Lets Talk Serial Killer Thrillers…..Don’t be scared!

So I love a good thriller – even more so when it involves a shadowy figure whose motives are difficult to fathom…the Serial Killer. Thomas Harris and Silence of the Lambs was the first novel I read in this genre and I still shiver when I think about it. It was also one of those books that was turned into a superb movie..with Anthony Hopkins becoming the definitive Hannibal..Fava Beans and a nice Chianti anyone? I tracked down three authors who have written great books of this nature and asked them the same 4 questions. Here is what they had to say….


Lets start with Michael Marshall. Author of the superb Straw Men trilogy amongst other great books, he created a killer like no other…and he had some friends. Here is what Michael had to say.


Was your Serial Killer inspired by any real life case or book you had read?


No. In fact, what I was trying to do was collate everything I’d read and thought about a range of serial killers, to try to find unifying themes or underlying connections between their behaviours. Each killer manifests in their own way – though usually not as cinematically or glamorously as the ones we see in movies or books – and each case follows its own course, shaped and constrained by environment and happenstance. Underneath that, however, these events share a common root, something that is far more telling about fractures in human nature and fault-lines in our species’ minds, and that’s what I was trying to look at.


Is it difficult to write the “evil” characters and make them scary?


I don’t know – in the sense that I don’t know whether the ‘evil’ characters I write are scary or not – that’s for other people to judge. I think the hardest thing about making bad characters credible and affecting is making sure that they feel *real*. They can’t just be being evil for the sake of it – nobody ever is. They have to either believe in what they do, or feel compelled to do it – manifesting extreme forms of behaviour that the reader can recognise at least a little of in themselves. That’s what makes the bad guys scary – the idea that they’re not so different.


Do you have a favourite “Serial Killer Thriller” book that you have read or film you have seen?


I think the best novel about a sociopath that I’ve ever read would be THE KILLER INSIDE ME, by Jim Thompson. Spare first person style, chilling and yet oddly approachable and compelling. In terms of non-fiction, I think Elliott Leyton’s HUNTING HUMANS is the most insightful I’ve read.


Why do you think people in general are so fascinated by these types of killers?


Because they know they’re not that different to the rest of us. Worse, but not different. We find it very convenient to demonise – staring with awful fascination at Hitler, or Bin Laden, or Ted Bundy. It helps us put our own bad thoughts on the other side of a fence, where we think they’ll be safe. They’re not. We’re a great species, but we do bad things. We need to understand that and face up to it. Looking carefully at serial killers is one way of starting that process…

Thank you Michael!

You can follow Michael on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/ememess


Review: The Straw Men


Ward Hopkins returns to his parents home after they are killed in a car accident. Whilst at the house, he discovers a note from his father…and so begins a journey into his past and that of his loved ones, a dangerous journey of discovery that may not end well. Meanwhile a young girl, Sarah,  has gone missing and former LA Detective John Zandt, a man fighting his own demons, begins his own journey of discovery. Is it possible that Ward holds the key to saving Sarah from her fate?

This is a beautifully crafted story. One part leading to another to another a bit like Russian dolls – as Ward moves ever closer to learning the truth about his life, so John perhaps moves further away from himself and his own conscience….the terrible things they both face draw them together but also tear them apart. The mystery itself is well imagined – Serial Killer Thriller? Yes. And No. Or maybe. You decide. Certainly the author has created a rich mythology here – using real life events that we will all recognise he has woven an intricate tale and its extremely clever. Ward’s growing incredulity at what he is discovering will mirror your own as reader and looker on of events as they unfold. The supporting cast all do their bit – but its Ward and John that will interest you. And perhaps The Upright Man….

All in all fantastic. This is probably the third time I have read this book and each time I discover something new. Mr Marshall may smile when he learns that I’ve only just got the point of Sarah’s “safety” blanket – how many times have I read the name and it didnt sink in. You know what Im talking about…Don’t you Mr Marshall?

I’m not waiting. The Lonely Dead is next. Bring it on – what will I discover that I missed this time? You’ll have to await my next review.

Happy Reading Folks!



Next up is Joe Conlan. With this debut Thriller “Nameless” he created a wonderful example of a fictional killer – with a very cold heart…..

