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The San Francisco Doodler Murders: Interview w/ Author Kate Zaliznock & Laurie Krill Pt. 2
In 1974, a series of San Francisco’s most horrific unsolved murders began. In less than two years, the man police called “The Doodler” took at least five lives, terrorized the LGBTQ community and left three survivors forever changed. Initial reports claimed that the murderer didn’t approach his victims with the knife he used to kill them, but that the suspect shared skilled drawings—sketches of faces and animals—before leaving a string of gay men to bleed out on the sands of Ocean Beach. Police investigations and activist efforts to uncover the serial killer led to several suspects but no definitive identification of the artist of death. Author Kate Zaliznock shines a light on this riveting cold case.
Kate Zaliznock is a Bay Area–based writer and editor. Her past work has covered a wide range of topics, including music, history, science, pop culture and politics. She is also the founder of Open Color, an arts collective and magazine that features both emerging and established artists from around the globe. This is her first book on true crime.
Kate, there is a small time skip in your account with the first wave of murders happening in 1970, 419, 75, then a break of a few years before bodies begin appearing again in 1978 in San Mateo County, south of San Francisco. And at this moment, there are kind of a few key developments in the case that I'd like for you to run through for us. The first are the small handful of suspects that the SFPD have in fact managed to locate. Who are these folks?
Kate: So with the Doodler murders, there was really one viable stuff that they came up with and have questions multiple times back then and he is still alive and they continue to question him to this day. This is someone who they called back then, conversion therapy. We no longer use that term because it's just giving a false justification to something that is the complete antithesis of therapy. So conversion efforts is the term we use now, which is basically going to a pseudo psychologist and having them try to fix you for anything other than a heterosexual identity. So we have one suspect who this psychiatrist reported to the police as saying that this man confessed and that he matched the sketch. And this man was also identified by pretty key person in this case. The other two suspects are basically people who I mentioned earlier, repeatedly brought in because they had similar, somewhat ashbrews. They were drawing in the drawing characters and portraits in the tendroin and in the Castro they looked a little like the sketch. So there were other suspects who were brought in and honestly just got to a .1 of them. Finally had an altercation with one of the officers because he just said, how many times are you going to arrest me and bring me in for something I didn't commit?
The suspect that they are still looking at is, like I said, still alive and still living in the area. So it's been under a cloud of suspicion for decades for something that he didn't commit and also was going through conversion efforts which are extremely traumatizing or he did it and because of the consequences that would have come upon the survivors who identified him, been able to get away with it. So we really want to, if nothing else, get an answer on this guy because it's one or the other. And that is probably the biggest question for law enforcement, that we really need answers. There's really only that one suspect that right now looks pretty good.
[00:04:16.630] - Ben
Now, in some cases, a person of interest has their identity remain sealed while they're under investigation. And in other instances, one of our very first guests, Joshua Sushan, covered a murder in California in which the main person of interest is very well known to members of the community and to law enforcement and so forth and this person did eventually end up confessing many years later. Is the person of interest in your particular case the main suspect? Is their identity confidential or has it been unsealed?
[00:04:50.890] - Kate
Identity has always been confidential. And even what's interesting is even when the police and the press were talking about the diplomat, they kind of like hinted same thing with the survivors. They hinted at Swedish diplomat, oh, you would know his name for the entertainer, but for this guy, for their suspect, very limited information. They gave the name, press told the public that his pseudosychiatrist name was Dr. Priest. That was something that people really latched on to. There's a possibility that Kevin Fagan of the San Francisco Chronicle possibly and his team possibly found out who that supposed Doctor Priest is. However, even if it's him, he's passed away. So really at this point the hope for this case would be more information from either the diplomat or any other witness. But most importantly, they have DNA in this case, just like they did with Golden State Killer and just like they did in several really big cases that you're seeing close just in the last few weeks all over the country. There are some major cases from the haven't closed that can happen with this case. If that were to happen with this case, you don't need to ask people to reopen old wounds, you don't need to revictimize people.
If we can get more attention on this case and put more pressure on the crime lab to finish their analysis of this DNA which they started in 2019, I think that that is the answer to whether or not this suspects that we have all been talking about and who has been talked about for decades now, whether or not he's innocent.
