MELBOURNE — One of the best questions from the audience at my Melbourne talk on The Devil’s Cinema and the “Dexter Killer” case involved my direct contact with Mark Twitchell.
“How did your interaction with him change the scope of your book, and how would the book have been different without his participation?” one reader asked.
I think this question strikes at the very core of what I was hoping to achieve: a narrative that peered deep into the minds of everyone involved.
I spent more than a year interviewing Mark Twitchell, and while he is certainly not the only voice in the narrative, his views are significant since the entire plot revolves around him and his actions.
His input, in fact, did actually help in crafting the story of his transformation from filmmaker to serial killer suspect.
As the story unfolds, Twitchell’s thought bubbles are revealed in real-time, providing a strange glimpse into the possible foundations of his sinister crimes.
This window into the psychology of the killer can be a rarity in true crime reportage, but I felt it was especially important to focus on since so much of the story involves motives and perspectives. What is reality in The Devil’s Cinema often depends on point-of-view.
I was also able to provide more detail and clarity around the interactions Twitchell had during key points in the case.
For instance, there is a fascinating dynamic that develops between the prime suspect and the senior detectives. This is a story that is not told anywhere else and I felt it was beneficial for the reader to have both sides in the book expressing what they actually thought of each other.
Certainly, the book would still have had a great level of detail without Twitchell’s participation, considering the mammoth amount of information gathered during the police investigation and the willingness of many others to be interviewed at length during my research.
But I think there is an added texture here that comes from my correspondence with Mark Twitchell — not only from the information he was providing, including more than 350 pages of prison letters, but from actually getting to know him.
At times I was struck by how different Twitchell could be in-person compared to how he was being portrayed in the media, or even during his trial. (Note: I spoke in more detail in this regard on Alberta Primetime earlier this year, including discussing some of the difficulties I encountered).
I also found Twitchell to be very clever and a deep thinker, despite how clumsy and stupid some of his mistakes were, which led to his arrest.
Our conversations were often dominated by his intellectual bravado, dark humour, and pop-culture referencing. I really noticed how he suffered from an odd combination of confidence while still being socially-awkward. He’s certainly a complicated character.
This is the other side to the coin that would have been harder to tell without having had those in-depth conversations and interviews with him.
In short, I got to know the man behind the headlines.
More: Steve Lillebuen on Meeting (Dexter Killer) Mark Twitchell:
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