Shadow Boxing

A blog that probes the mind's dark secrets

Serial Killers Only

A new digital quarterly on serial murder promises to entertain but also educate.

One of my colleagues, Lee Mellor, got it into his head that someone needed to create a quarterly magazine devoted exclusively to serial murder. So, he did it, and it’s a stunner. Beautifully designed, this debut issue features case histories written like short stories of such people as Col. Russell Williams and the enigmatic Israel Keyes. Lee, the editor-in-chief, even wrote a feature about the final words and meals of these offenders.

The first issue comes out today! To introduce it, I asked Lee some questions, which he graciously answered below:

1. Please describe the concept for Serial Killer Quarterly and tell us what's in the first issue.

Serial Killer Quarterly is an e-magazine, the first publication by Grinning Man Press. This issue includes the killers you named above, plus the DC Snipers and the Internet's first serial killer, John Edward Robinson. We've also included some lighter sections to break things up, such as “Killer Flicks,” where we review films featuring real or fictional serial murder cases. Mr. Brooks is in the hot-seat this quarter.

2. What motivated you to found this magazine?

I was inspired by the true crime/detective magazines of the 20th century. Though popular in the first half of the century, by the 1970s, most had been forced out of print due to the high overhead costs of printing and distribution, along with competition from television and cinema. With the advent and increasing popularity of electronic books, Grinning Man Press wants to take advantage of the lower cost of e-publishing to resurrect the genre. We’re focusing exclusively on serial murder cases due to the immense and enduring public interest in the topic. Research has shown that 40% of true crime publications feature cases of serial killing.

That said, there were some elements of earlier true crime magazines that we do not wish to replicate. One example is the ubiquitous cover illustrations of scantily clad women being bound and gagged by hulking males. Not only are these images dangerously misogynistic and insulting to our female readers but many serial killers have admitted to having used them pornographically in late childhood and adolescence.

The last thing Grinning Man wants to do is foster a new generation of Ted Bundys, so we take a more subtle, ominous approach to our illustrations. For example, “21st Century Psychos” features an image of Alaskan serial killer Israel Keyes unearthing his “hit kit” on a moonlit night. We've also replaced the earlier magazine's tacky bright colors with a grittier more noir aesthetic. 

3. What’s your vision for it? 

Artistically, we aim to bring our readers nail-biting true life page turners that make for compelling reads without resorting to sensationalism. For readers who are interested in criminal psychology or criminology, we have also included a number of sidebars with descriptions of concepts such as psychopathy, sexual sadism, victimology, etc. However, this content is supplementary, and readers who are simply interested in a gripping story can ignore it. So the magazine is both entertaining and educational.

Also, I think there is a certain unwarranted stigma attached to reading true crime publications. Where I personally don't mind sitting on the subway thumbing through a paperback on Richard Ramirez (great way to stop people from sitting beside you), I feel that a lot of curious readers are very self-conscious about how this would be perceived. By bringing true crime to our readers' tablets, laptops, cell phones, and e-readers, they can enjoy this genre in public without having to worry about being unfairly judged by workmates or fellow commuters.

4. You're laying out some issues by themes. What can we expect in the near future?

This year's line-up is already finalized, and I am incredibly excited about it. Following our Winter 2014 issue “21st Century Psychos,” will be “Partners in Pain.” This issue focuses on serial murderers who kill in teams, including male-male couples (Burke & Hare/Duffy & Mulcahy/Lake & Ng), male-female (Clark & Bundy/Bernardo & Homolka), female-female (Golay & Rutterschmidt), and murderous teams of three or more people (Corll, Henley, and Brooks).

Issue #3, “Unsolved in North America,” will be published in the summer of 2014, with features on the "Servant Girl Annihilator" by the legendary Harold Schechter, with whom I had the pleasure to dine in NYC last summer, and Michael Newton's look at the compelling case of the "Cleveland Torso Murderer," which left a black stain on the career of the celebrated detective Eliot Ness. 

The year will end with Fall 2014's “Cruel Britannia” – an issue devoted to British serial killers. Burl Barer will write a feature piece on the infamous “Yorkshire Ripper” Peter Sutcliffe, Carol Anne Davis returns with a story about the grotesque Robert Napper ripper-murders, and you’ll be there with the horrific crimes and philosophies of “Moors Murderers” Ian Brady and Myra Hyndley. 

5. What fresh angle on the topic does your publication bring? 

As Serial Killer Quarterly is an electronic publication which can reach the world, we're striving to build a magazine which truly reflects and respects our international readership. By the end of the year we will have featured killers from the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Russia, and Mexico. So we're hoping to broaden our reader's knowledge of multiple murder as a truly international phenomenon.

We will hold off on the more notorious cases until at least 2015, as Bundy, Dahmer, Gacy, Gein and Jack the Ripper have already been done to death (no pun intended). Serial Killer Quarterly will present cases that are equally as fascinating, but have, for whatever reason, flown under the radar of the general public.

Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D., an expert on murder and other shadow themes, teaches forensic psychology and has published 46 books.

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