The lure of evil

on November 3, 2005

I’m really a very nice person, but my thoughts aren’t always so pleasant. I tend to think of the most macabre thing that can happen in any given situation. When I hear a news story, my imagination goes wild. Even the most benign story has dark overtones.

People have always been fascinated and repelled by evil. I think it’s hard-wired into us from the dawn of time. Look at Eve. She knew damn well she shouldn’t touch the apple, let alone take a bite from it. The lure of the serpent was powerful. In The Hunt my heroine thinks about the beauty masking evil, that the serpent must have not been repulsive because otherwise Eve would have been running, screaming, back to Adam.

When bad things happen, we ask ourselves why. Why why why? How could someone be so cruel? How could he rape, kill, torture someone? How could anyone get pleasure out of inflicting pain until death?

I think one reason I get deep into my villain’s head is to try to find a reason for the evil act. No reason justifies it, but as a human being I care about why bad things happen. What makes someone kidnap, rape, and hunt down women?

The common “theory” is that it’s a combination of environment and personality or psychosis that sets someone on a criminal path. Overwhelming, serial killers were abused physically, emotionally and sexually as children. Does that make me feel sorry for them? Hell no. The hero in The Hunt makes a comment that while he can feel sorry for the child the killer had been, he has no such compassion for him as an adult.

But not all abused children turn into killers; not all killers come from abusive backgrounds. The latter are particularly scary. Those are the killers psychiatrists want to understand. How can a normal, well-manner, middle class child raised by two loving parents grow up to be a vicious murderer?

Here at Murder She Writes, we’ll be doing little featurettes on things that interest us that relate to suspense writing; expect more about serial killers from this Sacramento soccer mom.