[00:07:03.250] - Ben
Well, we'll come back to that in a moment. I do want to ask you where the state of the investigation stands in just a little bit, but tell us about this sort of second wave of murders that began in 78. There were some key differences between these victims and the first five, possibly six victims that you mentioned earlier. And those differences were not limited just to location, were they? To where these bodies were found? There were some other tangible points of divergence as well.
[00:07:35.180] - Kate
Yes. So to start with just the connection, all of these men were linked back to the same districts of the city that the Duker victims were linked to. Other than that, they were all linked also to the gate community. And other than that though, the differences are they were found far outside of the city on a road called Tuna Creek Road, which is near Half Moon Bay for anybody who's familiar with the area. But it's a drive, it's an hour and a half from the city, roughly, depending on where you're coming from. And these bodies were found wearing only jeans. Aside from one victim, they were wearing only jeans, nude otherwise, and strangled. Now, all of these victims, which are five victims, one remains a John Doe. And because of that fact, all of the information on the case has not been released because the sheriff's office understandably so once you identify this person and notify any living relatives before releasing it to the public. But in these cases, the differences strangulation versus stab wounds. Bodies were dumped. We don't know where the actual murders occurred, whereas the dealer killed people where he left the bodies.
So these bodies were dumped. They were found in a kind of a remote stretch of a road in the Santa Cruz foothills. And police kind of had this immediate reaction in the sense that they knew they had gotten the Doodler murders wrong in terms of being able to close the case. They knew that they had a ton of pressure on them for the way they handled LGBTQ murders in general. So when this started happening, I will say that there was a response that was very different from the Doodler murders. And it was an immediate sort of collaboration between SFTD, which, again, these victims were located, traced back last scene in San Francisco. Right there. You need Sft. And then you need San Mateo. The body is found in San Mateo County. So as all of us, I'm sure no jurisdictions working together can be complicated and not always doable for either party and all that. But from what I've been able to gather, this was a team that I will give credit to in the sense that they wanted this solved. They did not want another Doodler situation. There were other serial killers, like you mentioned, that I talk about in the book.
They did not want any of that again. They wanted to lock this guy down, and they did. You know, we can't just was anybody ever tried and convicted? No. But reviewing the case, as you'll see in the book, it's pretty solidly closed case. The reason why it's so relevant is to see the evolution of how these cases were handled, right? The evolution of total dismissal. I mean, Gerald Kavanaugh had one line in the paper, body found on Ocean Beach of staff wounds. And that was pretty much it. There was never an article. There's never anything. So to see it go from that to having another string of murders happen and have that case be thoroughly investigated pretty much from the start, I view as an evolution of police attitude towards these types of homicide.
[00:12:06.170] - Ben
Well, there's just something so critical in the sense in which victims are here now being seen really for the first time just a few short years later. And that is a major turning point. There is a passage, Kate, at the beginning of Chapter 21 that I would love for you to read for us if you have your copy next to you. And Laurie, I've got a question for you about this particular passage. If you just read that first short paragraph for us.
[00:12:48.410] - Kate
In San Francisco, the Doodler case is falling apart brick by brick. Their surviving witnesses would not come forward. Dr. Priest's testimony could not be admitted in court. The San Francisco Police Department had linked no physical evidence to a person of interest. No witnesses had officially placed the man Guilford and Sanders suspected at the scene of the murders. The mountain they had climbed to reach the conclusion of these investigations began to collapse in on itself. Though Guilford and Sanders were confident the victims were murdered by a man who impressed them with his artwork, no drawings were ever recovered. Even worse, gay men started to go missing from the Castro again. Then came the phone calls. More bodies had been found.
[00:13:39.950] - Ben
Thank you. This moment presages what you've just told us about the kind of the emergence of these new bodies in San Mateo. And I wanted to ask you about this because moments like this in the narrative, for writers and for readers alike, are incredibly useful. I like to think of them as sort of signposts. There are moments in the flow of the narrative that kind of tell us where we're at. They're a rest stop, kind of a chance to catch our breath, really, from the sort of unrelenting pace of new information. Laurie, my question here for you is, as you're working with a manuscript, do you make a point of asking authors to provide these to us, or is this something these rest stops, these sort of stock takes, as it were, are these things that you allow the author to bring really at their own discretion?
