A Contemporary In Cold Blood

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 23 2013 @ 3:41pm

In American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men, David McConnell chronicles six notorious killings committed by straight men against gays. In an interview with Patrick Ryan, McConnell rejects the term “gay panic” as a motive for the murders:

It’s a term that solves the singular mystery of any killing – motive – before you even have a chance to think about it. No wonder defense lawyers love it. But if you’re at all interested in what really goes on in the world, that kind of categorization just isn’t enough. Besides, as I keep insisting, gay panic often isn’t accurate. Of the six cases I write about in detail, several days or more passed between the ‘provocation’ – if there even was a unique precipitating event – and the murder. Can you panic for days or weeks? To me it seems obvious something else is going on. I think the violence exists in the hearts of these men long before the victim comes along.

Ryan tells McConnell, a novelist, that “your recreation of the events in each murder has the same kind of narrative pull as Capote’s book.” McConnell talks about his foray into nonfiction:

In the Oklahoma City case, I was especially fixated on how [Darrell] Madden and his accomplice had hijacked their victim, Steve Domer. A normal newspaper account might have left it at ‘the two lured the older man with the promise of sex for pay.’ But I wanted to know how it happened instant by instant. Because I was having trouble getting clear answers from Madden, I just wrote up the scene as I would in a novel, complete with dialogue. Then I sent him the pages, and he sent them back to me covered with annotations. It was by far the most perverse ‘editorial’ experience I’ve ever had, but it was a great way to get information.

On a related note, Ben Yagoda tracked down the New Yorker‘s fact-checking records for Capote’s In Cold Blood.