October 7, 2014
This is not the first time that the BTK Killer has tried to publish a book
by Liam O’Brien
Kansan serial killer Dennis Rader murdered at least ten people, gaining the moniker “BTK” for “Bind, Torture, Kill” due to his method of killing.
He sent the police taunting letters between kills, then abruptly stopped. When he started writing to them again 15 years later, he got caught and was quickly sentenced to multiple life terms. Now he’s he’s writing again, but this time it’s for a potential book.
In a four-page letter written to the Wichita Eagle, Rader claims that he’s participating in the project for the financial benefit of his victims’ families. They own Rader’s media rights as per an earlier settlement, and a percentage of any profits on this book (if published) will go to them. The Eagle reports further:
The author is Katherine Ramsland, professor of forensic psychology and program director of the masters program in criminal justice at DeSales University in Pennsylvania. She’s a nonfiction author of 54 books, most of them academic, she said. She helps train prosecutors and police and says the book she’s working on about Rader will be academic and nonsensational – an attempt to help investigators and criminologists understand killers like Rader. She has little regard for some of the lurid books written soon after Rader was arrested. “I’m trying to make this a serious effort that will have some benefit for people who study this kind of crime,” she said.
It’s true, as with most high-profile serial killers, that there’s already plenty of media about Rader, including the aforementioned books, one of which was written by FBI Profiler John Douglas. He’s the guy that Thomas Harris based Will Graham on, and he’s presumably a member of the target audience Ramsland refers to (and would likely be at the top of the blurb request list)
This comes right after Rader’s daughter Kerri Rawson spoke out in the Eagle about her experience of BTK-related publicity. The interview came in response to a new Stephen King movie adaptation, the source material of which was based on Rader’s life and crimes. It’s a heartbreaking read, and a necessary perspective to keep in mind if you’re planning to comment on the ethics of publishing murderers (commentary which surely will involve Son of Sam laws and O.J. Simpson.)
But it’s also very important to note that this isn’t Rader’s first attempt to get his story published. Nine years ago, the Associated Press reported that Kristin Casarona was corresponding with Rader before trial, and had planned to write a book on the killings “from a Christian perspective”: “‘Everyone sees everything from the bad side,” she said. ‘There has been a lot of hurt and pain nobody knows about.'” Casarona’s book was never published.
It’s unclear exactly how much Rader would be contributing to Ramsland’s latest attempt to publish the ultimate insider BTK book, but what’s certain is that any publisher who agrees to acquire this book, if it gets written, should do so with the knowledge that their motives during every step of the publishing process will be questioned and criticized.
Liam O’Brien is the Senior Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.