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Summer Guide 2011

Killer prose

By day, he's a Detroit business writer. On his time off, Tom Henderson is a chronicler of the sensational, the lurid

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A


Summer Guide 2011
  • In (the) heat The psychology, anthropology and politics of the summer fling | 6/15/2011
  • Juggalos in the mist A retreat to the wilderness turns weird in a heartbeat | 6/15/2011
  • Killer prose By day, he's a Detroit business writer. On his time off, Tom Henderson is a chronicler of the sensational, the lurid | 6/15/2011
  • Feed your head Detroiter lit-lovers share their summer reads | 6/15/2011
  • Life's a beach Summer highs to look forward to | 6/15/2011

MT: But Blood in the Snow is the only of the Grant books that the cops assisted with. How did that happen?

TH:At first, one of the lead detectives on the case, Brian Kozlowski, wanted nothing to do with me or the book. There had been two other books on the case that have come out that he gave absolutely no cooperation. The sheriff's department didn't help at all. I knew that, but I reached out to him and I got an e-mail telling me basically to fuck off and that he had no use for any media slime. About a week later he sent me an e-mail and said he was going to be available. I showed up and he was very friendly. I asked him early on, "What changed your attitude here?" He had gone out and bought Darker Than Night. He hunts near where it took place and knows the area, so he thought it was true to what he knew. He also loved the way Bronco was portrayed and suddenly thought, "I could be the next Bronco."

MT: So is he?

TH: Yeah, he is. He is cool, and he is a character and a half. He is another character you're not going to make up. He looks like he's leading a motorcycle gang or a murder-rape cult. He would put the fear into anyone seeing him walking down the street. But he's a great cop, very helpful. His one partner, she praised him as being a sweetheart or a softie or something but then said, "Don't put that in the book. He'll come to me and say, 'What the fuck?'"

MT: But the other parts of these stories, beyond the police investigations, are the victims and their families. How is it getting them to work with you?

TH:That's the tough part. The bottom line is you're the guy knocking on the door saying, "I know your life has been ruined, but I would like to make some money off it, so would you help me?" People are far more gracious than they should be by and large. For victims' families, for the most part, it's cathartic; they like talking about their loved one.

MT: You also cover the perpetrators' backgrounds and their families. How is that?

TH: Everybody is reluctant at first, but I tell them, I need your help to do it as well as I can and as honestly as I can. That works. Even the people that get accused or get convicted, I tell their family, I swear to you I will bend over backward to make this person seem human. Everybody is human. I will put a human face on this person who has been portrayed in the media so far as completely one-dimensional and heinous. If anybody has any doubts — and they have — I send them a copy of Blood Justice. Because the serial killer in there is truly a twisted individual, but I was very fair to his family — and other media outlets weren't — and I was very fair to his wife, who deserved none of the blame she was getting. And I was fair to him. He was a serial-killing maniac, but he was also the best dad in the neighborhood and had his traits. It made him all the more interesting, but anybody who read that books would say this is clearly somebody who bent over backward to be fair to all involved.

MT: So you find inspiration in the work and not terror?

TH:Yes. Especially among the dedicated investigators. People get jaded and think: Yuck, cops. But these guys are true blue. This stuff is important to them. Solving it is important to them. It takes them years, but they keep at it. I think, shit, if something happened to my wife or mother or brother, I'd want somebody like that working it, 15 years later, as hard as they could!

MT: Did writing Blood in the Snow affect you any differently?

TH: Yes. Tara Grant went missing and then some of her body parts were found in the house and some of them were retrieved from Stony Creek. Some of them were never found. My dog and I were running a lot out at Stony Creek. I run her off leash. Her favorite thing is to bring back bones. She's always bringing me bones back with a big smile on her face. My wife said, "You are not running with that dog at Stony Creek anymore." We knew she'd find the missing finger or something. And I'd say "good dog" and hold my hand out and she'd spit out the finger. It kind of temporarily ended our running at Stony Creek.

 

Excerpt:

'Like the Keystone Kops'

In this passage, Stephen Grant, at a hospital in Petoskey, makes his confession to Macomb County detectives Brian Kozlowski and Pam McLean about how he disposed of his wife, Tara, after he killed her and dismembered her body:

"It was like the Keystone Kops," [Grant] told Kozlowski and McLean. "The sled took off and now I'm chasing after the sled with Tara's remains and cut-up body in it down a hill."

And so he's chasing it down the hill and at the bottom the bin hits a log. It tips over as a chunk of green plastic breaks off, the lid pops off, and body parts go flying out all over the place. He freaks out, turns tail and runs up the hill and out of the woods and back to the Trooper, and he drives home.

He parks the Trooper in the garage, gets a bottle of Simple Green from a shelf and sprays the mat in the cargo area, then walks in, sits down on the couch, hits the remote to watch the local news. He sits there in a daze until eventually he hears [the au pair] Verena and the kids moving around in their rooms.

She comes out. "You were up early," she says.

"What do you mean?"

"I heard you rustling around. Were you out?"

"No, I've been here the whole time," he says, freaking out again. Is she suspicious?

A few minutes go by. Enough time so he can say matter-of-factly he's gotta go. Says good-bye to her and the kids and this time leaves in his truck, no worries with the Jeep about getting stuck in snow, and drives as fast as he can back to Stony Creek, and drives off the road and into the woods.


From Blood in the Snow by Tom Henderson

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