[00:14:37.640] - Laurie
Yeah, I would say most of the time. And I just checked the manuscript that I set your comments back on. Kate was excellent at encapsulating. Her opening and closings of her chapters were always very strong, which is very important, especially for this type of book. You have to really ground the reader into the place and time that you're talking about before you go into any major details. It's always important to remind them of what they've learned without going too far into that, and then closing it out with kind of, and then this is what's going to happen next. And Kate already had a really strong sense of that in this book. A lot of the times, if I find myself kind of drifting away from the central story as a reader, I will point that out. Sometimes one of the most common things that happens is that something really interesting, as an aside, will happen in the story. That doesn't really have a lot to do with the specific topic that we're talking about, but it's totally interesting, which is hard for authors to resist, kind of trying to include that in the majority of the story, but it distracts.
So one of the most important things I do is be like, we need to condense this half a chapter about someone else into just the details that pertain to this case. Because otherwise everyone's life story is different and everyone's kind of got these really interesting little tidbits that you'd love for the readers to know, but that might be a different book. So you really have to refocus and make sure that everything you're writing down serves the purpose of the book that you are writing currently. And sometimes that means cutting stuff is fantastic, great writing and really interesting information. It just doesn't fit the book. So I think that's one of the hardest things to do in terms of editing is just be like, yeah, this is great. It shouldn't be in this book, so save it for another time, save it for another book. Save it for a talk about the book. Always a great place to go on some sides that you weren't able to do in the book, but in this specific book, it doesn't belong. But in regards to that particular passage, that was okay, she's just really a good writer.
[00:17:20.370] - Ben
How many darlings did you have to kill Kate in the making of this manuscript?
[00:17:25.470] - Kate
You know, a lot. But before they made it, luckily before they made it into the manuscript, it wasn't a blood bath when I got it back. I will say there are things in the book that I made sure to ask myself a million times each day. It's just absolutely essential. And the reason why other cases, both solved and unsolved, are covered in this book is because we have such a complete lack of broader information. When it comes specifically to the Doodler case, the only thing that's of help is looking at other cases where perhaps you can get ideas as to what is going on with the Duper, because he is an outlier. He is not a Ted Bundy. He is not a Samuel Little. He is a different kind of being altogether. So are there any cases that exactly line up with his no. But is it important to look at cases where gay men were targeted? Is it important to look at who was doing the targeting? What was behind that, especially when all these things are happening pretty much at the same time. The dealer was not the only man, the only serial killer of gay men in the 70s.
Kind of shocking how many there were. I had to be selective and pick just a few to kind of look at. So, yeah, taking exactly kind of what we're saying is that it's very easy to go way wide with the story, right? So I really wanted to include elements that maybe weren't specifically tied to the duplicates that would be helpful to the reader to kind of get that knowledge of how these cases in general work and how sometimes they are resolved.
[00:19:42.410] - Ben
Well, I'm so glad that you brought that up because that takes us really to sort of the last major topic that I want to ask you about, which is the point at which the case goes quiet. And you write that after that sort of last spate of killings in the late nineteen s, seventy s, there's a long period of time where to the best of our knowledge, the doodler kind of fades into the background. Now, regrettably, as you're right, members of the LGBT community are still subject all throughout these years to deadly attacks by other killers. And you devote a substantial amount of time to introducing us to those killers. I'm thinking of Randy, Steven Kraft, of Patrick Kearney, William Bonin, David Lichens each of whom get sort of a long profile. And I have to say to our listeners out there that with serial killers in Kate's book it's kind of like buy one, get four free. It's a crash course of what was going on in California in the kind of a lot. But what's interesting is that it's not enough just to kind of lay these stories of these individuals out these perpetrators because as Laurie was saying earlier, we do not aim to glorify the criminal here.
You are much more interested in the new theories in criminal psychology that are emerging around serial killers at this time. And my question is what did that research look like for you as you were sort of seeking to enter into the minds of those who were studying these behaviors and trying to make sense out of all of that?
