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Pub Date: March 1st, 1986
Publisher: Bantam

A captivating look into the inner mental workings of a serial killer. John Wayne Gacy, the most prolific known serial killer in history, was able to evade the consequences of his actions for over six years while he systematically murdered 33 boys in Chicago in the 1970's, burying 29 of them in a crawl space under his house, and dumping the other four in a nearby river. Cahill was given most of his research by an investigative journalist, Russ Ewing, who had gotten into Gacy's good graces over several years of interviews, letters, and telephone calls. Cahill absorbed masses of information and organized it into this spellbinding narrative of Gacy's life and crimes. Gacy's modus operandi was to cruise Chicago's gay areas at night until he found a likely young, muscular boy. He would then drive the boy to his house, treating him paternally (as he would like to have been treated by his own sadistic father, Cahill says). At some point, he would manage to talk the boy into doing a ""handcuff trick"" to render him helpless, only then to inform the boy that he was going to rape him. At this point, apparently, he turned into an alter ego, ""Bad Jack,"" who, despising the trash before him, would strangle the victim with a ""rope trick,"" but not before he had tortured him by holding his head under water, stuffing underpants down the victim's throat, and other sordid deeds (he called them ""fun games""). All this is rendered ironic by the facts of Gacy's normal life by day--his $200,000 income as a contractor, his connection with Chicago's political elite and police, his generosity, volunteerism, and giving nature (he regularly visited hospital children's wards, dressed as a clown), and his loudly professed hatred of homosexuals. The larger irony is that on more than one occasion, relatives of victims alerted the police to Gacy through the victims' jobs (several of them worked for him). Once, police even answered a call from a neighbor complaining of screams in the middle of the night, questioning him, while inside, presumably, another victim died. While literally standing over numerous corpses, Gacy would call on his charm and on his good relations with the police to allay their suspicions. Experts on violent crimes estimate that there may be as many as 35 serial killers now operating in the US. As opposed to mass murderers, who snap at a given moment in time and are usually easily apprehended, serial murders often go undetected for long periods of time. Buried Dreams should go far to a better understanding of what forces drive such a killer. There have been other books about Gacy, usually by direct participants in the drama, such as Terry Sullivan's Killer Clown. But Cahill's juggernaut of a book will go down as the definitive story. Powerful.