An Author's Nightmare

There’s been a lot of talk about the book/movie, 50 Shades of Grey. But why isn’t anyone talking about the murders surrounding this phenomenon? We all want our books to be hugely successful– but at what cost? This has to be an absolute nightmare for E.L. James. To have your book be the basis of a murder plot is something no writer wants. But here we are.

In five minutes on Google I found three separate cases– and that’s just this week’s headlines. God only knows how many attacks have gone unreported or murders yet to be discovered.

Case #1:

This week a University of Illinois at Chicago student leader was charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old girl in what the Cook County prosecutor says is a 50 Shades of Grey re-enactment.

Mohammad Hossain, 19, stood shocked when the judge ordered bail in the amount of $500,000. And the judge was equally stunned to learn that Hossain was involved with several UIC leadership programs, a student ambassador and on the triathlon team.

The victim told police that she went to Hossain’s dorm room around 5:30 p.m. Saturday night. He told her to undress, which she did, but left on her bra and underwear. Hossain then bound the girl’s hands to the headboard with a belt. With another belt he bound her legs to the foot-board and stuck a tie in her mouth. Then he took a knit cap and pulled it over her eyes, blindfolding her. After he’d stripped off the rest of her clothes he began whipping her with a belt, punching her, abusing her in sadistic ways.

With her head shaking back and forth her muffled cries begged him to stop. She managed to break one hand free, but he held her arms behind her back and sexually assaulted her as she cried for help. If Hossain’s roommate hadn’t come home who knows if the girl would have lived through the abuse.

Hossain told the police the sex was consensual and they were re-enacting scenes from the movie, 50 Shades of Grey. Bulls#%t!

Case #2:

An unnamed 31-year-old Swedish man stands trial this week for killing his girlfriend while playing a 50 Shades of Grey sex game. The German woman was only 23 years old when she succumbed to her injuries after being struck 123 times with a blackboard pointer, her arms and legs bound with nylons and condoms.

She had only been in Sweden for ten days when she died.

Before her death she wrote in her diary that their sex was “getting too intense”. He was causing her “real physical pain”, never mind emotional. But that didn’t stop him. No, he was proud of the fact that he was “the master” and she was his “sex slave”.

The incident occurred in October, 2014, when, according to him, she stopped breathing while playing a violent sex game. Allegedly, the man attempted to revive her before the ambulance came. She spent two days in the hospital before doctors suspended life support. She died from brain damage due to her airways being constricted– like he’d shoved something down her throat, or, at the very least, stuffed something in her mouth.

I hope they lock him away for life!

Case #3:

46-year-old Marine Staff Sergeant, Louis Perez, lived in a rundown suburban home in North San Diego, California, with two woman, Dorothy Maraglino, 37, and Jessica Lynn Lopez, 25. Apparently, they lived a “kinky lifestyle”, according to the trio. Similar to 50 Shades of Grey, they were reportedly turned on by domination, submission, and sadomasochism. But when they imposed that lifestyle on an unwilling participant, Britney Killgore, 22, a Marine’s wife, they crossed a serious line.

Killgore had no idea that Perez lived this way when she accepted his invitation to a dinner cruise last April, and instead ended up in the “sex dungeon” at his home.

During a search of the home police found whips, knives, and sex toys in this dungeon, along with “sex slave rules” and a “slave contract”, as well as prescription drugs and various types of saws– I don’t even want to know what they used those for.

An autopsy revealed Killgore was strangled to death. It was also later confirmed that Killgore had filed divorce papers while her husband was in Afghanistan. I only mention this because it gives you an idea of why she accepted a dinner invitation while she was still married.

The Camp Pendleton Marine and two women, Dorothy Maraglino and Jessica Lynn Lopez, pleaded not guilty to murder. Good luck, sickos! Hope they throw the book at you!

Even actor, Jamie Dornan, who plays Christian Grey in the movie feared he would be murdered at the premiere.

“I almost don’t want to put this out there into the ether,” said the 32-year-old former Calvin Klein and Armani model, “but I fear I’ll get murdered, like John Lennon, by one of those mad fans at the premiere.”

Details magazine: “Because a lot of people are very angry that I’m playing this character. And I’m a father now, and a husband,” said Dornan, who replaced Charlie Hunnam as the sex-obsessed billionaire Christian Grey at the last-minute due to scheduling conflicts. “I don’t want to die yet.”

Perhaps understanding how out of touch his comments might sound, Dornan laughed them off, saying, “And when I do get murdered, people will say, ‘God, isn’t it haunting how he did that interview in Details magazine and predicted his own death on the red carpet?’”

As a crime writer I think up bizarre murders all day. Some days my mind is consumed by how to commit the “perfect murder” and get away with it– for my novels, of course. I can’t even imagine some psycho turning one of my books into an instructional manual for murder. When I created my giveaway, 50 Ways To Murder Your Fictional Characters, it was one of the first things that crossed my mind. You never know what could happen when your work crosses into the hands of a sick individual.

So let me ask you: Do we, as writers, have a responsibility to the public? What about free speech, artistic license? Should E.L. James comment or stay mute? I honestly don’t know the answers to these questions. But they’re something I think we all should take a minute to ponder.

Will I change the way I create? Probably not. But you can bet I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that I don’t end up in E.L. James’ situation. I suppose no one knows what they’d do until it happens. I’d like to think I’d speak out and not stay silent on the subject. But then, what do you say, I’m sorry? That would make little difference for the families of the victims. It’s an impossible situation with no correct answer.

What do you think about this?