Was your Serial Killer inspired by any real life case or book you had read?


I can’t say that Shem Chassar was modeled after any one real-life serial killer.  A lot of his characteristics and personality traits were purely a figment of my imagination.  I did draw inspiration from some of my favorite serial killer authors such as Thomas Harris and movies such as Copy Cat and Seven.  With regard to Shem’s penchant for blood and other gruesome qualities, there were a few serial killers of the past such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Denis Nilsen whose disturbing and vicious MO’s were always a fascination.


Is it difficult to write the “evil” characters and make them scary?


Yes and no.  I wanted to stretch my imagination to the limits to create the most evil character possible.  Many ideas came easily, especially those related to the development of Shem’s personality.  Describing  the murders did get very difficult.  For instance, there were several times while writing the scenes involving Hannah’s murder that I had to stop and settle myself.  Believe it or not, I wouldn’t harm a fly and I have a soft spot for older ladies.


Do you have a favourite “Serial Killer Thriller” book that you have read or film you have seen?


I’ve already mentioned Copy Cat, Seven and Untraceable.  I found the serial murderer in each of those stories quite chilling and compelling.  I’m especially intrigued with the brilliant ones.  I can’t forget Jeffrey Deavers’ The Bone Collector either.  Great stuff.  I absolutely loved all 4 books and movies.  The Hanibal Lecter series is right at the top of my list as well.  I would have to say that he is my favorite fictional serial killer.


Why do you think people in general are so fascinated by these types of killers?


That is a very good question.  I have often wondered about that especially with regard to my fascination for them.  It has made me worry about myself.  I’ve read some articles about the subject.  There are all kinds of theories.  For me, it’s kind of like one of those horrible or disgusting things like a terrible accident on the road that you really don’t want to look at but you can’t keep your eyes off of it.  I also love to hate them.

Thanks Joe

You can follow Joe on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/conlan_joe


Review: Nameless


A terrific twisted tale of a serial killer and the FBI agent bound and determined to catch him, this novel is a no holds barred ripping yarn bound to keep you up at night. For once you get a proper background for the killer – the novel is as often told from his point of view as it is from the view of the main protaganist and I strangely ended up feeling at times quite sympathetic towards him despite the fact that he is evil personified. Not for the faint of heart – the violence is properly violent as all real such acts are – and adds a nuance to the story often missing in this type of novel where the authors worrying about the sensibilities of the reader may overcome the more natural urge to write it as it is. Don’t get me wrong – the violent scenes are not overtly intrusive, and only there when the telling of the tale requires it, but they do ensure that your reading heart is entirely with FBI Agent Falcone as he follows the trail, often to his own detriment, to the bitter end. It twists and turns – the “filling out” of each major character you meet is cleverly done – you are left in no doubt as to the motivations for their actions, even when you are screaming at them to stop being so completely idiotic (as some of them, most especially for me Daniel’s wife, often are). The ending was superb and very unexpected – therefore this authors next book is high on my list of reading priorities. If you like crime fiction, most especially “serial killer” thrillers then I would say they don’t come much better than this



Finally I caught up with Luca Veste – His debut novel Dead Gone will be released towards the end of the year and I was lucky enough to be one of the first to read it. His Serial Killer is dark indeed….


Was your Serial Killer inspired by any real life case or book you had read?


The overall idea came from one of the first psychology lectures I attended. It took a little longer than others, but I eventually started studying a couple of years ago as a mature student. It was one of those lectures which is designed to ease you into the course and ended with the lecturer talking about a whole bunch of experiments which psychologists carried out in the past. Most of these were carried out on animals, which (in my crime writer/reader mind) instantly led to the thought “what would happen if these experiments were on humans instead?” Thus the book was born. The serial killer is inspired in part by fictional creations (real-life serial killers are far too f*cked up to be believable!). John Doe in Se7en was an influence, as was Stuart Nicklin from Mark Billingham’s ‘Scaredy Cat’.


Is it difficult to write the “evil” characters and make them scary?


There’s a fine line between scary and ridiculous, I found. It’s difficult to stay on the right side of that line, but some of the most enjoyable parts of writing the book involved the evil parts. I was also very aware that I was entering a crowded genre, so I had to get the “evilness” right. Hopefully that’s the case.


