The brutal murder of a friend leaves lawyer John Coleman stunned and sends shockwaves through the city of Cleveland. The technique of the killing recalls memories of the Torso Murderer, who dismembered at least twelve people decades ago and then vanished—eluding even legendary crime fighter Eliot Ness. Jennifer, the victim’s beautiful daughter, hires John to handle her father’s estate, and romantic feelings for her soon complicate his already troubled marriage. When John finds himself entangled with a cold-blooded biker gang, an ex-cop with a fuzzy past, and the drug-addicted son of the dead man, he struggles to make sense of it all.
But he cannot shake a growing sense of dread.
There was never any trouble at the Tam O’Shanter, even on a rocking weekend night, even when one of the Tribe smacked a homer for a go-ahead run. Tim and Karen ran a tight joint, the perfect hideaway to lounge beneath faded posters of ’70s rock bands and sip a cold one. So when Karen screamed from the seedy alley behind the bar, our little oasis was shattered. Tim bolted for the back door.
I rushed after him and squinted in the bright sunlight. Tim was cradling his wife in his arms. She stared at me vacantly, then broke away and retched. Huddled over the rough asphalt, in her thin T-shirt and faded jeans, Karen reminded me of a fragile little girl. The wastebasket she’d intended to empty lay near her, paper napkins and discarded receipts fluttering in the humid breeze. Tim waved a hand toward a Dumpster, its top flung open, wedged tight against the crumbling brick wall. “Don’t look.”
But I did.
The sight of a naked body, sprawled across plastic garbage bags, was impossible to miss. Or part of a body, really, because the head was gone. So was everything below the waist. The hairy torso had been split down the middle, and I didn’t need to be a pathologist to know that someone had scooped out the guts and the lungs and the heart. Flies droned incessantly and, in the summer heat, the stench of rancid meat wafted to me. I backed away.
The idea for writing The Company of Demons came to me years ago, soon after I had moved to Cleveland. Waiting in a bleak conference room for a deposition to begin, I passed the time by examining a few mid-century black-and-whites of the city. As I studied one photograph in particular, an older attorney entered and commented that the picture was of Kingsbury Run, where the Torso Murderer had left many of his victims.
I had no idea whom he was talking about—but was soon hooked on the tale of the infamous, brutal killer. The fact that he had evaded Eliot Ness and terrorized Cleveland for over a decade was both mystifying and gripping. For a time, I considered writing a non-fiction book, focusing on the interaction between Ness and the killer, but could not break away from the idea of a novel that imagined the eerie return of the Torso Murderer to the Cleveland of today.
I then needed a character to tell the story, and didn’t want a stereotypical ex-Navy SEAL, tough guy, hard-bitten private investigator. John Coleman is a deeply troubled man who faces the very real prospect of losing everything he has. As he careens from one life-altering event to another, he can save himself—and his family—only by confronting his own personal demons.
It took years of effort to learn the craft and grasp the process of creating flawed, believable characters whose story we want to know. Seminars, writing conferences, editors, books on writing, and more seminars. And writing, of course, pure and simple. Applying my posterior to a chair for as long as I could tolerate and clicking away at my keyboard until The Company of Demons emerged. Thank you for letting me share with you the enduring mystery of the Torso Murderer.