Amid the green-gold hills of Tuscany in summer – a dazzling landscape of farmhouses and villas, olive groves, and picture-postcard views – a depraved killer stalks lovers’ lanes, spying on young couples and killing them as they make love, then desecrating the bodies of the women.
The premise of the next Jefferson Bass novel – Dr. Bill Brockton’s Tuscan “vacation”?
I wish. Actually, it’s a true story, told – and told brilliantly – by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi in their true-crime masterpiece, The Monster of Florence, which I took on my recent trip to Florence as bedtime reading. Some people might find my choice of bedtime reading somewhat puzzling, but I know that all you Killer Nashville fans – twisted lot that you are! – can totally relate…
For those of you who haven’t read the book, it recounts a series of gruesome killings (seven double murders and the postmortem female mutilations) that terrified people in and around Florence in the 1970s and ‘80s. Mario Spezi is a Florentine journalist who began covering the killings right from the start; Spezi gave the killer his nickname, the “Monster of Florence,” and was himself dubbed the “Monstrologist” for his leading role in covering the slayings, which occurred on moonless summertime Saturday nights. Co-author Preston has written a number of nonfiction books and novels, most notably the bestselling Pendergast series of thrillers, which – shades of Jefferson Bass, the dynamic Body Farm duo! – he co-writes with Lincoln Child.
The Florence murders themselves are shocking, but in a stranger-than-fiction twist, Spezi and Preston end up becoming characters in their own story – suspects snared in an insane, Kafkaesque web of prosecutorial conspiracy theories. Their story is a journalist’s worst nightmare, but it’s a reader’s dream-come-true. Reportedly a movie’s now in the works, with George Clooney signed to portray Preston; assuming it happens, it’ll raise the profile of this fine book, which is (a) a great read, (b) a sobering reminder that horrific serial killings aren’t just the products of novelists’ sick imaginations, and (c) a searing indictment of the witch-hunt mentality and career ambition to which truth and justice sometimes take a backseat, when investigations spin out of control and become monsters themselves.
The Monster of Florence was the perfect book for me to read just now, not just because I was visiting Florence (and bicycling in the beautiful, bloody hills of Tuscany), but also because Dr. Bill Bass and I have just agreed to write another two books for William Morrow – novels #8 and 9, astonishingly! – and in #8, Dr. Bill Brockton will match wits with a serial killer for the first time. Those of you who’ve followed the series know that we’ve resisted the temptation to jump on the serial-killer bandwagon. But now we’ve got a spin that seems compelling and (for lack of a better word) novel, so the time seemed ripe. And as the Bard said centuries ago, “ripeness is all.”
Wish us well as we descend into this new circle of darkness. And send a glimmer of light our way by coming to see us in all our incarnations – Jon Jefferson, Dr. Bill Bass, and Jefferson Bass – at Killer Nashville!
Jon Jefferson is the “writer” half of the bestselling duo Jefferson Bass. He and his scientific collaborator, renowned forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass, are the creators of the bestselling Body Farm series. Their latest novel, The Inquisitor’s Key, was #24 on the New York Times list.
(The Killer Nashville Guest Blog series is coordinated by KN Executive Director Beth Terrell (http://www.elizabethterrell.com/). To be a part of this series, contact Beth at email@example.com.)