[00:21:31.310] - Kate
Yeah. So I would say that that side of the research meaning really is just getting into stats and different interpretations of those statistics. That took a lot of time, it took a lot of connecting with different authorities. I was really thankful to Dr. Eric Hickey, who is at the forefront of serial killer research. After much confusion and working the system, I was finally able to get someone at the NCAA BC to speak with me. And as a side note, something really cool about that is, again, like we're saying that the specific nature of these types of killers with this type of victim demographic is extremely under research. So through the course of getting what information I could get from them, basically the Behavioral Analysis Unit now has a opportunity for students who are learning through that program to propose different thesis subjects. So as a result of this research and pointing out the lack of research within this specific demographic, it looks like in the next year or two there's going to be at least one thesis focused specifically on this, which is really cool.
[00:23:06.880] - Ben
That's fantastic. That's amazing. Yeah.
[00:23:12.670] - Kate
Anything I could find on what the FBI calls serial same sex killers, there's all types of terms that people want to use today and I wouldn't respect that. But out of the efficiency stake for the FBI, that's what they refer to anyone who is murdering someone of the same gender or sex. All of that data is always kind of a subset of a subset of a subset that gets a page or two. You might have a book on serial killers that's 500 pages long and you'll get a couple of pages on these guys. So that took a lot of work. It meant sifting through big publications to kind of get to just those few pages. So really took me connecting with, like I said, Dr. Vicky also Dr. Allen Branson was essential to this book. He is retired FBI and he really lent his expertise to looking at this case. Looking at kind of the minutiae that I might not have been thinking about. But like with all the other research. Because it wasn't a case that has been covered and written about extensively and all of that stuff. You really have to piece together what you have and just try to make those person to person connections.
Because if you're hoping to just gather a bunch of news articles or a bunch of aga articles or anything like that. It's not going to be as helpful to you because unless you make that human to human connection on a topic like this and have a contact that you can get on the phone or get on email and say. Have this weird question. You're not going to get very far because it's just not a topic that has been covered that much.
[00:25:19.990] - Ben
Let me ask you, there's a passage on page 83 which I would love for you to just read for us. It's the one where you describe how the data squares with what's known to the doodler. And while you're getting there, Laurie, it raises an interesting question from your perspective, which is how do you advise your authors on achieving a balance of sources as they are writing about complicated topics or topics in which there are more questions than answers, right? I mean, law enforcement are one source, but they are just one source, right? I mean, you can have academics, you can have other journalists who might have expertise in the case. And so do you counsel your authors to kind of run the gamut of all different possible perspectives or do you tell them to sort of focus on what seems most productive?
[00:26:08.790] - Laurie
It depends on the background of the author and how they're approaching the case. Kate, definitely, with her specific writer background, was able to really delve into this book in a very productive way, like in terms of coming into it without the biases that law enforcement might and without the biases of a journalist might. So it was really interesting to see her develop that voice as she went along with her manuscript. I've had a lot of authors come to me with these kind of cases, which is very common, who do have a background in law enforcement. And one of the hardest things, one of the hardest things to do is to break them up. Police report language because it's very specific vernacular and it is extremely limiting in terms of connecting with your reader because it's just really distancing yourself from whatever happened. But that's how they view the beginning of the case. It's a case file. And so that's where they start and then kind of drawing out a little bit more of the humanity and making sure that they have gone back and talked to the victims family or if it's a deeply historical case, reading more about the victim's family or interviewing community members who might know a little bit more.
So it's really taking what the author brings to the table and just kind of expanding the scope to make sure that we are getting as much a well rounded book as we can.
[00:27:57.590] - Ben
Okay, did you find a passage?
[00:27:59.120] - Kate
Yeah. Which paragraph are you looking at? Which first word?
[00:28:03.290] - Ben
So how does this data square.
[00:28:06.950] - Kate
So how does this data square with what is known as the Doodler? A comparison of facts shows him to be an outlier in some respects, while also fitting snugly within the confines of known statistics. His choice of victims fits within the parameters of the study pool. That his known murder sites were not in his home, his car, or his victim's home is more unique. The locations of his attack on his surviving victims, their apartments is a more common factor. The age when he began his murders is a commonality shared with the entire sample group. With only two 9% of the studied murders perpetrated by stabbings, the Doodler lies within the narrowest margins in the range of modus operandi.
