Books · Journalism · Information
BTK murders echo local writer's tale of terrror
March 2, 2005
WICHITA, Kan. Minnesota mystery writer John Camp hadn't even heard of BTK, the serial killer charged with 10 counts of murder in Wichita, Kan., until a reporter called him Tuesday afternoon.
But BTK, who police believe is a city codes enforcer named Dennis Rader, seemed to know about Camp's books.
A photocopied cover of Camp's novel "Rules of Prey" was inside a package delivered Feb. 16 to KSAS-TV, Wichita's Fox affiliate. The package is believed to have been sent by BTK (for bind, torture, kill the method he used on his victims).
What is interesting, Camp said, is that this isn't the first time a serial killer has turned up in connection with the 1989 novel.
Camp, who often writes under the name John Sandford, said another serial killer did the same thing several years ago in North Carolina.
"It was from the same book," Camp said. "Somebody killed a woman, and when someone put pressure on the suspects, they said ... 'We are operating under the fictional rules of John Sandford's 'Rules of Prey.' "
Camp, 61, is a former reporter and columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch. He was on leave when he signed a $400,000 contract for two books, the first of which was "Rules of Prey."
The novel's protagonist is suave Minneapolis detective Lucas Davenport, who matches wits with "the maddog," a lawyer and serial killer who binds, gags and rapes his women victims. After each killing, "the maddog" leaves one of his rules for the cops to find: "Never kill anyone you know; never have a motive; never follow a discernible pattern; never carry a weapon after it has been used; isolate yourself from random discovery; beware of physical evidence."
Rader, 59, a married father of two, was arrested last week on suspicion of being the BTK killer believed responsible for a series of slayings in Wichita beginning in 1974. BTK sent messages to the news media about the crimes in the 1970s but stopped for more than two decades before resurfacing last March with a letter to The Wichita Eagle. Since then, BTK taunted authorities with cryptic letters.
Investigators have not said exactly how they connected Rader to the crimes. But there were strong indications that a computer disk BTK sent to a Wichita TV station played a key role. Rader's pastor was quoted as saying police asked him for a list of people who had access to the church computer and he gave them Rader's name.
Camp, who has written 14 books in the "Prey" series, said he has spent years visiting with murderers and serial killers to try to get inside their heads. Critics have praised his accurate characterizations of killers.
"In the case of the BTK killer, he is, I suspect, very much in a way like the killer in the 'Prey' book. He also left rules behind to the police," Camp theorized.
He added: "I wouldn't be surprised if people like this BTK read a lot of nonfiction about serial murders." Camp said that doesn't mean people become serial killers because they read books.
"The books are not inspiring them but are attracting their attention," he said. "People do not kill because of movies or TV or books people who do this kind of killing do it because they are sick. People who do things like BTK ... do it because of personal problems."
Camp said he has not been contacted by law enforcement.
"I did once put a serial killer in one of my books Mortal Prey I think it was who was from Wichita. She was a hit woman for the Mafia at a bar called The Rink."
He said the on-again, off-again nature of BTK's communications with the media and law enforcement did not surprise him.
"The other thing about killers they don't remain static. They evolve. He may have been into killer monster mode, then stopped when he felt guilty," Camp said.
Camp, who lives in Lakeland, won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1986 while at the St. Paul newspapers. He previously was a crime reporter at the Miami Herald and worked at the Southeast Missourian in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and as an Army journalist in Korea.
The author said he decided to take up mystery writing as he left daily journalism.
"I knew what kinds of books I wanted to write. I wrote a long story about cops and criminals and wound up talking to murderers," he said. "In talking to them, I was trying to put into my characters the way they think and kill.
"They're not just monsters, but people who think methodically."
27 February 2020
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