I have been ending my blog posts for the past few months with a reminder to sign up for my Mystery Newsletter, but I haven’t thoroughly explained what that newsletter is and why I write it.
Two of my main interests are biology and mysteries. In my novels, I try to combine these interests. My main character, Jane, is a fisheries biologist, and my mysteries are set in the wilderness of Alaska, where wildlife abounds. My blog posts mostly focus on the wildlife of Kodiak Island, with a few posts on my writing, my novels, and living in the Alaskan wilderness. I enjoy exploring these subjects, but I also wanted to write about mysteries and crime, and since I don’t have time to do another weekly blog post, I thought a monthly newsletter might work out well. Next, I had to think of an idea, and I decided to either write a short mystery every month or write about true crime. From all the true crime shows on television, I think there has to be a big audience out there intrigued by the evil deeds and misfortunes of others. I’m not criticizing; I watch Dateline and 48 Hours too, and I am relieved at the end of the show when the bad guy or gal gets locked away for a life sentence or two. True crime seemed like a good option for my mystery newsletter, at least for the first several months.
Since I live in Alaska, I decided to write about true crime in Alaska, but I wanted to do more than just report the brutal details of deadly crimes. I remembered a show I enjoyed that was on A & E several years ago called City Confidential. Each week the show profiled a murder in a U.S. town, usually a mid-sized city. The story was not only about the murder but also about how the crime changed the city, or why changes in the city created the right environment for this particular crime. By the end of the show, you learned the details of a crime, but you also learned something about the city where the murder was committed and the history of that city. That show made me realize how murderers can change the lives not only on of their victim’s families and friends, but they can affect a community and even a state.
This past month in my Mystery Newsletter I wrote about the crimes of serial killer Robert Hansen. Hansen preyed on women in and around the Anchorage area in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. This was the time during the construction and early operation of the Alaska oil pipeline when hordes of people moved to Alaska to either work on the pipeline or to find jobs that supported the pipeline employees. In addition to all the legitimate workers, this influx of people included mobsters, drug pushers, and prostitutes. Law enforcement in and around Anchorage was not equipped to handle the huge rise in crime. Conditions were perfect for a predator like Robert Hansen, and due in part to mistakes made by law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges, he was not caught and prosecuted as soon as he should have been. Hansen was smart, but he was not a criminal mastermind. He was simply in the right place at the right time. My newsletter about Hansen has as much to do with Alaska and the turbulent changes during that time as it does with the killer himself. Alaska did not have a decent crime lab before the Hansen case, but it now has one of the best crime labs in the country. Before the Hansen case, no protocols were in place for dealing with sexual assault crimes, but developing those protocols became a priority for the troopers while the Hansen case was proceeding. These changes would have happened without Robert Hansen, but there is an obvious cause and effect between his crimes and the immediate improvements in law enforcement in the state. Next month I will profile a case that happened just three years after Hansen was sentenced, and in this case, the Anchorage police force, crime lab, and FBI were at the top of their game, working together in perfect harmony to capture and prosecute the perpetrator.
I also try in my newsletters is to profile crimes that I think have an “Alaskan flair.” In other words, these are not crimes you are likely to see in New York or Chicago. In my first newsletter, I wrote about a crime where the neighbors in an isolated area of Alaska were gathering near an airstrip to meet their weekly mail plane, when one of the men opened fire on his neighbors. That crime directly relates to the rugged environment, long winters, and brutal isolation of living in the Alaskan wilderness. In my second newsletter, I told about the massacre of the crew of a fishing boat and a murderer that seemed to vanish into thin air. I hope in a couple of months to profile some murders that happened here on Kodiak, including one that took place this winter when a caretaker of a remote lodge murdered another caretaker. That crime hits close to home for me, but as with so many things that happen in the Alaskan wilderness, few facts have been reported.
If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter and these stories sound interesting to you, you can sign up at: http://robinbarefield.com.