“Psycho-sexual satisfaction can be derived from the thrill of the kill, the thrill of getting over or perhaps wanting to torture. Sex crime is a power crime,” said criminal profiling specialist Dr. Julie Salzano, who was part of a fascinating panel discussion called THE EVIL MEN DO: Inside The Mind Of The Sexual Predator, at the Mid-Manhattan Library (NYPL), co-sponsored by the New York Public Library and the New York Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America on August 17, 2011.
Mystery fiction lovers came out in droves to hear Dr. Salzano and authors Henry Chang (Chinatown Beat, Year of The Dog, Red Jade), David Levien (City of the Sun, Where The Dead Lay, Thirteen Million Dollar Pop, Wormwood and SWAGBELLY: A Novel for Today’s Gentleman and Lyndsay Faye (The Gods of Gotham, Dust and Shadow), share their inspiration for the characters they create, what their process of delving into the mind of the sexual predator is and how they choose to decompress. Ladykillerco-author Meredith Anthony moderated the panel at an entertaining and enlightening clip.
Henry Chang, a New York native who spent his formative years on the streets of Chinatown, drew inspiration for his first book in his CHINATOWN TRILOGY series chronicling the beat of NYPD Detective Jack Yu, from the people he knew.
“For my first book, Chinatown Beat, I based the predator, a child rapist of a 7-8 year old girl, on stories I had heard from the neighborhood,” said Chang. “While reading news articles in the Chinese press, I found it easy to fill in the grisly details. In my second book, Year of the Dog, gang members run roughshod over their groupies. And in Red Jade, the predator is an older man who is able to purchase girls who look young for his pleasure.”
In Year of the Dog, Chang’s Chinese American detective Jack Yu recounts that in China, perpetrators of such heinous crimes would get a ‘Beijing Haircut’ – a single nine millimeter bullet to the head, followed by the government’s bill to the executed person’s family for the price of the bullet.
“Writing the Sex stuff, getting into the mind of the predator is not easy,” said Chang. “ I imagine the worst things, heap on the evil. Turning it off is not easy; it’s not like a light switch. It’s a dirty place. At the end of the day, my diversion is a glass of red wine.”
David Levien, author of the wildly popular Frank Behr Series: City of the Sun, Where the Dead Lay and Thirteen Million Dollar Pop, said,”my main character is a stand in for everything that is hopeful, and the bulk of my narrative is not in the head of the predator.”
Brimming with enthusiasm for the genre, historical fiction author Lyndsay Faye loves a good hero story and approaches her writing based on what she’d like to read. A former actress, Faye said, “Emotional investment is absolutely key. It is hard to get into the head space, but I find that the strongest choice is always the best one when done effectively.”
Levien brought up piquerism, a paraphilia and form of sadomasochism in which one finds sexual gratification through penetration of another person, most commonly by stabbing or cutting the body with sharp objects, and related that ‘stabbing is the stand-in for the sexual act.’
The panelists agreed that the mindset for sexual predators include people who can’t socialize, people who were weird as kids, but nobody addressed it, people with no connection to another human being as a child. There is no empathy in their makeup. It is the same type of mindset as a heroin addict.
While the jumping off point for the panel centered around male predators, Dr. Salzano, who was a member of the New York City Police Department and the first to be trained in criminal profiling, said that women were just as capable of committing horrible crimes; a common thread was they were all perpetrated during their cycles.
“Women’s victims are likely to be female children. Revenge and jealousy are often the motives, it’s not sexual,” said Salzano. “When a little girl is getting all of the attention, the woman views her as a competitive female for affection and attention of her husband or her boyfriend. In the case of jealousy, many have been abused, so their behavior is learned. If they’re insecure and needy, they have no self worth. The woman might want to get rid of children-by drowning, men-by shooting. As co-conspirators, they are aiding and abetting because they are usually scared to death.”
Asked to comment on Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Dr. Salzano shared, “when coming across a horrific incident, those in law enforcement, the military, firefighters, nurses and doctors are trained not to emote. Memories surface and these horrific pictures are going to stay with me for a long time. I watch cartoons, nothing real, no politics. I watch them over and over again and I find that it relaxes me. The worst thing to do is drink. The more you drink, the more depressed you become. Let it run its course, it is important to talk it out.”
The panelists favorite reads include: James Ellroy’s Black Dahlia, Ann Rule’s Green River, Running Red: The Real Story of the Green River Killer—America’s Deadliest Serial Murder, Eric Larson’s Devil in the White City, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, Tana French’s In the Woods, Dennis Lehane’s Gone Baby Gone, and Chevy Stephens’ Still Missing.
Why are we so fascinated?
Chang said, “Lots of people have dark thoughts, but we as readers, viewers can see it from a safe distance, it’s happening to somebody else, it’s not us.”
Other Articles by Lia Chang
Author Henry Chang on Mid-Manhattan Library Panel- THE EVIL MEN DO: Inside The Mind Of The Sexual Predator on 8/17
Photos: On the town with Rick Shiomi, Co-Editor of “Asian American Plays for a New Generation”, in D.C. & NY
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