All Hail The True Crime King
- Gary C. King!
Gary C. King is one of the world's foremost true crime writers and serial killers expert, a reputation he has earned over the last 33 years with the publication of more than 500 articles in true crime magazines in the United States, Canada, and England. King's many television appearances include Entertainment Tonight, Larry King Live, E!, BBC, Court TV, Inside Edition. I could go on but let's talk to man himself. 
Madame Perry: Welcome to Madame Perry’s Salon, Gary, it’s an honor to have you here. Please make yourself comfortable. My first introduction to true crime books was the reigning queen of the genre – Ann Rule. Let me share a quote from your website. 
King took over Ann Rule’s job as Pacific Northwest stringer for True Detective, Official Detective, Inside Detective, Front Page Detective, and Master Detective magazines, writing hundreds of nonfiction articles under various names until those magazines ceased publication in the mid-1990s.” 
Did you personally know or work with Rule? 

Gary C King 

Gary C. King: I do know Ann. I’ve met her several times at conferences. However, I’ve never worked with her, and have never wanted to work with her. Also, I cannot and do not endorse her work because I do not care for it. It’s for those reasons, among others, that I have never asked her for a blurb and would turn down one from her if ever offered. After her days at True Detective ended, she tended to go off in a direction that I find difficult to support. Now that I’ve gotten older, however, there are several things I do not concern myself about: death and dying, book sales, and Ann Rule! Some true crime authors seem to want to emulate other true crime writers which is a mistake, in my opinion, and many have certainly had their introduction to the genre via Ann’s books. A true crime writer needs to find his or her own voice, and his or her own style. I try to avoid most true crime writers as most have only self-serving interests and will do just about anything to further their own careers, including breaking trusts with other writers. A well-known true crime writer who also writes in the Young Adult and fiction genres recently broke trust with me on Facebook, shortly after DEAD OF NIGHT was released.  As a result I’ve had to reassess the importance, or perhaps lack thereof, of being friends with those in the business! 
MP: I’ve read several of your books, Gary, and I’d like to ask you about some of them. How do you choose to write about a particular crime or killer?  
GCK: Yes, I know, Jennifer, lol, which I do sincerely appreciate. It’s always great to connect with readers who like and appreciate one’s work. As for picking a particular crime or criminal, I always try to choose crimes and/or criminals to write about simply by picking those that interest me personally. If a case or a killer does not interest me on some personal level, I simply do not write about. That’s not to say that I’ve never written about a crime or criminal that hasn’t interested me—I have, thanks to editors and their poor choices. When an editor has picked cases for me, that interest at a personal level is missing and it often shows in the finished product and reader acceptance. Editors think they know everything, but I can say with all honesty and sincerity that they do not. Sometimes, more often than not, the author knows best. I tend to prefer writing about serial killers because, frankly, they are more interesting than a typical murder, though there are always exceptions.
MP: Approximately how much time is spent from deciding to write about a specific story, researching it, and the finish line? 
GCK: Usually I spend anywhere from six months to a year researching and writing about a case. That was the typical time spent when writing under contract for a traditional publisher. Now that I’ve gone indie there’s no need to rush because there are no deadlines to meet. I expect that I will be taking longer to finish projects in the future because there is no longer any need to rush.

MP: Are some stories more difficult than others? I’m thinking of Angels Of Death, about 13-year-old Derek King and his 12-year-old brother Alex King who were arrested after their father, Terry King, was bludgeoned to death as he slept. The boys certainly had a less than ideal childhood being abandoned by a drug addict mother and moved around to various foster homes. Yet I got the sense that Terry was trying to keep his boys with him and out of trouble. How does it feel to examine a case of coldblooded killers who are still just children?
GCK: Cases involving children, whether they are the murder victims or the killers, are always the most difficult to research and write about due to the emotional aspects involved. Terry King was not an ideal parent, but based on the information I found he was trying to raise his boys as best he could as a low-income single parent. I believe he protected his boys, but they saw things differently, possibly due to outside influences such as Chavez and drug experimentation at such an early age. They saw Terry King as being unreasonably strict, but that was clearly not the case. Those boys came and went as they pleased. In spite of Terry King’s shortcomings, many of which were through no fault of his own, he did not deserve to be brutally beaten to death by his sons and set afire afterward in an effort to cover up the crime. Those two boys seemed incorrigible to me, and had turned into monsters by the time they killed their father. You can read more about this case and the boys after their release from prison on my blog.
MP: A different situation involving children, and one that the country followed on the news as people kept a lookout for them, was recounted in Stolen In The Night. The relatives and friends of young Shasta Groene and her brother Dylan were thrust into an unthinkable nightmare when their family was murdered and the two children were missing. Shasta was rescued when she was recognized in public and sexual psychopath Joseph Edward Duncan III was arrested, charged and sentenced to death. During your research did you find many situations in Duncan’s history that should have alerted people to the kind of monster he was? Were there things people should have noticed that, had the proper authorities been notified, could have saved this family from such tragedy and heartbreak?
GCK: Like many pedophiles, Duncan managed to slip through the cracks of a system that was designed to keep monsters like him out of circulation. His earlier crimes, such as those in Tacoma, Washington, should have been ample warning that he was a danger to children. Sometimes, even with the best efforts of law enforcement, the system fails. It failed with Westley Allan Dodd, subject of my book DRIVEN TO KILL and who I interviewed at length before his execution, and it failed with Duncan. As with Dodd, there were several instances in which Duncan should have been kept behind bars but was not. I still have problems with why more information could not have been developed years earlier when the Martinez child was killed in Riverside County, California. They had a description of the man, as well as a description of the car he was driving. Perhaps the descriptions were inadequate to bring about identification and arrest, but one can’t help but wonder if the ball may have been dropped somewhere along the way. At least we can now be reasonably assured that Duncan will never hurt another child. No family should ever have to endure the tragic consequences that the Groene family, and other families like them, have gone through.

