I can remember reading about Earle Nelson in one of those Mammoth Book of Serial Killer volumes so beloved of macabre teenage boys of my generation. It stuck in my mind because of how violent the crime spree was and how prolonged and inexplicable it was to the world around him. To be fair, either I’ve misremembered details of the story (a possibility), or the version I read as a teen exaggerated greatly so it didn’t really match what’s recorded in a more sober and studied version. One of those books twisting things for lurid effect? Surely not.
Earle Nelson was dubbed the gorilla killer. He started his murders in the 1920s in San Francisco before tearing off around numerous states and ending up in Canada. His choice of victim was normally little old ladies with a room to rent, who he’d strangle with his bare hands.
The book makes an interesting, if grizzly, read. Trying to tell the tale with scientific rigour and an understanding of serial killers, when all contemporaneous reports dismissed him as simply a monster. It’s a bit dry at times, but always informative and not salacious.
Mrs Jameson and I were watching MINDHUNTER the same time I read this. I was struck that in 1927 an editorial in a Canadian paper stated that Nelson shouldn’t be executed, he should be studied. That finding out what made him tick would help understand similar men in the future. Even fifty years later, in the 1977 of MINDHUNTER, that would be forward thinking.
My debut novel, THE WANNABES – which has been out of print for a little while – is now available for free. A supernatural thriller of beautiful actresses and deadly ambition in London town, it’s well worth your time. You can get your copy here!