I am a fan of horror fiction, always have been and my favourite author is the king of horror, the one and only Mr Stephen King. I have read everything that man has written (even his books on baseball and I have no idea what goes on in baseball, not a clue), yet I’ve never killed anybody, never come close to it and I am sure there are hundreds of thousands of you fellow Constant Readers out there who haven’t killed anyone either.
So why is it that when a murderer is spotted holding a book by King it is immediately leaped upon by the media and suddenly it is the killer’s reading habits that are the probable reason as to why they committed their crimes?
I have written about King, his books and their alleged links to crimes before; King himself cancelled all future printings of one of his short stories (Rage, a book which detailed a school hostage and shooting incident) after several school shooters were found to have either read, or owned Rage with the final straw coming after Michael Carneal who had shot eight fellow students at a prayer meeting in West Paducah in December of 1997 was found to have had a copy of Rage in his locker.
Now it seems that King is to yet again be linked to a brutal crime through no fault of his own. A Bronx man who has been charged with butchering his own girlfriend and then dumping her in the trash has been spotted on his way to court with King’s novel Finders Keepers in his pocket. The alleged murderer is one Miguel Bonilla appeared in the Bronx Supreme court where he plead not guilty to the murder and dismemberment of his 53 year old girlfriend Juana Alvarez.
The horrific nature of the crime itself is news enough surely, but for one News website apparently not. Daily News New York ran an article whose introduction focused solely on the novel that Bonilla happened to have poking out of his pocket before tacking details of the actual crime onto the end, almost as an afterthought. With comments such as “A Bronx man charged with butchering his sleeping girlfriend — before tossing her out with the trash — is catching up on his grisly reading behind bars.” And “Bonilla was holding a paperback copy, which features a title written in blood and a bloody treasure chest hanging in a tree.” The article is definitely hinting at a direct correlation between Bonilla’s reading habits and his actions which I think is unfair and more than a little dangerous.
Would an adultress carrying a copy of Fifty Shades garner the same interest? A hopeless romantic carrying Mills and Boon? A man in a suit carrying an Ian Fleming novel be thought of as a spy? Of course not, so why is it that when a murderer has an interest in horror their reading habits are brought into question and are often cited as either inspiration for or a how to guide to murder? I’ve read Finders Keepers and the other two books in the series (missed a trick there Daily News, it means he must have read Mr Mercedes already) and my partner still has all his appendages. Am I reading it wrong? No, of course I’m not and when the media, especially news reporting media is reporting on a crime, criminal, or court case, the defendant’s reading habits should not be of interest, or be reported.
The horror section of bookshops has already been relegated to a back corner, hidden away from polite readers but if this penchant for linking crimes to the perpetrator’s reading habits continues I can see myself and other horror buffs having to surf the dark web for our literary fixes.
How very Fahrenheit 451.