MP: MURDER IN HOLLYWOOD is about the killing of BonnyLee Bakley, wife of actor Robert Blake with whom she had a child. There are people who have followed Blake since he was a young actor and have all manner of speculations about him and his life. I was surprised at the complicated back story on Bakley. Gary, was her background, failed ambition and career as a con and extortionist fairly well known among Hollywood insiders?
GCK: MURDER IN HOLLYWOOD is a book that my editor at St. Martin’s Press chose for me to write about, and it was one chosen by an editor that I actually enjoyed doing despite the fact that the publisher only gave me 30 days to write the book. The publisher helped with the research, and I worked day and night to complete the manuscript. The book was published before Blake’s trial, in which he was acquitted. Though Blake himself was an interesting subject, even without a murder investigation, it was Bakley’s activities or antics that really carried the story. Due to the time limitations involved in writing the book, it was clear to me that a number of people in Hollywood knew about her but boiled the question down to just how much people may have known about her. Bakley’s scam victims knew what she was to be sure, but how much of what she was doing that may have filtered out to the so-called insiders may never be known.
MP: A very sad story of another type was that of Yale graduate Kathryn Ann Martini, a young beautiful woman with a bright career ahead in banking. Smart, focused and
hardworking, it seems her mistake was falling in love with and marrying Michael David Lissy. Murder In Room 305 details the foul plan of this sleazy, coke-addicted miscreant who planned the violent death of his bride of only a year in order to collect the hefty life insurance policy he’d taken out on her. Did you talk to many of Kathryn Ann Martini’s family and friends? So many people are affected deeply for life after a tragedy like this, aren’t they?
GCK: I talked to some of Kathryn’s family and friends, but most of the information came out of public files. Her family was deeply affected by her murder, especially her parents. One of her sisters contacted me after the book’s publication, and related some of their feelings to me. In respect of their privacy and since the information was not contained in the book, I feel I should keep those revelations private. David Wilson, the killer, was paroled in the late 1990s. Lissy, I’ve heard, was paroled in April of this year. Both of those paroles must have added to the hurt and pain experienced by Kathryn’s family.

MP:  You already know that every time I start one of your books I want to read the whole story at once! That’s when I send you tweets saying once again you kept me up all night, and your reply is usually along the lines of “It’s my job!”  

Thank you for the excellent research and writing in your books as well as the sensitivity to the loved ones on all sides of the stories who carry the grief and pain for a lifetime. When I first interviewed true crime authors, there were people who accused me of glorifying or sensationalizing crime. So I always add the reasons I read and share the books.  

Yes, I’m fascinated by the unpredictability of human behavior, to put it very simply. However, I don’t believe I’ve ever read an account of true crime where there weren’t several hints, red flags and outright warnings of someone’s potential for violence maybe for years before a crime occurs. And for whatever reason no information was shared or action taken which could have prevented it.  
So I repeat the simple words that if you see something, say something. And if you see or know something but don’t want to get involved – too late, you’re already involved and have a responsibility. 
I wish you much continued success in your career, Gary, and hope you’ll return soon.
GCK: Thanks, Jennifer. I’ll be happy to return here anytime!

MP: Gary C. King's website keeps readers up to date on his books plus videos, podcasts, blog posts, and a page of victims' resources.  Follow him on Twitter and 'Like' him FaceBook. He likes communicating with his readers so leave a comment here. Like most of our guests he'll probably reply.

Buy his books! Oh, and don't forget to keep your flashlight by the bed.


Charlie Seiga said…
Nicely written serial for another historic true life crime story based in Liverpool
Jennifer Perry said…
Thanks, Charlie. I will check it out. Are you on Twitter?

Popular posts from this blog

David Herrle Enraptures Us With "Sharon Tate And The Daughters Of Joy."

Author Jim Musgrave Introduces Patrick O'Malley, The Star Of His Newest Mystery Series