: The Autobiography of a Serial Killer but for the Grace of God
Author: Walker, Tommy
Review Date: FEBRUARY 18, 2009
Publisher:BookSurge (485 pp.)
Price (paperback): $20.99
Publication Date: April 5, 2002
ISBN (paperback): 978-1-58898-608-5
Walker unspools in detail the dark psychological results of excruciating inhibition and loneliness.
Being rejected is always hurtful, but sometimes it’s crushing. In Walker’s case, a childhood friend spurned him, maybe even playfully. He turned inward and his reluctance to socialize widened the chasm between him and his peers, making him increasingly odd. Young Walker fancies himself a bit of an outlaw, but in reality he begins to fixate on his mother’s love in an unwholesome way. An outlet arrives: masturbation (if “serial killer” never bears fruit, Walker gives serial masturbator a run for its money). He finds pornography “soothing,” though the vibrancy of his incestuous feelings remains disturbingly taboo. The author comes across as neither self-hating nor self-amused, but haunted. There is plenty to be repulsed by here—Walker running away from home when he’s old enough to leave, sad trips in which he sinks deep into decrepitude before calling home to be rescued and his sordid fantasies of the opposite sex—and the author gets flamboyantly raunchy about his masturbation. Yet the story is compellingly painful, as it focuses on a kid in pathetic straits. There is a steady pulse to the writing, despite its circling details, and Walker even inserts humor into his unlovely life, as when a porn-shop owner shoots him a look when he inquires about incest magazines—“It’s unusual for a merchant to give you eyes since they have to make their sale, but this guy did. This from a man who sold porn for a living.” If Walker is not a killer, his fury is real—a lightness enters him during an assault fantasy and a heaviness returns afterward, gnawing like a rat. He finds something nearing salvation through the written word and finally a woman.
A pungent, woebegone tale of emotionally crippling loneliness.
(Or, fuck this and fuck that.)
‘Monstrous’ Reviewed by my First International Reader
“Quite frankly the biggest mindfuck I have ever read, yet paradoxically therapeutic. A maelstrom of a journey through an emotional hellfire of ebonite isolation and self-hatred, yet ending with the joy of finding love, and oneself. Not to be missed.”
— Andy Cheek, England
And by my most quotable BookCrosser
“I had gotten into a routine of reading…Oprah book club selections, etc. Those books mentally made love to me. Yet, like a typical one night stand, the whole thing was forgotten within a week. This book fucked me. Then rudely shot its load in my face. I loved every minute of it.”
— Kelly Erde, USA
(as culled from every member of bookcrossing.com who has commented on my book)
“This is feeling vaguely like a deja vu experience. Well, not exactly. I wasn’t good enough for invisible friends or multiple personalities of any kind.”
“I think people are expecting a shocking book, with the ‘normal’ parts trimmed out, but I think that overall it’s the normal that IS shocking.”
“Here I am a month or months…(I can’t remember when I finished!) and it is STILL in my head. I keep bringing it up around my friends…they are dying to read it.”
“I remember telling MonstrousWalker that I was looking for something different. To say he delivered is an understatement! I had gotten into a routine of reading what is thought of as “women’s fiction”, Oprah book club selections, etc. Those books mentally made love to me. Yet, like a typical one night stand, the whole thing was forgotten within a week. This book fucked me. Then rudely shot its load in my face. I loved every minute of it.”
“This paragraph on page 13 really blew me away. I found myself going back to read it again and again. I haven’t had that feeling about a paragraph since I was 15 (now 31) and read Keroauc’s ‘the only ones for me are the mad ones’ for the first time.”
“It amazes me that you have remembered so much…The book says things that everybody thinks, but denies thinking them. Excellent book…I avidly recommend.”
“One of the most interesting things about reading this book was how often the old mirror radar went PING! VERY nicely written…this is the story of a man adrift in his mind and his efforts towards a kind of ‘perfection’.”
