From the Vault

Historical Reporter (image)

Mother Knows Best (image)

Sports Reporter (image)

Surfing is Surfing:
an essay on Grant Shilling

by Clayton Webb

We Don't Care What You Say

Growth Rings

Babes in the Woods

Exile off Main Street

Kids & Play & Adults

Squeegee People, Vulture Culture & Cars

Survival of the Fittest

True Crimes

Copper Ann

Bodysurfing, Travel & the Dead

Haunted Houses

Rock & Roll Road Kill, Kill, Kill!

Storage Locker


True Crimes

by Grant Shilling

K. and I woke to each other and long silence and tea. We do this well together. Eventually we settled into conversation about a Spin magazine article about these teenage boys who were lovers and how one murdered his parents, getting the other to finish the job.

I told K. that I don’t normally read this stuff and that I had to stop reading this article after a while because it was so disturbing. What disturbed me the most was that the profile of the boys didn’t seem that different than boys I knew. Boys who resent their parents. Bad boys who hang with other bad boys, bringing out the worst in each other and then trying to top it.

It made me think of some of the troubled teenager boys I know and my responsibility to them.

K. and I talked about the idea of ‘influence’ and role models, etc. Why? Why bother? When to draw a line – to protect yourself or others. I told K. how I was disturbed about what the boy – the very cute boy (The piece was called “About a Boy” which is after a Patti Smith song after Kurt Cobain which suggests some pop murder/ suicide self-fulfilling genre) was saying to his parents.

“This is for not letting me play my White Zombie tapes…”

The utter banality of his complaints should serve as a warning to anyone responsible for the care of children or teenagers.

I don’t have any children--nor do I plan to--and as a result I make it a point to keep the company of a variety of younger friends and I often wonder what my role in it is. Not being the parent, but the older friend to these young folks is a mutually agreeable situation. In some cases their mothers have been my lovers or close friends. In some cases these young adults could also be my lover--if events were allowed to go that way. But this doesn’t seem appropriate, beneficial or necessary. It just suggests a level of understanding and comfort. Too young to be my lovers--but old enough to murder.

In one situation I would very much like to talk to a boy who doesn’t have a male role model.We used to be close- but both our relationships with his mother are fucked, so we remain estranged. He sees a therapist instead.

What K. and I then began to discuss is, is publishing stuff like this harmful, does it promote more of the same etc.? Eventually K. and I dropped the subject because it was a sunny day and she was headed off to work and needed less stress--not more, before heading off.

Well, I headed of to the beach (I’m a bum remember) and picked up a New Yorker to read. I read an article about “The Shock of the True.”

“True Crime,” is the name that has attached itself to journalistic and literary accounts of human ghastliness, explained the New Yorker article. The article by Alex Ross discussed a lot of things K. and I questioned, and issues I hadn’t even considered, perhaps because I’m not a crime/mystery novel reader.

The article did talk about books I’ve read; Capote’s In Cold Blood, and Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter (25th anniversary edition of the Manson’s prosecutor’s book). “The author deserves thanks for insuring that Manson will undoubtedly never leave jail, but the book that maintains his infamy also maintains his fame.”
I have a friend who is interested in serial killers ( I’m sure you have one too ). He tells me he is interested in serial killers because he’s interested in what makes them tick. ( A response that is typical).

I had my serial crime loving friend read this ‘fiction’ from the Summer Fiction New Yorker. It was a story by Nancy Huston. The story deals with a frustrated college professor who goes on a killing rampage on campus.

Sound familiar?

Well, my friend thought so also. He said it reminded him of three actual college campus murder stories.

Did he like the story?



“Because it talked more about the victims than the murderer.”

Which is exactly why I liked the story. It made the victims real.

My concerns about the relationship between media and murder and how it effects young people is in a way a media manufactured concern. If none of us read (sometimes I’m glad people don’t read so much) or saw ‘true crime’ stories on tv, would I think it is a necessary topic of discussion with some of the kids I know?

I’ve talked to many people about the Spin murder story and New Yorker ‘true crime’ articles and their relation to people I know. The most consistent aspects we focussed on were boredom, and small towns and boredom.

On the Hastings bus I ended up talking to a most attractive woman from small town BC, whom, I was surprised to see on this floating mental asylum known as a bus on a Hastings Saturday night. She looked vulnerable. And we talked about vulnerability and eventually ended up talking about the Spin article etc.

Her eyes just got wider and wider. I feared that I was weirding her out at first and became a ‘suspect’ myself. But no. She talked about the necessity of leaving her small town behind because she couldn’t” grow” there. She talked about the routines friends of hers had fallen into: work and drink and porn videos.

Then she grew silent and her eyes soft and she said,”There were two guys who weren’t into all that and I worked out with them over Christmas when I went back home. Then I came back to Vancouver and in the spring, those two guys were arrested for a murder they commited in the fall. I was with them all that time – they had done it already and I never knew.”

The fiend in our midst?

“A sound relationship with one’s neighbours depends on a careful balance of knowledge and ignorance, and the kind of mind that would readily believe in a serial killer living next door does not rest easily at night,” writes Ross.

Well, for now I’m sleeping fine – but I’m beginning to wonder –y’ah know?

Terminal City September 19 – 26, 1996