Kathryn Casey
Mystery and True Crime Author

THE BOOKS! TAKE YOUR PICK!

Excerpts
Click here to read the prologue to Possessed
Click here to read the first chapter of Deliver Us!
Click here to read the first chapter of Deadly Little Secrets!
Click here to read the first chapter of my latest Sarah Armstrong mystery!
True Crime
The infamous Texas stiletto murder
True Tales of Jealousy, Betrayal, and Revenge
Three decades of murder and redemption in the infamous I-45/Texas Killing Fields
A minister, his mistress, and a heartless Texas murder
A mother's love, a husband's betrayal, and a cold-blooded Texas murder
An Altar Boy, a Cheerleader, and a Twisted Texas Murder.
Murder, Revenge and Two Texas Sisters.
Sex, Murder, and a Texas Millionaire
Obsession, Lies, and a Killer Cop
Seen on Oprah! A courageous woman married to a dangerous psychopath.
Fiction
The third Sarah Armstrong mystery, named a best book of the year by Library Journal!
The second Sarah Armstrong mystery "a strong sequel," says BOOKLIST, now available in stores and on the Web!
The first in the Sarah Armstrong mystery series, BOOKLIST MAGAZINE picked SINGULARITY as one of the Best Crime Novel Debuts of 2009!
Want discussion questions for your book club? Click the titles below:

What people ask me....

February 21, 2011

Tags: John Vandiver, Kathryn Casey, mystery writer, mysteries, true crime, true crime author, Texas crime, Texas prisons

I just finished filling in some upcoming events on my calendar, and I've been doing phone-in discussions with book clubs. It's a lot of fun for me and, I believe, for the club members. I get to hear their theories on the true crime cases I cover and the plots and characters in my mysteries; the readers ask questions and hear the stories behind the books. So it's a win-win situation, at least from my perspective.

Over the years, I've found that when I talk to groups there are some questions that nearly always get asked. One is: What's it like to interview someone who's committed a brutal murder?

Well, I've been doing that for a very long time. I started out visiting prisons when I worked for magazines in the Eighties and Nineties. In fact, I have a Rolling Stone article out on Kindle right now called Blues & Bad Blood. The cost is a whopping $0.99. At 6,000 words, it's always been one of my favorite magazine pieces. I think it's the mix of music and murder that makes the case so fascinating.

When I worked on that particular case, I traveled Texas over a period of two weeks interviewing four men convicted of two horrible murders,that of Texas folksinger John Vandiver and his girlfriend, Debbie Davis.

Now, it was a rough couple of weeks, that I'll admit. First, the prisons were spread out and in small towns, long drives. Second, it's unnerving walking into a prison. You have to leave all your possessions in a locker before entering the prison proper, even car keys. All I can bring in for the interviews is a tape-recorder, tapes, pens and a pad of paper. But what really gets to me is the sound of those steel doors clamping shut behind me. I know that at the end of the interview, I'll walk out, but it's still unnerving.

Sometimes the inmates are behind thick glass, other times just across the table. Their moods vary. I remember interviewing Cecil Covington, one of the killers in the Vandiver case, and watching him jump about on his chair behind the glass. He looked hopped up on something, I have no idea what, but I have no doubt that his nerves weren't just fueled by adrenaline.

The others involved in Vandiver's and Davis's murders were considerably calmer, but it was tough listening to them describe in detail how they took the lives of two basically good human beings.

Sometimes the killers are repentant, saying they've come to understand the harm they've done. Other times, they continue to blame the victim. I can't tell you how many times I've heard: "Well, if he/she hadn't provoked me...."

There are, of course, innocent people in prisons. So I do keep that in mind. But in this case, all four of the men I interviewed readily admitted taking part in Davis's and Vandiver's murders, describing in detail what they thought and felt as they pulled the trigger and slashed with a Samurai sword.

There were many times when I felt repulsed, but I couldn't show it or risk that they'd stop talking. There were so many times I wanted to ask, How could you have done that? At the end I did, but none of them could explain. They all blamed it on the drugs and on Tom Mathes, the ringleader. They smiled, and I looked into the eyes of these men and wondered what Davis and Vandiver saw as their lives ended.

