At the very beginning, you need to ask yourself why.
Why do I want to do this project? Why am I so fascinated and why can’t I help but want to know more?
The crimes we are writing about in our book are particularly heinous, cruel, and despicable. They involved rape, torture, and murder. The theft of young life before its full potential had been realized.
Why are we dredging up the past?
For us, the story we are telling is important because it is representative of a past that is slipping away into oblivion. The locale where the crux of our case occurred is slowly slipping away into the sea. Time, industry, and neglect have taken their toll on the land and have forced it into a slow, steady decay.
In 50 years, it may be gone altogether.
As that land dies, so too do the memories of these victims. They were brutalized and robbed of the very essence of their humanity. Their lives ended while they were young and optimistic and full of hope for the future.
We are not glorifying the deeds of the individual responsible. We are not looking to profit from his evil.
Instead, we want to give something to these victims that they never had.
Sure, we can’t go back and undo the evil that was done, and we cannot give them the years that were taken from them. But we can make sure that they are remembered. We can give them at least one more chance at a life, albeit in the memories of those who have carried on in the years since.
For us, this is the essence of both our project, and true crime writing as a whole.
Yes, there are those who are less scrupulous and are only in it to earn what they can off the misfortune of others. There are those who identify with the killers, and actually do seek to glorify him and others like him.
But at its heart, the true crime genre is about giving the victims a chance at some kind of future. It may not last. They may once again slide into obscurity, drifting into the gulf with the tide and the soil and the lifeblood of this town.
Yet they deserve that chance. They deserve to be seen and remembered not as victims of violent crime, but as people.
It has been our experience that this kind of writing is incredibly taxing, demanding, and draining. It weighs on the mind and the soul. It takes a toll from the writer and the researcher that comes at a high cost. But this is what it takes.
When it’s 3:30 in the morning, and the world is quiet around you, and you’re sifting through newspapers from 1978 looking for any small detail that may help fill in those gaps in the story, remember them. Remember their stories. And breathe life into them once more.
It’s the least we can do.