“a singularly affecting book…it has the potential to become a classic of its genre (which is probably somewhere in the same section as Hunter S. Thompson)
“Whilst reading I had such a tremendous empathy with you that believing us to be so alike, I just could not credit that you would become a serial killer at any point, since I myself have not. It therefore made me uncomfortable when our similarities apparently diverged and in the action of the book, you did something which I would not– how to explain that to myself? Am I also a serial killer but for the grace of god?”
“There were particular moments when I broke into manic giggles, only to be followed by tears (over my own painful adolescence). Quite a catharsis for me. ”
“Here’s this deep, murky story, and all of a sudden it turns into a fairy tale of sorts…I think that is one of the most deviant things about your book.”
“I agree with salinger007 that the book was extremely well-written. For me the flow and tempo…were perfect…I am glad that I read the book and would definitely recommend it to people wanting something different.”
“Remarkable story…Why?…because ‘Monstrous’ is not a story that can have been easy to tell, yet [it] is told eloquently, without prettifying or making excuses for its occasional crassness.”
“This book provided interesting reading material…A very Freudian look at human development.”
“The treks Walker takes…to different parts of the country remind me of McCandless in ‘Into the Wild’.”
“I could hand ‘Monstrous’ to someone and say, “Here, this guy is a good writer. The book is long and messed up and you might not like it, and you’re not going to like him at times, but it’s still worth reading if you can get through it.”
“A well-written book following the mind of a boy into becoming a man and how he tries to fit in society which he really doesn’t, at least not in a normal way. Or as we think normal. He was just the way he was.”
“A shocking book to be sure. The things talked about by Tommy and the things he describes doing. The writer has much talent…the ability to make me visualize exactly what was being described.”
“It took immense courage to not only write so openly and honestly about what you thought and did but also for you to see yourself so clearly and honestly. You spared yourself in nothing when looking at yourself. You were clear and objective. Not many people can put aside ego and the self-protectiveness we all seem to instinctively have against exposure, to see ourselves so clearly.”
“I felt a tremendous admiration for Tommy…a stunning and unique read.”
“wow interesting book though the man is a bit of a narcissist.”
“As a diary of a [boy’s] life, it is amazing.”
“It felt naughty peeking into your private diary and it certainly was interesting. You have a wonderful writing style.”
“…wasn’t at all what I was expecting but it’s pretty well written.”
“I think this is his ‘Monstrous’ side (duh!), the Hyde side of him, the crudest, most honest, animal instinctual, barbarian side, that’s bared in this book. But I believe that a person’s personality has more than one aspect, and while we’re not obviously seeing the good side of him, I believe we can find it between the lines.”
XLonelyGuy (my correspondence chess buddy)
“It strikes me that Tommy writes like he plays chess; patient, careful, systematic. He likes to ‘set his stall out’ over days, sometimes weeks before the stage is set for the pounce– which often comes from a completely different direction from the one you expected.”
“I was…blown away by the title. That someone was willing to describe themselves as a “serial killer but for the grace of God” was amazing. Or was I being too literal? Maybe we could all describe ourselves in that way.”
“i only got to page 30, i found it totally uninteresting and dull.”
“I thought it was terrible and written by an egotistical writer. I don’t believe he remembers half the things he said he did as a child.”
(Added to on October 9th, 2013, as result of revisiting old BookCrossing reviews)
Writers and protagonists I’ve been compared with:
JACK KEROUAC– I blew a reader away with the most re-readable paragraph she’d come across in fifteen years since reading Kerouac’s “the only ones for me are the mad ones” in “On The Road”. See ‘Monstrous Quotables’. Kerouac is the only person besides myself that I’m aware of who had imaginary baseball leagues as a kid.
CHARLES BUKOWSKI– In terms of the vividness of my writing, according to the reader who called my book “the biggest mindfuck” he’d ever read, and who mailed a copy of Bukowski’s “Post Office” to me as a show of appreciation.
HUNTER S. THOMPSON– Referring to the section of the bookstore where a reader thought my ‘potential classic in its genre’ (paraphrase) belonged. This same reader is responsible for the inclusion of my next two comps.
BRET EASTON ELLIS– author of “American Psycho”, in terms of writing style.