Do you have a favourite “Serial Killer Thriller” book that you have read or film you have seen?


I have one of each. Favourite serial killer book would be Dark Room by Steve Mosby. A highly original idea, combined with some of the best prose in crime fiction. A stunning novel, which I wish I could describe more, but I don’t want to spoil it. It’s fantastic. Read it.



Favourite serial killer film is Se7en. I love the bleakness of it, the fact it rains pretty much throughout the film until the final (heartbreaking) scene. It’s relentlessly dark and has one of the best endings committed to film.



Why do you think people in general are so fascinated by these types of killers?


Well…this is just my opinion, which probably isn’t shared by all! I think we as a species are, in the main, terrified of randomness. Serial Killers are the embodiment of randomness, killing a whole range of people, strangers the vast majority of the time. That scares people. The idea that they could be targeted without realising, not seeing something coming…it’s scary. Combine that with the idea that people use fiction to safely explore their fears, it’s no wonder serial killer books are so popular. It also gives the reader the chance to peak behind the curtain; to see what the motivations of those killers are. It’s a way of investigating our fears from behind a veil of safety. We know, for the most part, that “good” will conquer “evil” so all will be satisfactory at the end. It’s that safety in reading fiction which attracts readers to these types of stories..


Thanks Luca!

You can follow Luca on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/LucaVeste


Review: Dead Gone


In Dead Gone we meet DI David Murphy – a man who has suffered a terrible loss – as he attempts to track down a killer. Not unusual you might think. But actually it is. This is a new breed of serial killer and David, alongside his partner in crime DS Laura Rossi will find themselves entering the darkest recesses of the human mind.

So lets talk for a moment about that group of books commonly known as “serial killer thrillers”. There are many out there – good ones, bad ones, scary ones…go into a bookshop and you will find plenty. To my mind the best ones have been written by Thomas Harris, John Connolly and more recently Joe Conlan.  I would also like to give a nod to The 50/50 Killer by Steve Mosby – a fairly stunning example of its genre. Now you can happily add Luca Veste to that list…This I can say with certainty. Its not easy to avoid cliche when writing a book of this kind, its also not easy to give it a new “voice” but this is what Mr Veste has managed to do and with terrific success. Engaging, frightening, genuinely shocking in places it will grip you to the last. Flowing storyline, terrific writing and a nod to those that have come before, this is an amazing debut.

So. Characters. You all know I love great characters yes? You will find a fair few in the pages of this novel. David Murphy, haunted, searching for reasons, has great depth to his character. I loved that he often set off down the wrong path – made assumptions then had to correct – not the perfect policeman who you are always sure will eventually solve the case but a realistic nod to investigative technique.  He is open to development – a great thing especially when you know that this is the start of a series. Laura is intriguing also, especially in her background and ties to family. I look forward to finding out more about them.

The mystery elements are well imagined and will keep you guessing – the very heart of any crime read. Its complex – no easy trail to follow here but always intriguing and never dull. The resolution will not disappoint. This is going to be a terrific addition to the genre. And if this is the first book, gosh, what is to come? I will wait to find out. Impatiently.


Happy Reading Folks!


Thank you to all the authors who took part today – some terrific answers there, fascinating stuff! Please see below some purchase/pre-order links.

The Straw Men:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Straw-Men-Michael-Marshall/dp/0006499988/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378712019&sr=1-1&keywords=the+straw+men

Nameless: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nameless-ebook/dp/B00BTIMY0Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378712062&sr=1-1&keywords=nameless

Dead Gone: http://www.amazon.co.uk/DEAD-GONE-ebook/dp/B00E31D9J6/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1378712096&sr=1-1


All 3 come highly recommended from me! I will be getting Mr Marshall back on site soon to talk about his other great novels and Luca Veste will tell us some interesting things again upon the release of Dead Gone.

In the meantime…Happy Reading Folks!























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One Response to Lets Talk Serial Killer Thrillers…..Don’t be scared!

  1. Ray Tucker says:

    I have just read a new serial killer novel by a new author, you should check it out. It is titled “Cryptic” by Conrad Luznar

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