True! The Tell-Tale Heart(less)

Have you read The Tell-Tale HeartEdgar Allen Poe, perhaps the father of the modern thriller, published this short story in 1843. It has fascinated and stood the test of time partly because of its narrator.

He’s a cold, rational, calculating killer. But he’s not a psychopath. Why? Because what drives him insane is guilt.

Psychopaths are without conscience. They cannot and do not feel guilty. About anything. Ever. Does this make psychopaths insane? No. But it makes them very dangerous and fascinating to the rest of us.

Colin Falconer, an excellent writer from Australia, shared some thoughts on this with me recently after we’d both researched psychopaths.

Colin Falconer

We compared notes on our newest thrillers and the real life psychopaths that inspired our divergent stories. Fatal Distraction by Diane Capri and Venom by Colin Falconer.

Fatal Distraction’s villain was inspired in part by a case in my county years ago. Dubbed The Oakland County Child Killer, the case was the largest murder investigation in U.S. history at the time and it’s never been closed. We don’t know who this killer was or where he went or even why he stopped killing. But I’ve always believed someone knows. Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead.

Venom’s villain was inspired by the infamous “Bikini Killer,” Charles Sobrajh, a man who ultimately destroyed himself. Read more about Sobrajh in Colin’s excellent blog post here: Killing for Fun and Profit . And remember that psychopaths come in good packaging, as Colin showed us in The Beautiful Villain.

Remember: “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” – Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Tell us about the psychopaths you’ve known. We’d love to hear the stories of their tell-tale egos. How did you escape?

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15 Responses to True! The Tell-Tale Heart(less)

  1. Emma Burcart May 25, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    Thankfully, I haven’t know any real psychopaths! But I love reading stories about them and watching TV shows about them. It makes me want to watch the show Dexter, even though I may fear the gore. I like the thriller part, not the blood and guts. Both of the books you described sound great! Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead! I love it.

    • Diane Capri May 25, 2012 at 9:49 am #

      Thanks for the kind words, Emma. Dexter is a great show, but my opinion is that he’s not a psychopath because he most definitely has a conscience, it’s just selective. But Louise Behiel and I will be discussing the Psychopaths Among Us next week. Come by and tell us if you agree!

  2. John Coombs May 25, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    OK so now psychopaths scare me, no remorse and sane!!! I’ll get to fatal Distraction shortly and then look at Venom, I have a lot of books queued up in kindle, several of Diane’s :-)
    Where can I read up on psychopath profiles?

    • Diane Capri May 25, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      Stay tuned, John! More on psychopaths among us next week. Thanks for reading and for stopping by!

  3. Karina May 25, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    If you want to know more about psychopaths I’d recommend Jon Ronson’s “The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through The Madness Industry.” I wrote more about the book – and some other literary psychopaths – here http://litreactor.com/columns/lurid-bad-to-the-bone-part-1-juveniles

    • Diane May 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      Thanks for the suggestions, Karina. Appreciate it!

  4. shannon esposito May 25, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Psychopaths have always fascinated me. That whole debate about whether it’s nurture or nature is fun at a party. :-) I think they must have something wrong with their brain structure at birth that can be fostered by their environment as they grow or not. Can’t wait to read your posts on them!

    • Diane May 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

      They are fascinating, aren’t they? I suspect it’s because they are so foreign to what the rest of us think of as “normal.” Maybe they fascinate us in the same way as other surprising experiences do. Do come back on Monday when we’ll be talking about this a bit more.

  5. Karen McFarland May 26, 2012 at 1:08 am #

    Uh, psychopaths really creep me out Diane and Colin! I’m mean creep me out in a nightmare kind of way. I need to get tougher. LOL! But I wish you both all the best of success with both your novels! :)

    • Diane Capri May 26, 2012 at 9:33 am #

      Hi, Karen! I know what you mean…which is why we need to recognize them when we see them!! Thanks for stopping by and for the comment!

  6. Kristy K. James May 26, 2012 at 1:15 am #

    Edgar Allen Poe stories give me nightmares. I’ll have to think about reading the books you and Colin wrote, although they sound like the things bad dreams are made of (for me anyway). How scary are they?

    How long ago was the case in Oakland County? I have never heard of it. Then again, I never heard of the Bath school bombing until about five years ago either.

    • Diane Capri May 26, 2012 at 9:34 am #

      Hi, Kristy, Good questions. I was going to write a blog post on the Oakland County Child Killer. Maybe I’ll still do that….But if you click on the link, it’ll take you to the wikipedia page where it’s discussed. If you lived in the Detroit Metro area at the time, you’d have been aware, I’m sure…..Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Marcy Kennedy May 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    I don’t know about psychopaths, but I’m sure I know a sociopath without even realizing it. Last year I read the book The Sociopath Next Door and was amazed at the statistics – 1 in 7 people is a sociopath (not all are extreme). Very frightening.

    • Diane Capri May 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

      Exactly right, Marcy. The thing to remember is that not all psychopaths are killers and not all killers are psychopaths. We meet psychopaths in our daily lives all the time. Louise Behiel and I will be talking about that on Monday. Stay tuned….Thanks for the comment!

  8. Debra Kristi May 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    What? Is there a test to determine if one is a psychopath? If so, I think I know someone who should take it. The things you and Colin are talking about and sharing sound creepy and twisted, but fascinating. I used to watch a lot of shows on this kind of stuff – when I had more time for television.