[00:28:59.570] - Ben
Thank you. I want you to bring that out because it does speak to what Larry is describing here, that sense of there's a word hovering in the background here, which is synthetic. Right. You're weaving together, you're synthesizing information from a bunch of different sources in order to arrive at a kind of portrait of this person who remains unapprehended. And because that person remains unapprehended, these synthetic portraits are all that researchers and law enforcement really have to go on these sort of sense of likelihoods tendencies and sketches themselves. Is that kind of interesting irony there, isn't there?
[00:29:48.740] - Kate
Yes, exactly. And it is this piecemeal, like I just read, there's certain things that are very common. There are other things that are very rare. And to see someone with all of that combined is interesting. And also something to really keep in mind is that this is assuming that we are only looking at a serial killer who stabbed people. And we look at other cases that some of them have signatures, some of them don't, some of them there's not always a uniform complete pattern. So we're doing the best that we can in terms of let's look at the cases that the incidents that we feel very confident we're the same person, but just that in a loan is tricky because a lot of serial killers don't do everything exactly the same thing every single time. So it was really important to me that I took these various perspectives, what law enforcement thought of how they profiled him versus perpetrators, who we know pretty much everything that we can know about them, right? Their childhood, the trigger events before their murders, how they selected their victims, all those things. That's really the only thing we can do in trying to get new ideas behind the Duper, is let's try to look at everything that we do have on this topic, not just on these murders.
[00:31:42.370] - Ben
So when the case itself goes quiet, it doesn't mean that there is nothing to say. You have to consider other avenues, both as an investigator in law enforcement and as a researcher or historian coming afterwards. Now listeners of Crime Capsule will remember our interview with Tobin Gilman, another History Press author, and his book on the McGlincy killings in very nearby Campbell, California, which is now part of San Jose. In that particular case, the killer simply got away. And whether it was through disappearing into the Santa Clara Valley, maybe he died there, maybe he was able to flee the state, we're not entirely sure. But once he disappeared, both to police and to historians sort of going in search of him, tobin was forced to deal with the trail went completely cold. Just completely cold, right. And yet Tobin, as an author, was presented with the kind of litany of tips of presumed sightings, of false sightings of the killer, and that itself became material for the afterlife of his particular story. So my question for you guys is, what were your options at this particular point in order to continue to tell the story?
[00:33:19.970] - Kate
So basically, that's a really great point. That's exactly what happened. And in this case, we don't have anywhere near. We don't have sightings, we don't have reports. We have a handful of things that happen in 1975 and 76, and that's it. So the way that I looked at it was kind of what I was alluding to before, which is I tried to look at it as a reader and say, what would I want to know more of? What were the questions that I, as a reader and a researcher would immediately have as soon as this case goes cold? First thing I thought of was, I want to know anything and everything that is remotely relative to this case that is remotely comparable, that you can glean some information from. And I found a few. And I just felt like, as a reader, you know, going into this book, that it is an unsolved case. You know, that part. But to get that satisfaction of feeling like you walk away from this case knowing more about the subject in general, the serial murder of gay men, you need more than the dealer case, because the dealer case simply does not have enough to fully illustrate the depth of violence that the LGBTQ community was experiencing.
You have to go outside of that case in order to really start to understand this was so much bigger than this one man, and this was not something that got the attention. And other serial killers that you're saying simply stopped. And we don't know if it's because they died. We don't know. In some instances, I think it's pretty obvious that they wanted a lot of attention, and then they kind of waned, and that was the end of it. We don't know what happened with this guy, but we have cases that we do know what happened. So to touch on those and get information that the reader, including me, well, that sounds like that's something that is worth considering or okay, that is different than what we're seeing in this case. Why is it different? Why do these other cases have similarities that they don't share with the doodler? That's where I wanted the story to go, because that was the question that I immediately just had.
[00:36:03.350] - Ben
Laurie, what is your approach to guiding a writer when the well begins to run dry?
[00:36:09.830] - Laurie
Cold cases are tough because we know going in that there is no neat resolution, but there's always something to further along. In this case, Kate was able to expand the reader's ideas of where to look, what we're looking at, the kind of things that, overall, the LGBTQ community deals with. And that was a really great way to kind of show the reader a potential future. If this case ever did get resolved, these are the ways that it could be done. And assuring the reader that law enforcement is still looking into it is really important. That was a really good piece that she included towards the end of the book, is making sure that, as the reader, we knew that this wasn't necessarily the end, but it's all we knew for this moment. And I think as long as the reader comes away with the sense that they've learned a lot more about some killings that they never would have known about and introduced them to some dangers of living in the world that these victims lived in and kind of expanded their awareness, I think, is kind of the ultimate goal of the book.
