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author's note

Rock, Scissors, Paper

In the early eighties in the lower mainland of British Columbia, a career criminal and serial killer named Clifford Robert Olson stalked, abducted, and killed eleven children we know about. Authorities suspect him of as many as forty killings, including some of the Highway murders, which have never been solved, but which carry Olson's signature and M.O. The case is one of the most heinous and grievous on record, and earned Olson the moniker "The Beast of BC."

One of the nastiest and most litigious aspects of the case was the infamous cash-for-bodies deal Olson finagled with the BC Attorney General's department: ten grand a body, and one "freebie" to confess to the killings and take the police to the bodies and personal effects of the victims. Without his confession, there was every likelihood Olson would have gotten away with his crimes for lack of hard evidence.

Because the deal was approved, and attempts by lawyers working on behalf of the parents of the victims ultimately failed to recover the money at the Supreme Court appeals level, the case offers a lot of food for thought.

I was compelled to work on this book when I discovered one of Olson's victims was one of my first students. (I'm orginally from Victoria, BC and lived in Vancouver for a time.) Suddenly things weren't coming to me in safe transfusion from my television wall.

It is my contention that Olson is just a pimple on the hide of a macho-demento culture, and, hence, the current work is more than mere pornography or anti-hagiography. Indeed it is my hope to cover, through interlocking dramatic monologues and narrative sequencing, a sad story of how all these cases play out as sick entertainment and continue to titillate readers who lead lives of quiet desperation in the burbs of all our major cities.

We're talking about evil, certainly, but also about a sick society that privileges these stories and begets bad actors, board games, serial killer cards, song lyrics, magazines, web sites, computer games and all sorts of misogynistic effluvia that are symptoms of a much bigger disease than individual psychopathy. Is the culture psychopathic? Maybe, but whatever it is, the debates about nature/nurture, rehabilitation/retribution, etc. need to go far beyond true crime invective and psycho-social analysis.

We need to look in the mirror at a much uglier creature than Olson in order to determine why the west -- particularly the U.S. -- spawns so many of these evil creatures, and why they have become our culture's Robin Hood/ Billy the Kid figures. Olson, like Bundy before him, knew he had charisma, and used all the culture's worst vices to aid and abet his agenda. That's why the case bears poetic investigation.

- Richard Stevenson


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BluePrintReview - issue 23 - (dis)comfort zones