MARK MANNING– author of “Bad Wisdom”, “Get Your Cock Out” and “Fucked by Rock”, in terms of appearing to be a kindred soul.
IMMANUEL KANT– Not meant as a compliment. About the density of a message board post.
HOLDEN CAULFIELD– Fictional protagonist of “Catcher in the Rye”. A description of my book as “Holden Caulfield meets Ted Bundy”, coined by my wife, was thought perfect by an aforementioned reader I’ve corresponded with online.
CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON McCANDLESS– Nonfictional protagonist of “Into the Wild”. A reader was reminded of McCandless while in the section of ‘Monstrous’ where I’m trekking across the country, and just today I bought the book to see for myself what she meant.
(The following are my answers to a questionnaire designed to help a press release writer do one for my book. For the first time in my life, however, a business wouldn’t take my money, so I am left with my questionnaire answers and no press release.)
Title: Monstrous: The Autobiography of a Serial Killer but for the Grace of God
City and State: Seattle, Washington
Author Bio: Here I’d mostly just like to convey that I’m living happily ever after with the same woman I hooked up with toward the end of the book. We just marked our twentieth wedding anniversary. Desire for anonymity makes me reluctant to put details on display, though in the interest of full-ish disclosure, I’ve had little education past high school, though I currently find myself in a nice white-collar situation, a definite step up in pay and prestige from the kinds of jobs described in my book. My expertise comes from having lived my life, and having given the subject of my path, how I got from point A to B, a lot of brain wattage, with assists from natural intelligence and a strong memory. Readers may be shocked to learn that post-book I have traded in my love for baseball for a love of chess, though they probably won’t be surprised that recently I have invented an online guessing game.
Target Audience: Forensic psychologists, people interested in learning how a deviant’s mind develops. Alienated young people (but not too young!– Rated ‘R’ for mature themes) in search of self, or a friend, as I, the protagonist, was. People who like ‘beautiful losers’, like Charles Bukowski perhaps. My book’s been out there a while, and I’ve corresponded with several apppreciative readers. One was a woman, a dominatrix and multiple personality, who was also an active stalker, and she wanted to read about a stalker who stopped, in hopes I could give her a reason to try another way. There’s the reader who would put me on the same shelf with Hunter S. Thompson, and another who was reminded of McCandless of “Into the Wild”. I was informed I had written a ‘cult classic’ by a guy who’s written reviews for rock zines.
You’d think true crime buffs, but I find them into heat over light, that violence and chaos is what they expect from a book with ‘serial killer’ in the title, and my book disappoints this group.
Synopsis: In a sentence:
“Monstrous” traces the author’s life as he subtly drifted toward and within a homicidal state before awakening at age 21.
In five words:
Holden Caulfied meets Ted Bundy (Then finds love and is saved)
Though I never became a murderer, there was a time when I was consumed with the idea of it, and I truly was a stalker at age twenty. It is incredible enough to me that the child of my memories, playing Wiffle-ball and what have you, would evolve into a stalker someday, so the book explores how the heck did that happen.
It basically traces my life from birth to the moment of my ‘awakening’, concentrating on the influences that would shape me, whether for better or worse. For worse, I became a stalker and a few other things, but for better I never crossed into overt violence against people, and why that would be so is of equal interest, given that I uncannily resembled the typical serial killer research subject in thoughts, behaviors and traits, to paraphrase one review.
Theme: ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ is a concept I believe in devoutly, without dragging religion into it. That anyone, under different circumstances beyond their control, could *go* anywhere, arrive at any life outcome. Normally the saying is applied to homelessness or disease, but if it fails to hold true for even one scenario, then the saying must be false, and I see serial killing as the ultimate test case and challenge to apply this saying to.
“Monstrous” attempts to live up to its subtitle, “The Autobiography of a Serial Killer but for the Grace of God” by working in two directions at once. On one level I am selling myself to the reader as a could-have-been serial killer, enlisting all the evidence I can think of to bolster my case. But on another I am presenting myself as an ordinary human being who can be easily identified with. I invite the reader to identify with me, by extension with serial killers, and ultimately to see themselves as also being serial killers ‘but for the grace of God’.
