Alafair Burke and the Serial Killer

Posted on September 3, 2007

Author Alafair Burke talks about her hot new book, Dead Connection (Henry Holt), in a new interview.

Dead Connection was originally supposed to be a true crime novel about the infamous BTK serial killer Dennis Rader, but the author decided to change the book to a novel.

Dead Connection was to be a true-crime book. How did it become a novel featuring your new character, Ellie Hatcher?

A. Ellie's past grew out of my own experiences as a child in Wichita in the late 1970s. ... For years, people in this small Midwestern city were terrorized by the idea of a man who walked into houses in the light of day, cut the phone cords and then calmly called 911 when he was finished torturing and killing women and children.

When BTK resurfaced (years later), I wanted to write about the case, but I wasn't certain in what form. I eventually went so far as to contact (Rader's) lawyer to explore the possibility of an interview. In response, I received a handwritten letter from the defendant. From the letter's tone and content, it was clear to me that my interest in the case had made him feel important. I felt sick to my stomach. As a consequence, I decided not to get near a true-crime story with a 10-foot pole.

Instead, I took a hard look at what it was I really wanted to write about. It wasn't the details of that specific case but rather the tolls that such heinous crimes take upon the victims' survivors and, indeed, upon an entire city. I decided I could explore that through fiction, and specifically through Ellie Hatcher.

Alafair's tough. We wouldn't chat with the BTK Killer for all the advance money in the world. Well, maybe for a really, really big advance. But still...getting a letter from the BTK Killer would be pretty creepy. You can visit Alafair's website at

Image: Henry Holt and Co

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