I bought this book a number of years ago, when I had decided to study Psychology at A Level as a result of my wanting to gain a deeper understanding of the human mind. After-all – surely a substantial understanding of the human mind could only be a good thing for my own writing and character development right?
So I was hoping this book would provide, at the very least, in depth speculation as to what could motivate someone to kill and how they fool those closest to them. Sadly, that was not what I got.
The impression I got from this book was not of a woman who had fallen in love to realise the man she was actually a serial killer. The book felt more like a woman who desperately needed attention because her writing was so terrible and she just so happened to get caught up in and survive a brief, week long affair with a man who turned out to be a killer. There was never any sense of really knowing this guy, or even really caring about him. Fawkes constantly makes out like all this guy was to her, was sex, and not even good sex (as she reminds us almost constantly). She doesn’t even really do that goo a job at making her companion sound mysterious or intriguing, as we are led to believe he was. Overall, all she really succeeds in doing is making Knowles sound incredibly dull and makes herself sound like an attention seeking, poor writer, desperate for an ego boost.
We are led to believes Fawkes has travelled to America because she wants to work in America, but she proceeds only to slag off anything even remotely American. Almost everything she encounters on her travels, from the people, to the places, to the food, all of it is met with distaste. Fawkes paints herself as a rather snobbish, ignorant and arrogant woman which all adds up to making her seem not particularly likeable and contributes to just one of the many contradictions she makes throughout the book.
The whole ‘I want to work in America but my gosh isn’t everything in America awful and uncultured and oh so distasteful’ dilemma is just one of the many reasons I found it so hard to buy into anything Fawkes wrote in her book. She also repeatedly contradicts herself in relation to Knowles, she wants him, but he’s terrible in bed, he’s incredibly dull but she’s intrigued by him. Poor her everyone thinks she’s out to make money and get publicity from the ordeal, but she isn’t, but I’m going to sell my story to an American Paper and try to sell it to my employer in the UK, and I’ll do a radio interview and I’ll write a book, oh but I don’t want to talk about it because it’s traumatic. I could go on.
I suppose my biggest flaw with the book is that, I was hoping for a psychological or even just an emotional insight, into what such a prolific killer had been like, what had it been like to be so close to him, how could I use this in my own work. In one respect, I did learn a few things to take with me in my own writing, there are some cases where the book is an excellent example of how NOT to write a book. There are numerous times where Fawkes seems to forget what tense she’s writing in and whether she’s writing in the first or third person. Her occasional references to herself in the third person didn’t exactly dispel my belief that the majority of the ‘detail’ in her story was totally fictional.
Even the Afterword, where Fawkes attempts to really explain herself, her feelings, and her reasoning for writing the book, does little to salvage her reputation in my opinion – not that it really deserves to be salvaged. Throughout the book she tries desperately to portray herself as this confident, sassy, nonsense and independent woman who can swear, drink and shag like the best of men. All she succeeds in doing is drawing the focus away from what this book should have been about to really please it’s target audience and draw it towards he desperate need to boost her own ego. This book isn’t about how Sandy Fawkes became the lover of one of America’s biggest serial killers, and how she narrowly escaped her first victim. This book is about how Sandy Fawkes went to America to try and boost her Journalism career, failed and got tangled up in Knowles’s case and realised she could make some money out of it, before her career in Journalism completely nosedived. At the end of the book she expresses a knowledge that this experience, and her attempts to sell the story ruined her reputation as a journalist and thus slowly killed her career. In truth, it feel more like her career was killed before that (probably due to her terrible writing ability if large sections of this book are anything to go by) and she just so happened to get caught up in an incident that she knew she could milk and earn a pretty penny out of.
I could go on forever about all the things I disliked about this book, but for now I’ll just leave you with this – Sandy Fawkes’s ‘In Love With A Serial Killer’ is quite possibly one of the worst books I have ever read. Thank goodness it was only just over 200 pages long.