23 Comments

  1. I think that asking this question is ludicrous. The perpetrators in these cases, socio/psyco-paths to the last one of them, would have found a trigger to justify/rationalize their behavior. If anything, stories like these will probably drive up sales of both the movie and book. I have only read excerpts from the book. The hideous writing was more gruesome to me than anything that could have been described in the book itself.

    BDSM, as it is referred to now has been around a long time, just look back to Marquis de Sade and The Story of O. I have no idea what is covered in the book, but the psychology between the dominant and the submissive is extremely complicated; though, at the heart of the relationship lies trust. I do not want to put the onus on the victims here, but this kind of relationship is not something to be entered into lightly.

    What happened to the victims related in your post is tragic. The book itself may contribute to a different kind of injury altogether. I applaud anyone that can earn a living by writing, but that doesn’t mean that I am a fan of their work. What I am afraid of is that books like this one, poorly written but wildly popular will injure the craft of writing itself. Whether it’s the novel in question, the sparkly vampire stories or anything Dan Brown has written, I am afraid that the populace in general and young writers in particular will think that because they are popular, then these must be examples of good writing. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Rather, it is the fact that they simply contribute to the lowering of the bar. For the most part, it is not the people who are intricately involved with language that control its path, it is the populace at large that do so. This lowering of bar on what is good prose has resulted in literary fiction being relegated to the bottom of the publishing pile.

    So it goes…

  2. Super great post! This makes me think of how many crimes and murders were inspired by “Catcher in the Rye.”

    • Thank you, Suzana! It’s so nice to see you here. Right! There were plenty of murders surrounding that book. It’s sad, really, that sickos take a piece of literature and turn it into a justification for murder.

  3. Interesting questions, Sue. No easy answers. I’m not in favor of censorship, but I do think glorifying violence and villains is a dangerous trend. I’m less concerned about copycats, though, which will probably always remain a comparatively small number, than I am about a society where women seem to be perfectly happy to read books and watch movies where they are dominated by men who enjoy inflicting pain. Only a few years ago, women would have been marching in protest at something so demeaning as this story is. To me, that says something pretty frightening about a huge number of people.

    I’m not faulting James. She has a right to tell her story as she wishes. But I am stunned at how many women think the story portrays an acceptable way for a man to express love for a woman. Now that’s scary.

    • It sure is, Marcia. I cannot comment further as I have not read the book and have no intention to, either.

      • A wise decision, if you ask me. I can assure you, I could NOT finish it, and the thought of reading all those sequels is just horrifying. Neither the limited, single-minded plot, nor the writing was my cup of tea, though again, that’s just my opinion. Still, I’m left shaking my head.

  4. Considering E.L. James has sold over 100 million books, it’s not surprising that a few nutcases have taken them way, way too far. However, that means over 100 million other people *didn’t.* Fortunately, 99.99% of people have their heads on straight. Otherwise, think of how many Hannibal Lecters and Buffalo Bills you’d have running around.

    As an author, I think you can’t worry about this kind of thing. If someone is disturbed, they’ll find *something* to fixate on, be it a fictional story, someone they know, a celebrity, an ideology, or what have you.

  5. I’ve never read it. Didn’t want to. But this would give nightmares for sure. 🙁

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

  6. Poor Garry Rodgers still can’t comment. So here’s what he had to say…

    There used to be a time when ‘erotic’ was using a feather and ‘kinky’ was using the whole frikkin bird but this 50 Shades stuff takes it to a new level. I didn’t know about the spin-off violence around 50-S but it doesn’t surprise me given the numbers of sickos out there. You can’t do much about these wierdos and the possibility that something ‘might’ happen can’t censor creativity. I never really considered that anything I write might result in a copy-cat. Hmmm… good plot for the next book. Has it been done already??

    • It has been done! I think the best known spin-off series that did this, at least that I know of, was Kathy Reichs’ Bones, where a fan started re-enacting the murders in her book. It was a great few episodes. Not so good if happened to you, though.

  7. I have to agree with Craig about choices. Just like suicide. Yes, painful mental illness. I understand that I worked psychiatry for seven years and my own mother killed herself, but ultimately, the only person responsible for that death is the one who took their life. You are not responsible, I am not responsible. The people who chose to act out these crimes made decisions, however bad…it was poor judgment. Sex and violence are hot commodities and people love watching it on TV and reading about it. Most of the time, it’s fantasy. The authors who write it are not responsible for the choices people make. Are authors influences? Most certainly…always have been, always will be. The Holy Bible is testimony to that fact. I worked for two years in forensics and I will tell you even the ones judged criminally insane most often KNOW right from wrong. You are not responsible.

    • Good answer, Susan. And I totally agree. But that doesn’t negate the fact of how I’d feel if someone actually acted out one of my stories in real life. Hopefully that will never happen. But if it did– that’s the question that gives me pause.

  8. I believe we make choices. I don’t buy into the influence of movies, games, or the dog who told Sam to do it. It’s the participant who has to govern him (or her) self.

  9. Oh, that’s a really good question, Sue! I think I would be devastated if I found out someone used a novel I wrote as the basis for killing someone else. And I’ve read a couple of novels where that actually happens (i.e. the murderer bases killings on fictional ones). I think we all are responsible for considering the impact we have on others, and that includes writers.

    • It’s an interesting subject. How do we consider the impact when dealing with a sick mind? I suppose profilers have been trying to answer that question for a long time. I guess the stories just hit me hard– so senseless, so sad. Like you, Margot, I would be devastated.

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    Sue Coletta