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“Kill Whoever You Want, As Long As It Is Not Me” by Shane McKenzie


I’ve asked a number of authors I admire to answer the same question–why do criminals fascinate us so much?–and I will be posting each response here on my blog. It’s a question all writers–especially crime writers–should consider every once in a while. In my debut novel, Toxicity, I’ve dug deep into the minds of criminals. I have written about the bad guys. The ones we love but hate at the same time. If you haven’t pre-ordered a copy yet, I highly recommend you doing so for purely selfish reasons.

And now that you’ve done that, we will pass the time hearing what other writers in the industry have to say about the posed question.

Today Shane McKenzie takes the blog spotlight with a highly entertaining essay about murderers and teddy bears. McKenzie’s newest novel, Parasite Deep, was just released this month, and you can find the rest of his massive writing collection over at his Amazon page. 

What do you have for us today, Shane?


“Kill Whoever You Want, as Long as it is Not Me”

by Shane McKenzie

Imagine this.

You’re sitting on your couch alone. Bored out of your skull. You’ve flipped through all the channels, scrolled through Netflix, tried reading a book, but nothing is catching your attention. You toss the book aside, go back to channel surfing because you don’t know what else to do with yourself. You come across the news, and in the upper right hand corner just above the talking head’s ear is the graphic of a teddy bear spattered with blood. In its right paw, it holds a fireman’s ax, the blade soaked and dripping with more blood.

“A man in a teddy bear mask was found today by local police after neighbors complained about loud screams erupting from the woods. Officials say they found the man sitting on a limbless torso in front of a fire, sucking on a grape lollipop. Split and hacked limbs were used as firewood and let off a savory scent as they burned. The rest of the remains—six victims total—were nailed together into ghastly configurations arranged around the deranged madman like gory campers listening to a ghost story.”

Now, maybe it’s just me, but I’d perk up right away, probably turn up the volume on the TV, lean in close as the reporter told the rest of the story. Why is that? I don’t like murder. I don’t want anyone to get hurt, and I don’t think people who do hurt others should be celebrated or idolized.

So then, why do these violent criminals fascinate us so much? I don’t fucking have a clue. They probably fascinate different people for different reasons. I’m no psychologist. I’m just a dude with a dark imagination who loves telling stories. Shit, I just had to use Google to make sure psychologist was the correct term. But in my uneducated opinion, I’d say we are fascinated by criminals because they excite us. Again, I’m not saying that I think we should look up to or idolize murderers or serial killers. And when I say exciting, I do not mean arousing. But you can’t deny that the idea of someone doing those awful things to someone is, if nothing else, interesting.

Maybe it’s because each and every one of us is so caught up in our own routine. The same thing each and every day. For me, I wake up, make breakfast for my daughter and I, we play for a little while, maybe go to the park or watch a movie, then I get her ready, drop her off at her grandfather’s house, and I go to work. When I get off, I go home, eat dinner, watch a show, read a book, and go to sleep. Exciting stuff, right? Notice that nowhere in my day did I have any run ins with mass murderers in teddy bear masks. Remember that psychologist I Googled? That guy’s day is probably much different than mine. When he hears a news story like the one mentioned above, he might roll his eyes, say something like, “Same shit, different day.” But for us normal folks, we only hear that kind of stuff on TV or in books. People capable of performing acts of violence in that way aren’t real to us. They might as well be monsters or aliens or demon robots. So when this does happen in real life, maybe it’s fascinating because it’s like fiction coming to life. It’s like Jason Voorhees stepping out of your television and dicing up your neighbors.

Something about true stories gets us really excited. Let me lay out another scenario here. What if I told you a new movie was coming out about a woman who gave birth to a litter of hippopotami. You would more than likely chuckle, shake your head, wonder how stupid ass movies like this keep getting made. But then I tell you it’s based on a true story. That changes everything. It’s still not real. It’s still a movie. But just knowing that somewhere at some point in time, someone went through this for real just makes it that much more exciting.

We like stories. We like drama. As long as it’s happening to someone else.

And I think maybe that’s the key. It’s happening or happened to someone else. Someone that is not you, not anyone you know or that you’re close to.

Think about it like an offensive joke, right? You and your buddies have been making fun of retarded people your whole life. You don’t do anything cruel to these people physically, and even the mean jokes are kept private between you and your friends. The jokes are hilarious, right? Now, imagine your wife gives birth to a mentally challenged child. Those jokes aren’t so fucking funny now, are they? Because now it’s personal. Now when someone makes a joke about it, you think about your child, you get offended and pissed off and homicidal!

So remember that news story I talked about before? What if your mother was murdered just last year? Would you still feel intrigued by this story? Probably not. Now that you’ve experienced the reality of this kind of thing, whatever fascination was there before is gone.

I mean, the reason we watch horror movies or go bungee jumping or ride a rollercoaster is to experience that thrill of being in danger, but in a controlled, safe simulation. We want to feel afraid, but only if we know we won’t actually be killed. So we pretend to be chased by murderers, we pretend to jump off a bridge. Because when it’s all over, we get all the adrenaline that comes along with a near death experience, and still get to keep our fucking lives.

So I guess what it all comes down to is that we are fascinated by criminals because they are larger than life, based-on-a-true-story, safe and controlled adrenaline rushes. We hear the story, and we think, “Holy shit, I can’t believe that psycho did that.” And that thought is probably followed by a variation of, “Better them than me.”

So a criminal is fascinating as long as their victim is a stranger. Or more importantly, as long as their victim is not you.

But again, what do I know? I’m just a dude who Googles things.

Now if you’ll excuse me. I need to go wash my teddy bear mask.