When a colleague asked me to join a crime-focused box set early last year called Dead Silent, I felt flattered and humbled to have again made some of my peers’ list of worthwhile crime writers. Then, I saw the other names attached to the project and knew I would probably have to write my best crime story ever just to keep up with the other authors! I LOVE crossover tv episodes where characters from one series show up in another, and Fiona Quinn writes six series in the same universe! Every one of her books is a crossover episode for her readers! Dan Petrosini is one of my favorite crime writers, which says a lot considering the number of crime stories I read a year. Mrs. Reese enjoys reading Sandra Woffington’s wine-and-crime series as much as I enjoy interviewing Sandra about her craft, research, and writing. I’m sure you’ll agree that her writing’s incredible. Jay Tinsiano is my hands-down favorite conspiracy author, and I’m grateful to call him a friend. We met at the castle retreat in Austria three years ago, and if you’re not reading Jay’s work, you’re only cheating yourself. Michelle Medhat is a legit badass with real-life credentials I actually envy. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out her novels have to be CIA-approved before publication. Seriously…bad…ass! AND, there’s another 12 incredible bestsellers in the mix I haven’t even mentioned yet!
So, I had to come up with an original crime story to rival the quality, craft, and real-life experience of this group, all of whom are accomplished, bestselling authors with a lot more words and books under their belts than I have. I wanted my contribution to bring Detective Alex Landon back to the forefront, and I wanted him to get wrapped up in the hunt for a serial killer. I started researching obscure serial killers with unique signatures and behaviors that readers might find engrossing. Several days into that very dark and disturbing rabbit hole, I found a series of killings outside Baltimore, Maryland, attributed to Vernon Lee Clark. The killings began in 1979 and continued until 1989. Despite refusing to admit to any wrongdoing, he’s so far pled guilty to five murders and is suspected of about five more. Forensic science continues to improve and reveal previously unknown evidence to connect Clark to his crimes.
Clark and his homicides prompted a few key questions that inspired my contribution to the Dead Silent box set, which I’ve entitled The Kizazi Murders. A series of unsolved murders in 1979 stumped investigators, and then a mannequin torso showed up hanging from a tree in an affluent neighborhood on February 15th, 1980. A knife protruded from its chest, and red paint had been swabbed across its breasts. One month later, a woman who lived nearby was killed in her home. Locals dubbed it the “Mannequin Murder.” On the 15th of each month for the rest of 1980, damaged and maimed mannequin parts showed up in and around that area. Investigators uncovered no leads, named no suspects, and made no arrests. Sporadic homicides continued to claim area residents for a decade. DNA analysis emerged and identified Vernon Lee Clark as the only suspect in a 1989 killing. That case became his first guilty plea.
Sales of several of previous Alex Landon Crime Thrillers benefit law enforcement charities that counter narcoterrorism and help rescue sex trafficking victims. In honor of the actual murder victims whose terrible endings helped inspire my fiction, a portion of The Kizazi Murders proceeds will go to help solve cold case investigations in Maryland’s Baltimore and Howard Counties. By simply purchasing this story as part of the Dead Silent box set, you are, in fact, helping find justice for cold case murder victims from the comfort and safety of your own home. Maybe even in your pjs. Wear whatever you like to read my stories, I’m not here to judge. In all fairness, you don’t know what I wear to type.
If you’d like to help more directly, you can also donate to the Howard County Police Foundation (designate the donation for Cold Cases, if you’d like) at https://hcpf.org/ and the Metro Crime Stoppers of Maryland’s Cold Case efforts at http://metrocrimestoppers.org/donate-to-metro-crime-stoppers/.
Until next time, care of yourselves and each other. Be safe out there!