Another dive into true crime…and having read and reviewed Steve Jackson’s Rough Trade, I anticipated a well-written exploration of something creepy In fact, I recall being surprised by the quality of Rough Trade (reviewed at https://littorallibrarian.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/rough-trade-by-steve-jackson/). So I was happy to receive an advance copy of Mr. Jackson’s “A Clockwork Murder” from Wild Blue Press and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Jackson’s approach differs from that of many TC authors, as he explained in the foreword to Rough Trade: “It’s not the blood and gore, or sexual titillation, I’m looking for…I’m interested in the psychology and “ripple effect” of violent crime, and the back stories of the human beings involved: killers, victims, law enforcement, those involved in the justice system, and the community.”
And wow, does he have a lot of material to work with in this exploration of two of the creepiest murderers ever, George Woldt and Lucas Salmon. These two friends shared a fascination with the movie A Clockwork Orange (hence the title), a movie from the 19070s that explores the theme of violence and ‘ultra-violence’, as it follows the actions of some guys who take joy in terrorizing others. Seen as an extreme example to those who are outcasts and do not feel self-empowered, it often reinforces the idea that people can do whatever they please, without regard to the repercussions.
These two weirdos met as teenagers. In high school, Woldt didn’t really stand out, being just another somewhat troubled teenager in a rough high school. He possessed the skill to be a charmer, especially face-to-face with females, although behind their backs he was known for saying they were all bitches good for only one thing: sex. Known for the screaming matches he would get into with his Korean mother, he was widely regarded by friends and associates as someone obsessed with very strange ideas fantasies, including the desire to commit rape and assault…which most saw who knew him saw as bluster. At one point he was married to Becky, who “tried to get him to go to counseling to deal with his anger, but he wouldn’t. Instead, she learned to do what he said or suffer the consequences. He was a master manipulator…”
Lucas Salmon was also an odd guy, although from a more traditional family. Lucas was seen by many to be the victim of George’s control, and he “…envied George Woldt and wanted to be like him—have sex with women and not care what other people thought of him. And he especially wanted George to quit teasing him about being a virgin.”
The book goes into gruesome detail about the night these two finally made their long-discussed fantasy come true, as they randomly chose a woman (a beautiful young athlete named Jacine), abducted her (in view of numerous witnesses), raped and tortured her, and murdered her, leaving her corpse under a van in a school parking lot. Being complete lunatics, they kept the bloody knife and the victim’s bloody sweatshirt in the car they used for the crime, parking it in front of their apartment (which they shared with George’s wife Bonnie) until the police showed up shortly after the witnesses had called in the license plate number of the car.
I kept shaking my head at the crazy that leapt off every page. These two were bad enough, but Bonnie was also wacko: “Bonnie said she couldn’t understand why her husband didn’t come to her if he wanted to rape someone. She would have been more than willing to act out the fantasy…Bonnie had pouted that she thought she was prettier than Jacine and complained, “Why her and not me?”” Holy hell.
There is a boatload of detail about the trials and the effect of the crime on the victim’s families, particularly Jacine’s mother and stepfather. There was so much that completely reinforced my already negative view of our system of “justice,” in this case emphasizing the way the system focuses on the plight of those on trial and ignores the victim(s). The reliance on “expert witnesses” was another source for my disgust, as various psychologists and psychiatrists trotted out theories and justifications, including “dependent personality disorder” for Lucas and the truly mind-boggling idea that as he was raping Jacine, George actually had the mindset that HE was the victim of sexual assault! (yeah, I told you – crazy).
It is possibly the most horrific crime book I’ve read, partly due to the fact that the two perpetrators were totally matter-of-fact about the way they picked their victim completely at random (so perhaps it COULD happen to anyone), and how they confessed in great detail, down to the fact of their high-fiving one another after Jacine was finally dead. Ugh.
Lots to ponder here, about the judicial system, death penalty, whether it is right for defense attorneys to do ANYTHING to avoid conviction, the rights of victims, etc.
As I said about Rough Trade, this isn’t literature, nor is it meant to be. What it IS is quality True Crime, well written and researched. It’s definitely five star true crime, but be warned — it is HORRIFIC.