After the interviews, I came home and wrote the piece, transferring all they'd told me onto the pages. When the article ran in March of 1988, I remember feeling a sense of relief. I'd delved inside the minds of four men who'd committed horrible crimes, and I was glad that it was over.

Comments

  1. February 23, 2011 10:09 AM EST
    Good blog explaining the process and your feelings in doing these difficult interviews.
    - Ron Wright
  2. February 23, 2011 10:31 AM EST
    I think most people wonder How could they do that? especially the families of the victims. I believe your true crime stories and the courage you have to face these killers truly benefits the families of the victims; to help them find closure on such an awful tragedy
    - Kay Huck
  3. February 23, 2011 10:39 AM EST
    I must get this article. Wow Kathryn!
    - Dee Dee
  4. February 23, 2011 12:38 PM EST
    Good blog Kathryn! Don't know how you do what you do..
    - Darla
  5. February 23, 2011 1:10 PM EST
    I love reading your true crime stories! Thanks for sharing this article with some insight on your interviews.
    - Weda
  6. February 23, 2011 8:47 PM EST
    Thanks, everyone. So happy you stopped in!
    - Kathryn Casey
  7. January 10, 2012 4:57 PM EST
    When can we expect the fourth Sarah Armstrong mystery?
    - Linda Brennan
  8. February 22, 2012 10:08 AM EST
    I'm hoping for fall 2013, Linda. Thanks for asking!
    - Kathryn Casey

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Bill Reece in 2012, a prison photo.


A version of the I-45 Mysteries chart, this one courtesy of the Galveston County Daily News

The shattered door and Belinda Temple's image inside, from SHATTERED.

50 Shades innocent fun? I hope so, but be careful whom you trust.

Bananas Foster ala Brennan's. It's so good. Such a great restaurant. Try the recipe in the blog, and visit their restaurants. Wonderful food!

Bouchercon 2011: Here I am on the left with the wonderful Sara Paretsky and my friend author Diane Fanning. We had a blast!

Crawfish etouffee, a Louisiana classic. Love this recipe!

Kari fell in love with Matt Baker, but was he the man she believed?

They appeared the perfect family, but was Matt Baker hiding Deadly Little Secrets?

Was Matt Baker really a loving husband? Here at his wife's grave with their two daughters, Grace and Kensi.




My niece Beth, Dad, my sister-in-law Linda, and yours truly!

Dad's birthday cake, what a grand day!

Nice smile? I am the Cheshire Cat.

Jamie Ford, yours truly, Kathy L. Patrick, the Pulpwood Queen!

Here I am with Fannie Flagg and Karen Harrington

On the day of my panel with Robert Leleux

Alice's Kingdom: Marsha Toy Engstrom, our leader, as the Red Queen.

My main character, Sarah Armstrong, is a Texas Ranger/Profiler.

My special reindeer ornament, the one that's always front and center on my Christmas tree

Don't miss me on All Things Southern talking about the third Sarah Armstrong mystery!

The cover for the upcoming German edition of Singularity

Here I am with the Investigation Discover TV crew. Left to right: Scott, Eric, yours truly, Linda and Kaia!

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Here I am with the legendary Kinky Friedman.

Introducing the rest of our panel: Ben Rehder (left) author of Holy Moly and other mysteries; Frances Ray, who writes women's fiction; that's me in the background, and on the right, Kathleen Kent, author of The Heretic's Daughter


It's up to us to mount a protest, to keep James Bergstrom locked up.

Meet our puppy, Ozzie Nelson. Don't let his sweet appearance fool you. Send help!

Here's proof that Ozzie Nelson is a handful!

This past January, 2010, the theme of the Pulpwood Queen's Girlfriend Weekend was Over the Rainbow. This is the head queen, Kathy Patrick, dressed as a tornado.

The southwest LA pulpwood queens as witches!

Years ago, before her diagnosis, here I am with my mom.

Here I am with Pulpwood Queen founder and author Kathy L. Patrick at the 2009 Girlfriend Weekend. I had a blast! (Notice the tiara? It's my first!)