I think every mystery writer has had this thought: What if someone reads one of my books and decides to copy the murder/s I’ve written about? There were episodes on Castle and Bones, two of my favorite TV shows, where that’s exactly what happened. I can only imagine how horrible that would feel. Of course, we're not responsible for the actions of someone else but still . . . Thankfully, what happened in my case was the exact opposite. Without knowing it, I wrote about murders that had already been committed.
You see, I learned something after the publication of Mixed Messages, my first Malone mystery, that actually gave me chills. A friend who had read the book asked me if it was based on the Cincinnati Strangler. I didn’t know what she was talking about so I looked it up online and my mouth fell open.
From October 1965 to December 1966, a man murdered seven west side Cincinnati women. He strangled them, using either an article of their own clothing or something that was readily available to him. With one exception, the women were attacked in their homes. The media dubbed him “The Cincinnati Strangler.”
In Mixed Messages and the sequel, Unfinished Business, there is a serial killer on the loose on the west side of Cincinnati and, just like the real Cincinnati Strangler, he attacked and strangled seven women in their homes, using items similar to those used by the Cincinnati Strangler. And, also like the Cincinnati Strangler, he was caught attempting to kill what would have been his eighth victim.
But, in 1965-1966, my main interests were boys, learning how to drive and school, pretty much in that order. So I paid little attention to the news, never realizing how what was going on then (in my city) would mirror the novel I would write many years later.
Was it merely a coincidence that what I wrote so strongly paralleled what really happened? Or, even though I don’t consciously remember the news stories, did my subconscious retain bits and pieces for all those years?