[00:37:54.250] - Kate
I want to add to what Laurie is saying in the sense that the other thing that was extremely important to me in this book was to not just represent these murders and to represent these victims, but to represent the resiliency of the gay community in San Francisco. They did not take this line down. They knew they couldn't rely on SSP the way that they should have been able to. I really. Wanted to make it clear to the reader that this was more than victimization and trauma. This is also a story of triumph, of courage, of just not taking it. And the examples that you see throughout the book of the community protecting itself and effectively, might I add that's a huge part of this story for me is to understand that this was very scary, but this was not. The gay community pulled up in their homes with the curtains drawn, you know, afraid to go after United. There was a defiance and a resiliency that I think is really a huge, huge, huge part of the gay community in San Francisco.
[00:39:24.670] - Ben
Your portrayal in particular of the Butterfly Brigades, I mean, I kind of was thinking that so often local law enforcement will, in towns across America will stage sort of a night out against crime and everybody's supposed to kind of get together on their block and it's supposed to be a big sort of show of support for neighborhood solidarity and so forth. And that's all well and good, but the Butterfly Brigades, I mean, they made every night a night out against crime. It was really impressive.
[00:39:55.870] - Kate
Yeah. And it was do not mess with them. Do not mess with them. Even the current lead inspector on the dealer case himself, he grew up in the city and he remembers going to a donut shop near 18th in Castro and a gay man was getting hassled and within 30 seconds you heard the whistles, you heard the radios, you heard the yelling, and all of that kind of came crashing down within a few minutes.
[00:40:41.010] - Ben
The Doodler Murders will be published in just a few short weeks. What is the state of the investigation now?
You’ve spoken with the current commander of the forest, Daniel Cunningham. Have there been any developments since your book went to press?
[00:41:28.430] - Kate
Nothing that I can really talk that much about yet because it's still very nebulous. I will say that sounds like a yes. Well, it's nothing that it would be more confusing to readers because there's such a lack of definitive anything around it. I will say that this case, I feel this case is going to be closed and it's going to be closed sooner rather than later. Whether or not it is the suspect that has been the primary focus over the years or not, I think that there is enough there to just lock this thing down and end it. And they've doubled the reward money to $200,000. They raised it from $100,000 when they first reopened this investigation. I know it's a priority for them, but it does not hurt for the public to, just as they did with a Golden State killer, become more aware and put the pressure on the law enforcement, but primarily crime labs, to really put urgency on these types of cases where perpetrators are aging out and the opportunity for justice, if it even exists, is dimming every day. So, yeah, I think that there's nothing I don't want to say anything major.
There's nothing major that I'm sitting on that I can't share yet. Sure, ideas. Ideas that have been shaped since the book.
[00:43:18.810] - Ben
So, Laurie, in that moment, speaking for the press, what choices do you have? Say, for the sake of argument, that Kate is right, that within a reasonable period of time, there is a major new development that actually does necessitate changing the story that has been published? I mean, as an editor at that point, do you delay publication of a book in order to bring the new information on board, or do you issue another edition with an afterword? What's the route here?
[00:43:50.110] - Laurie
A lot of the times when we create a book, it's kind of a time capsule. So the book itself might remain as it is because that was the information that we have when it was published. And then at some point, perhaps we might do a revised edition, depending on interest and all those press things that we have to think about the work that Kate would have to put into it if she's available for it. There's a lot of different factors. So, no, we're not going to delay the publication of a book this close to it's, probably already printed and ready to go. So that's not something that we usually do. Yeah, it's already ready to go. So, no, we're not going to take that book off the shelf. It's ready. And the other thing I like to like a book is it is a time capsule. It is all the information that we had at that time when the author wrote it. And even if the book itself isn't updated, kate can continue to go on with her talks, with her presentations that she does, and have additional great information that she can share with her readers.
