Wisdom from Beyond the Grave - We were sad to hear about the passing of true crime author Jack Olsen, who died last week at 77 at home on Bainbridge Island. Over the years, we've interviewed him a few times and we were always impressed by his insight to the human condition -- especially the criminal variety. One of Olsen's biggest hits was Son, the story of Kevin Coe, Spokane's serial rapist of the late-1970s.
In off-the-record comments, Olsen was mystified by Spokane: "Spokane doesn't want to hear bad things about Spokane. I've never seen a town with more boosters than Spokane. They didn't want me coming out there."
And Olsen faults Spokane's media during the time of the Coe crime spree for playing booster rather than reporting the story and warning the public. The rapes went nearly unreported for months, although the crimes were recorded by police. "When they finally did the job they should have done" Olsen said, referring to the first big story in the Spokesman-Review, "Coe was in custody six days later."
With never-ending heinous stories (like the recent tragedy in California, and the missing girl from Salt Lake City), Olsen's words -- informed by a career spent trying to understand psychopaths -- may offer us some guidance.
"A book about crime that doesn't add something to our knowledge, or tell us something about how to not raise criminals -- it's pornography. We have to come at it from the angle of not raising these sons of bitches in the first place. The people who are doing these things didn't get bonded -- not bonded to a family, not bonded to the human race. But long-range programs to cut crime are almost ignored for the saber-rattling, the stuff that goes over with voters -- more prisons, more death penalty.
"Gradually, we're living in a more and more f--ed up society, and it's a f--ed up society that produces serial killers. We have an unstable, overstressed society. In a society that's spinning faster and faster and faster, every once in awhile somebody spins off the edge."
And if that's not depressing enough to contemplate, consider this: "I have a very dark feeling about crime in America; it's only going to get worse -- in multiples."
Ka-Ching! - True story: A man -- we'll call him George -- gets a flat tire in Spokane. He stops at a service station to use the air pump, but can't get it to work despite depositing several quarters. Just then a panhandler approaches.
"Got any spare change?" the panhandler asks.
"I just put my last change into this machine," says George, tapping the air pump.
In that case, the panhandler says, "You want some of mine?"