My Ode to the True Crime Fan

Guest Blogger:   M. William Phelps

Janice was kind enough to ask me to blog here (something I don’t do much anymore), and I gratefully appreciate her thinking of me in this regard.

This is an important year for me. A moment I have worked toward for nearly a decade. LOVE HER TO DEATH marks my seventeenth book in print. My publisher is “re-launching” my career under a new brand: “nonfiction thriller author.” I am currently wrapped up in writing and researching cases for my own television show about serial killers on Investigation Discovery. We start shooting in April. It should air early next year. I’d announce a title, but it keeps changing. I pitched it as “Murder Squad.” At present it is called “Hunting Justice.” “The Serial Hunter” is being tossed around.

Hooray for Hollywood.

In all seriousness, today I want to talk about my fans and why I write these books.

Most importantly, when I begin to investigate a case I think might become a book, I first consider whether it has all the elements my fans expect from me. I have, over the years, created a body of work with themes, especially where the killers themselves are concerned. I have chosen—with the exception of my serial killer work (but then, come to think of it, three of those five books are about women, too)—to focus on the female killer. In my latest release, LOVE HER TO DEATH, I have stepped outside those parameters, but only because the case itself is so tantalizing and the key characters—a wealthy undertaker, his gorgeous wife, a Mennonite mistress—and the setting—Amish country, Lancaster, Pennsylvania—are so different and exciting, the affair that is the focus of the book so steamy and salacious, the murder so heartless and unforgiving, I could not pass up the opportunity to explore these lives in the deeper context of a book.

It’s a funny thing, actually: knowing that you have a large, firm fan base out there and the cases you choose, and the way you write the books, will affect each one of them deeply and passionately. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude (and respect) for every reader. These fans of mine, they expect a certain type of book from me—true-crime that is, all at once, mysterious, sympathetic, earnest, and perceptive. It’s my job to deliver that every time out. I read some of the criticism from the, let’s call them, “non-true-crime reading public,” and I don’t pay much mind to it, simply because I am writing for a specific genre and a specific demographic. My television show, I should note, is an extension of this—and will allow readers to see a more personal side of me as I investigate unsolved serial killer cases and put all I have learned over the years into play and figure out, along the way, why it is I have this inherent need to focus my life on the dead and certain scumbags who commit murder.

I’ve read a lot lately about bookstores closing (which makes me cringe), e-readers, tablets, and e-books. This spring, in fact, I am going to publish an “exclusive” e-book—a thriller I have spent years writing. (Yes, it involves a serial killer and cop who is my alter ego, yet so much more.) I have thought about the business and how it is changing. To me, it makes no difference how fans get the books (there will always be print books, you can bet on that!), as long I focus on the content I put into each book and write with passion every day, I feel I am doing my job. Whatever happens outside of that is beyond my control. I don’t write these books for my editor; not the rare, knuckleheaded, agenda-driven reviewer on Amazon, Publisher Weekly or Booklist; not the publishing sales staff that re-title our books and make the decisions about what works and what doesn’t; and certainly not the reader who buys from bestseller lists. I write the books for my loyal true-crime fans (you know who you are!). Each one of you deserves a great read every time. And my intention (always) is to deliver on that promise. So I tip my hat to each of you: Thank you! I appreciate you giving me a chance to entertain and enlighten you over the years. I am humbled and grateful by the notion that you return to me book after book.

Crime expert, lecturer, television personality and investigative journalist M. William Phelps is the national bestselling, award-winning author of seventeen nonfiction books (with two more set for publication in 2011). Winner of 2008 New England Book Festival Award for I’LL BE WATCHING YOU, Phelps has appeared on CBS’s “Early Show,” The Discovery Channel, ABC’s “Good Morning America,” The Learning Channel, Biography Channel, History Channel, Investigation Discovery, USA Radio Network, Catholic Radio, ABC News Radio and Radio America, who calls him “the nation’s leading authority on the mind of the female murderer.” He lives in a small Connecticut farming community and can be reached at his author Website. Join Phelps on Facebook, or his fan site page. Read more about Phelps and his books at Open Road Media. Phelps will be teaching in August at the Cape Cod Writers Center conference.

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One Comment:

  1. Congratulations in all respects. I look forward to the new television program as well as the book. To have the Mennonite in this one is something of interest for me just because of the strict religious background.

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