And that can be a great way to enhance the book that she has already so that they can get a lot more background on the final outcome. In that sense, that would probably be the main way that the book would be updated, would be literally through Cater self. But, yeah, like, we've gone back and done some updated versions of books in the past. It's not a common practice for us, but it just happened.
[00:45:42.970] - Ben
Yeah. Well, with respect to that particular point, I thought one of the most beautiful parts of this particular book, if I can use that word, is the way in which you treated the victims with such dignity and you showed their photographs and told their stories in ways that had really never been told before in quite a lot of detail. And it seemed to me, as I was reading that if there is any place where the ongoing conversation can be had and the ongoing attempt to remember them properly is going to take shape, it's right there in those moments. And I can only imagine that any surviving family members, any surviving acquaintances of those victims, are going to be incredibly grateful for what you've done for them.
[00:46:30.070] - Kate
Thank you. That means so much to me.
[00:46:34.030] - Ben
My last question is for both of you. You said earlier that you knew going in that this was a cold case and this was an unsolved case and those were the stakes upfront, those were the chips on the table, right? Even so, was it difficult having to end this story on a question mark rather than a period?
[00:47:07.670] - Kate
I will say, for me, I have always been more interested in unsolved cases than solved cases. And that's my whole life. I get that from my grandfather and watch literally unsolved mysteries, like, every single night. I like the fact that there's a question mark because both as a writer and a reader, when I close that book, depending on how I feel about it, that could just be the start of the journey for me. Right. I want to learn more about this. Why isn't there more about it? I can look into this too. I can ask try to start a campaign to get this case looked at by other independent researchers. There's just so much opportunity with an unsolved case versus a solved case. And I understand why a lot of writers wouldn't want to touch an unsolved case, but it's actually what I preferred. I think that it is. I like leaving the reader with the opportunity to get involved on their own, which is whether it be listening to a podcast like this or posting about this story on their social media and getting other people to know about it, there are things that a reader can do to actually move this case forward.
I think that that is so cool and that's something that you can't do with a case that's already been closed.
[00:48:50.370] - Laurie
As an editor, cold cases are tricky because readers do often want that conclusion. They want to know how the case ends. And usually that is kind of like the solving is the end for them. And when it's not there, it can be a little difficult for an author to kind of wrap it up in a satisfying way. I think one of the main concerns I always have as an editor going into a cold case is that the author isn't trying to solve the case. And I don't mean like, they shouldn't be doing their research, but I don't expect them to find the end. To me, that can be a very dangerous way to get into the story because it makes the book about them. And there are some fantastic books that do this very, very well. But that's not what we're looking for as a press. We really want that to bring the reader into that era of history, to talk about the people who were there, the eras that we're talking about, the victims, the serial killers. We're creating kind of a little world for them to enter. And when the author is the focus, that can make it difficult for them to really immerse themselves in what's going on.
So that's something that can be trickier with a cold case than a case that's already solved.
[00:50:39.110] - Ben
That notion, Kate, that you offer that when you close the book, that could be just the start of the journey, I think that just perfectly encapsulates everything that you've both been speaking towards here, and I cannot imagine a better place to end on. You know, if there's one lesson to be learned as well, though, it's to never lose hope. Sometimes cases do take years to be solved, but solved they are. One of our very first guests, Rita Schuler from South Carolina, cracked a case that she herself had opened as a law enforcement officer 40 years earlier in her life. And who knows what might emerge from the publication of this particular book? New information, dormant memories, waking up. You never know, do you?
[00:51:37.790] - Kate
You never know.
[00:51:41.390] - Ben
Well, that's the joy. Kate, Laurie, thank you both so much. This has been a total pleasure. It's been a privilege to have you.
[00:51:50.750] - Kate
I deeply appreciate both having me on here as well as the encouragement on the work. It really, truly does mean the world to me, and I thank you so much. And to Laurie, who I would not have been able to get through this project without my fantastic editor, who really made this project so meaningful.
[00:52:13.910] - Laurie
It was really nice to talk to you. I don't usually get to be a part of this. So interesting to see this side of the post editing. I don't even know what happens in this part.
[00:52:29.010] - Ben
Well, hopefully our listeners will get to see how the sausage is made, and then they will also get to enjoy eating it. But thank you both. Thank you very much.