The next Crime Cafe podcast interview will feature crime writer Brian Lebeau.
Brian is giving away a signed copy of A Disturbing Nature to the first five listeners or viewers who enter.
Some of you may recall, I reviewed this book a while back.
To enter the giveaway, send an email with the subject line “Crime Cafe podcast giveaway” to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the body of the email, include your name and mailing address for shipment.
In addition, every listener who signs up for Brian’s newsletter on brianlebeau.com will receive the first three chapters of the second book in the series, An Anxious Resolution.
Check out his guest post!
From Fascination to Fiction
What defines evil in the broadest sense? Is evil inherited? And when do thoughts truly equate to deeds? All are questions that were born from my fascination with war and true crime- a fascination with those who kill with their own hands and the comparisons to those who use their influence over others to kill on a grander scale. I’ve often asked myself, which is the greater evil?
This curiosity was ignited in 1975 when I visited the Fall River Historical Society with my fifth-grade class and learned about Lizzie Borden. Over the years, I became increasingly interested in prolific mass murderers. At one end of the spectrum, serial killers litter the landscape with the inexplicable acts of a deranged individual, and at the other end, war-mongering dictators drive troops into blood-soaked battlefields, engaging the masses with self-righteous conviction. Through my obsession with World War II and a desire to understand the motives of despots like Hitler, who place an alarmingly reduced value on the lives of others, I became intrigued by the psychology of serial killers. Though the trauma is the same for the family of any victim, the exploits of the most prolific serial killers are dwarfed by those of the most demonic despots. How would one compare Ted Bundy to Adolph Hitler?
In writing A Disturbing Nature, I sought to explore these questions and comparisons on a deeper level. To do so meant examining human nature as a whole. I was forced to place myself under the microscope and evaluate what I’m thinking, why I’m thinking it, and how thinking about it influences my mood and behavior. I had to allow myself to be vulnerable. It can be challenging to look at ourselves through the eyes of others, and harder still to look inside. The desire to mask our true nature from those around us is strong, so we create barriers and alter-egos to manage the perception as separate from reality. Nobody chooses to have their thoughts put on display in an uncensored way for others to judge, lest they reveal the bigotry, hypocrisy, anger, and fear that connects us all.
Opening myself up to being vulnerable allowed me to develop my characters and give them life. I was able to reflect and empathize, reaching for my inner child and juxtaposing that with my older, wiser, and often more cynical self. For the most extreme personalities like serial killers, I combined research with deep introspection, peering inside to the dark thoughts I’ve had in my life to create relatable characters—ones the reader can identify with even if they are the most villainous.
In performing these exercises, I don’t seek to answer the questions I raise. I’m merely trying to elevate the discussion. In the process, I created the two primary characters in A Disturbing Nature, Mo Lumen and Francis Palmer. Mo and Palmer occupy opposite ends of the emotional and intellectual spectrum when the story begins—Palmer is highly educated from an urban setting in the north and born into a privileged family, and Mo is from the rural south with an intellectual disability and a blue-collar upbringing. But when they are reluctantly set on a collision course, their thought patterns and motivations converge until they become almost indistinguishable. Their parallel stories illustrate how, regardless of one’s upbringing, privilege, opportunity, or intellect, everyone is only a stone’s throw away from becoming a monster.
Brian Lebeau was born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts, home of the infamous Lizzie Borden. After graduating college with an M.A. in Economics, he went on to teach at several colleges and universities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island before moving to Fauquier County, Virginia, to work as a defense contractor. In 2003, Brian co-founded a business that eventually expanded to California, where he now resides in the foothills of sunny San Diego.
In 1989, Brian woke from a vivid dream in which seminal moments in his life converged to create a disturbing story. He immediately jotted down the outline of this dream, knowing it was a story he had to tell. It wasn’t until 25 years later, when he retired from his company, that he decided it was time to write A Disturbing Nature. His debut novel, the first in what will be a four-book series, merges his three key interests: a keen fascination with everything World War II, a morbid curiosity surrounding the motivations and mayhem of notorious serial killers, and a lifelong obsession with the Red Sox.