|Grosse Pointe: If It Happens Here, It’s News|
I’ve received a number of emails about the recent murder case out of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, in which the wealthy wife of a wealthy guy ended up dead in her Mercedes SUV a ways away from her wealthy neighborhood. Most wonder if I’m following the case for a possible next true crime book.
No, I’m not.
It’s a sad situation made sadder by a media that again is bent on creating a monster before charges are filed. It was done with Stephen Grant, about whom I wrote a book in 2008, A Slaying in the Suburbs: The Tara Grant Murder. Grant confessed and is serving out what will be a life sentence.
Bob Bashara has retained defense ace David Griem, again shades of Grant, who also retained Griem until shortly before his arrest. I sat down with Griem for Slaying and enjoyed him. He is a bulldog.
As a story, the Grosse Pointe debacle is compelling even without the nutty TV reports. Mr. Bashara does a good job of denying his involvement today in the Freep. But it’s not the stuff of a book I need to do.
When I am assessing a story for a possible crime book, I look for something that is completely odd. With Grant, it was the bizarre behavior of Grant combined with the collective stupidity of the Macomb County Sheriff’s office, which allowed him to slip out the back door as it was executing a warrant for a murder.
On March 2, as Grant stood in the kitchen, police began the routine of searching his house. They fanned out, moving from room to room, shifting furniture, opening dressers, shuffling papers and closing cabinets.
The search warrant covered “latent fingerprints, blood samples, hair samples, animal hair, stained clothing, fibers and other trace evidence which corroborate the crime. Any and all electronic devices, including but not limited to, computers, media storage, answering machines, cell phones and digital recorders.”
Free to leave, but with his vehicles impounded, Grant moved onto the front porch, freezing in the 12-degree temperature, and dialed Mike Zanlungo. Tara and Steve were good friends with Mike and his wife, Leanne, who lived a couple miles away in another subdivision.
Grant walked away, got Mike’s truck and led police on a lengthy chase that ended with Grant’s capture in the middle of a freezing forest.
I still shake my head at the idiocy of that law enforcement agency; still more when I realize that the captain of that sinking ship, Mark Hackel, is now the chief administrator in the county.
With Girl, Wanted: The Chase for Sarah Pender, what grabbed me was the amazing ability of Pender to make things happen and to execute such a graceful escape. I also came into a wealth of information about her time on the run, simply through reporter sleuthing, that made the book an Edgar nomination.
I’m still puzzled by the whole Edgar thing. Penguin has refused to pay my expenses to the awards in New York. I suppose a big corporate interest like that cares nothing about those who make it money.
For the book I am finishing today for Penguin, Nobody’s Women: The Cleveland Serial Killer, I stop and wonder. Writing it is done in a black hole of sadness, and sometimes it permeates my day to day. The book is a barrage of darkness that leaves me feeling down every time I touch it. The killer, Anthony Sowell, was a remorseless sociopath; I’ve watched four hours of interrogation video that will be part of the book. I’ve talked with him on the phone. He has refused to acknowledge his deeds, instead feebly insisting they were part of a dream.
I took that book because I have always been interested in the serial killer mind. But instead of the glimpse of that mind, I was taken for a torturous tour of violence. I am spent by writing this book, and it will read like an intense carnival ride.
I recently read back the first draft of the manuscript and had to pause at several points. The only comparison I have is the first Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds lp, From Her to Eternity. For years, I could listen to maybe three songs and then had to stop, just to absorb it. It was a hard ride for the ears and the heart, and I read every word on the handwritten lyric sheet. I hope Women has the same effect on the reader when it comes out later this year. This is not some page turner, really. It’s a dark, sad trip. I am prepared for failure. But it has to be written.
I’m not making an artistic comparison to Eternity by any means; Eternity is one of the best records ever made, standing straight next to Exile, Volume IV and Raw Power. My next is a book about a guy who killed 11 people in a very violent manner. The End. Music and homicide. Sometimes the lines cross.
The Grosse Pointe murder, as we began to discuss, is a pedestrian murder story with a whodunit angle. Hardly the stuff of a big book. When there is an arrest, perhaps something will be untangled. The sad part is that newspapers can no longer be counted on to do that untangling. The good news is that for a reasonably savvy writer, the true crime book supplants hard core daily reporting, as it did in the Grant book. The corporate news is moving on to the next fad, while we toil and construct a story.