Sitting at my office desk, I was struggling to put together an article when I saw a fresh batch of books being carried inside Vishwakarma Publications office. The dazzling red cover attracted my attention, and on a closer look the unusual title intrigued me. I picked up a copy with the intention of rummaging through the pages, but before I knew I had already read 20 pages. I was hooked – the sparkling writing style, and the unusual subject had worked its charm. ‘Twisted’, a crime non-fiction is the latest best selling book by Vishwakarma Publications. I spoke to the co-writer of the book Sampada Karandikar and tried to understand what it took to put together a book on Indian serial killers.
1. Crime fiction is a common enough genre but criminal non-fiction is almost unheard of in popular literature. What prompted you to engage in such a subject?
It was the realization that a discussion about serial killers brings names like Ted Bundy, or Jack the Ripper to the mind. Indian serial killers are practically unheard of. Apart from Raman Raghav, and Charles Sobhraj, who have become sort of cult names, Indian serial killers have received no attention. There are numerous other serial killers, and the stories of victims that have not found a mention anywhere apart from in criminal records. Serial crime is perhaps the most under explored arena of crime in India. We thought about taking up this subject with the aim of providing insights into the modus-operandi of serial killers, and the vulnerability of victims.
2. The book is written by you and Mr. Shirish Thorat. What was the division of roles?
Mr. Thorat is a retired Police Officer. So he was familiar with a lot of the contemporary cases. He worked largely on piecing together the stories that you find at the beginning of each chapter and adding investigative analysis to each chapter. I worked on understanding the crime patterns and categorizing them based on modus-operandi and the type of crime. My background in Psychology helped me to engage in a personality analysis of the criminals.
3. How did you come to select the profiles of these serial killers?
It was perhaps the easiest part in writing this book. We have included only those killers who have been convicted of their crimes. We ensured that we included female offenders, so that patterns of female serial crime could also be adequately discussed.
4. Were any personal interviews conducted with the killers? If yes, what was the experience like? If no, how did you resolve the challenge of reconstructing events from reports compiled by different people?
Unfortunately we were not able to conduct personal interviews with the killers due to several procedural barriers involved in undertaking such interviews. However, we went through all the available material and archived interviews rigorously. In most cases, our assertions are supported by research findings. However, in some cases we had to rely on our own deductions based on the analysis of the material from different perspectives.
5. In the portrayal of serial killers, a lot of focus appears to be on their life as criminals but little attention is paid to the processes and systems that propel a person toward this path. As a psychologist how did you deal with this absence, have you tried to engage in presenting the killers as human beings with all their complexities and contradictions?
Yes, this is exactly what we have done. Along with the details of their crime, there is also focus on their lives before the crimes. This is imperative for understanding the socioeconomic backgrounds of each serial killer, and incidents that may have ushered them to the path of crime.
6. Meticulous attention has been paid to reconstruct the thoughts and expressions of both victims and the serial killers. How did you manage to reconstruct these thoughts and emotions especially of the victims?
We personally interviewed and read numerous interviews of the survivors of such assaults. This helped us empathize with the victims, and bring alive their experiences on to the pages.
7. How was your experience of publishing with Vishwakarma Publications?
Vishwakarma Publication has a young and energetic team. Apart from a few issues with proof reading of the manuscript which were later fixed, it was a great experience!
8. What is on your current reading list?
I am currently reading The Anatomy of Sting by Bhupen Patel, and Yes Please by Amy Poehler; Chandrakanta by Devaki Nandan Khatri is probably up next.