One of my favorite reader comments went like this: “Believing us to be so alike, I just could not credit that you would become a serial killer at any point, since I myself have not. It therefore made me uncomfortable when in the action of the book, you did something which I would not. How to explain that to myself? Am I also a serial killer but for the grace of God?”
Inspiration: Because I had to?
There was an awful lot of pressure building up inside me, clamoring for a voice and an outlet. The timing of its genesis coincided with a true crime book that I was disappointed with, “Ted Bundy: Conversations With A Killer” by Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth. Bundy had been talking about the ‘entity’ that would dominate his being at times, and his disclosures were very informative. But his interviewers cut him off at one point to try to make him cough up a number as for how many women he killed. I vowed at that point to set my own story to paper, as I felt that I had something to say on the same subject; I would take over where Bundy had left off.
It was years before I saw my developing manuscript as being of a quality worthy of publication. At first it was mostly a confessional meant only for my wife, who I thought should have a chance to make an informed decision to leave me. Also, when I started the book, which was really tape recorded more than written, I was open to concluding that I should just crawl into a hole for having been so pathetic, and never let these words seep from my house. But when I started connecting the pieces together, I kept saying, “Wait a minute”, that there was no reason to expect me to have chosen another course than the one I had taken.
Newsworthy?: “Monstrous” is almost certainly the most intricate, thorough, subtle chronology of a deviantly developing mind in nonfiction. It’s too bad I’m the only person who has actually said this so far, though I invite you to visit my Amazon page and read Bryan Nelson’s review (along with all the others) for a perspective from someone who may well agree with me, even if he didn’t use those words. The man works with sex offenders and runs a website called DeviantCrimes.
The book is so subtle, and all of these things, that when you get to page 400 and I take up following women, you’re *ready* for it. Like what else was I supposed to do at that point? And by that time I’d been selling myself subliminally, as normal for so long, that if you’re not careful (or don’t do subtlety) you might be lulled into thinking that my new stalking hobby was normal too, and give it a shrug and a yawn.
Pubs: I really have no clue. This gorgeous thing is so-o-o far from any recognized genre.
It’s a coming-of-age story, but you maybe shouldn’t read it until you’ve come of yours.
Additional Info: In addition to my Amazon page (Bryan Nelson’s review) please visit MonstrousWalker’s page at bookcrossing.com, where I have compiled a list of ‘Monstrous Quotables’ from readers at that site.
Just now purged this blog of all sections from my book, chapters 34 to the end, with the exception of my book’s final line, which I inputted first. That, I’m keeping around because it remains the only post out of a one-time 164 that has generated a comment so far. Easier to delete the old than to submit chapters 33 down to 1, and one way or the other I would like to have completeness, whether empty or full. Not to worry if you’re inclined to read some excerpts; you can still Search Inside This Book
Curiously, this blog’s next-to-nonexistent traffic has increased during its time as a ghost town, or maybe that’s the way or the world. That when all the cells devoted to lugging people around die out and the parasites take over, that smaller population of cells devoted to parasites will actually increase during the more advanced stages of decay. Still, I like to imagine that a little buzz has finally taken hold in spite of my recent apathy, and that the tell-two-friends principle may yet transform my ‘cult classic’ into a book that is actually read, even though loners are going to appreciate it more than any other class, and we loners don’t have any friends.
One thing pulling me back is that I recently made two sales in three weeks after more than a year of nothing, a logical implication being that one person stumbled and bought it, then thought so highly of it that they persuasively recommended it to another. A third recent reader is an acquaintance of my wife who so far loves my cover (my vision, if not my crayon) and is very intrigued.
- The Spirit of Dennis Rader
- My Friend Dahmer
- Not Much to Say
- Only the Shadow Knows
- Jagged Breathing and All
- Talking Cows
- Colin Flaherty of ‘White Girl Bleed a Lot’
- What the Heck to Call This Thing, and
- I Can See Two Starbucks at the Same Time
- I Love Trolls
- I Ended Up Reading the Book Twice
- Coming Up With a Title– The MONSTROUS by WALKER Show