Thursday, May 31, 2007

I say we all carry swords

Robert Graysmith

When I was a young child I used to lie awake at night fearing that some cold-blooded psychopath would come crawling in my bedroom, rope and knife in hand, to torture me to death. This fear haunted me night after night, not letting up until I was nearly in college. (Perhaps reading Red Dragon at ten years old was a bit unwise; it has become the source of both my die-before-I’m-eighteen fear [which has now become the die-before-I’m-thirty fear] and my eyeball fear. Don’t ask. Or perhaps it was The Deliberate Stranger, with Mark Harmon as Ted Bundy. Damn but that movie just sucks you in!) But whatever it was my fascination with serial killers continues to this day, when just last week I happened upon Zodiac and gave it a try.

Zodiac is Robert Graysmith’s account of the so-named serial killer who terrorized California for nearly twenty years. Graysmith was working as cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle when the murders began, and he has followed the Zodiac’s steps though what might be as many as fifty murders (nine were official; the Zodiac himself claimed thirty-seven). The Chronicle became a favorite of the Zodiac, who would routinely communicate with through letters sent to the editor. The Zodiac’s use of cryptic codes (some of which have never been decoded) and taunting messages make the Zodiac an interesting study. But what is the Zodiac’s true identity?? And where is he now?


Graysmith takes a fairly objective stance as he seeks to answer these questions, relating the facts as they became known. One problem with this structure is that relating facts as they became known does not mean events are described chronologically, which causes some confusion. For example, what is considered to be the Zodiac’s first murder was not recognized as such until he had killed a few more times, but this information became confusing when discussed nearly at the end of the events.

While the facts of the case are quite interesting, there were other flaws as well. The author is not without his own biases and some of his theories seem to be at odds with one another. However, if you enjoy abnormal psychology, you will probably enjoy Zodiac.

In a nutshell: Flawed but quite interesting.

Bibliolatry Scale: 3 out of 6 stars


Dewey said...

Too scary for me, I think!

Melanie said...

i know what you mean about Red Dragon. I probably read it when i was maybe 14? and it freaked me out. I wouldn't let my mom develop film for like 2 months after that. Likewise, after I read Amityville Horror around the same time i was scared my 3 yr old brother was going to start seeing and talking to demons. :)