be able to interdict it in the process of
formation. If we took a tiny percentage of
the money that we squander on crap—give
me the money that Kenneth Starr spent—and
I would save this country from a thousand predatory
sociopaths by early intervention. Once that
die is cast, though...do you think you could help
Ted Bundy with therapy? I don't.
What's the best
thing to do? Separate them from the herd?
Once identified, they cannot be allowed
to be among us. You can have endless arguments,
if it pleases you, about death penalties and stuff.
I personally think they're a mistake. But I do believe
in total incapacitation. They should never be with
Can further study identify them
I think that is something that we believed
at one time—that if we isolated such people
and studied them, we'd learn something. I think
they've taught us all they have to teach us. I don't
believe we have anything new to learn. And I think
that they really enjoy sitting around in groups
and recounting their crimes. It excites the holy
hell out of them. The truth is we know—we
know—that chronic, early abuse and neglect
(including emotional abuse) bends that twig. And
unless the twig is moved while it's still flexible,
it's going to grow crooked. Does that mean he's
going to be a sex murderer? No. But it will be a
person without a conscience. And while that can
make for a very successful politician or preacher,
it doesn't at all protect us if that person decides
that their pursuit of self-gratification requires
the torture of others. They'll just do it.
Is it possible
to slow the trend to violence down?
I think it is possible to reverse
it, actually. Once we start calling things what
they are, once we start defining families operationally
and not biologically. The truth is, when
you're denied the opportunity to bond as a child
and are given the opportunity later on—ask
any hooker or any member of a motorcycle gang—you
seize that opportunity perhaps more fervently than
you might have if it had been offered during the
natural course of things. There is a huge army of
very vulnerable young people, and they march to
whatever drum they hear first. It's always been
my contention that the majority of skinheads would
have been warriors for the right cause, had they
been accessed differently. I don't believe they
have any natural, biological, intellectual disposition
towards their crazy, racist stupidity. I think they
join the only club that will have them.
able to prove that a particular gene is responsible
The last person to say that was a guy
named Hitler, as near as I can remember.
was a brouhaha about that as well.