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Lupo's World ~ A Blog

Is it insanity if you are really possessed? By Ira M. Gansler

If you talk about the plea of insanity in murder cases, most people would argue that it is simply something that is often used as a loophole to try to set the guilty free. However, with the rising tide of mental health diagnosis, due in part to a better awareness and ability to diagnose, it is easier to see that perhaps the previous cases in history that we find of a murderer claiming insanity might have been true. After all, the history of our mental health system in this country is one of very mixed results. On one end of the spectrum, you have a growing field of professionals coming up with amazing insights and methods of diagnosis and treatment as every year passes. On the other end, you have shameful, neglectful, and abusive care on the part of hospital and institution providers as well as an almost manic fear of mental health disability that led to people being repeatedly locked up instead of treated. Considering all of this, it really is no surprise that many famous cases have involved a killer pleading insanity as a reason why they can’t be held accountable for their crimes. But what about the more severe and strange cases?

Many murderers throughout the history of the United States have used the insanity plea as an attempt to avoid punishment for their crimes. Sometimes they truly are insane and suffering from a variety of mental illnesses as they claim. But what about the instances where the claim goes beyond just a chemical imbalance in the brain to something more sinister? What about those who have claimed to be possessed by a demon or spirit and that being the cause of their crimes? What can we say about those people? Part of it, of course, depends on your stand on possession. Is it something that really happens, or is it just a popular catchphrase to draw us in to the horror fiction industry? This is the idea that I chose to explore with The Things in the Darkness. The book is a novel of psychological terror where you get a front row seat to watch the deterioration of a human mind, but there is always the suggestion of something more. It is the question of mental illness versus possession that drove me to write the book. The truth is that there are plenty of examples of real-life killers who have sworn to the time of their death that they were possessed. Here are a few examples (source: http://www.oddee.com/item_98653.aspx):

Claiming that he was possessed since an early age, Arne Cheyenne Johnson was the first recorded defense to attempt to claim possession as a reason for innocence in his crime. Johnson murdered his landlord in 1981 and then tried to make the claim that he did it because he was possessed. The judge didn’t buy it, despite the family documenting an early consultation with famous demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. Johnson was sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison and served 5.

There is nothing like accusations of infidelity to bring out the demon in someone. In 1974, Michael Taylor starting acting extremely erratic and screaming obscenities during a prayer group after being accused by his wife of having an affair. Taylor’s behavior continued for months until he finally had a 24-hour-long exorcism performed. Even as he was declared clean, the priest warned him that the demon may just be lying dormant within him. He immediately went home and brutally murdered his wife and dog. Afterwards, Taylor was found wandering the streets covered in blood. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Perhaps the most famous case of possession-induced crime was that of David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam killer. It’s hard to say if Berkowitz really belongs on this list, but his is an interesting case. In 1976, New York City lived in fear of the Son of Sam killer. The killer struck repeatedly for over a year before being caught by police. He left taunting notes at his crime scenes and kept the police off his trail throughout most of the year. When he was finally caught, Berkowitz said that he had performed the murders because he was ordered to do so by his dog, who was possessed by a demon. Berkowitz was convicted and sentenced to six life sentences. Later, in the mid-90’s, Berkowitz recanted his original statement and instead insisted that he had performed the murders as part of ritual sacrifice for a satanic cult of which he was a part.

So were these the rants of deranged minds? Was the insanity by reason of possession plea just an attempt to get away with their crimes? Or, most frightening of all, were these killers really acting on the whims of a demonic force that had consumed their very being? We may never know the answers to these questions, but they can certainly keep us up at night. Kevin Tremmel faces the same terror. He can feel himself being consumed by something and must figure out if it is the delusions of a sick and injured mind or a malevolent force at work on his body and soul. Check out “The Things in the Darkness” and see if you can figure out the answers before it is too late.


The Things in the Darkness, debut novel by Ira Gansler, October 2014

An accident puts Kevin Tremmel into a coma. Upon waking, he is not the same. Is it psychological trauma or something darker at work?

Until recently, Kevin Tremmel was at peace with his life. He had a wonderful family, a meaningful career, and his life is finally settling down. Everything seems to be going great - until the night he dies in a car accident.

When the doctors revive him, it's evident that he's not the same. Strange urges and images haunt his waking hours, and he finds himself fighting frightening new impulses. Has the trauma of the accident caused a mental illness -- or has he brought some malevolent being back with him?

In order to save his sanity, his sense of self, and his family, Kevin must discover what force is at work on him and how to overcome it. It’s that, or give up all he loves and become a servant to the things in the darkness.

"Terrifying and engaging, impossible to put down." Henrique Couto, Writer/Director of Babysitter Massacre and Director of Haunted House on Sorority Row and Scarewaves.

"Creepy, contemporary riffs on Lovecraftian themes!" John Oak Dalton, Screenwriter - Among Us, Haunted House on Sorority Row, and Scarewaves.

Author Ira Gansler, Biography:
Ira M. Gansler is the father of three girls whom he adores and hopes to one day mold into fellow horror fans! He has been married to his fantastic, supportive wife for almost twelve years. Ira focuses on honing his writing craft through fiction, blogging, and screenwriting. He was one of the writers for the film Scarewaves, having written the screenplay for the “Office Case” segment.

Ira has been an avid horror fan since the time at age five when he ran screaming back to his bed after having witnessed the scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street where Freddy was dragging a bloody and dying Tina across the ceiling. Since then, he has embraced all types of horror. The Shining, anything by H.P. Lovecraft, and the original Night of the Living Dead will always hold a special place in his twisted heart. He prays that when the zombie apocalypse does come that it consists of slow zombies and that the Elder Gods show mercy on us all.

You can follow Ira M. Gansler on his blog, The Rage Circus Vs. The Soulless Void at http://ragecircus.blogspot.com, on twitter @RageCircusBlog, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ragecircusblogger. Ira also writes reviews and conducts interviews for the From Dusk Till Con Network at www.fromdusktillcon.com.

Enter to win one of two great prizes during the #DarknessEmerges Tour. Ira is giving away a GRAND PRIZE of a signed print copy of his book, The Things in the Darkness, plus a signed copy of his “Office Case” segment from the movie, Scarewaves. As a second prize, he’s giving away another signed print copy! Enter to win through the Rafflecopter below. Enter now until Dec. 1, 2014. This is a tour wide giveaway, and open to U.S. Residents only due to shipping. If you want to enter from outside the U.S., and you can, but if you win, you’ll receive an e-book.
Direct link to Rafflecopter: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/231aa30b13/

Giveaway for Reviewers!
Anyone on the tour, or outside the tour, who reviews The Things in the Darkness on Amazon and GoodReads and sends their review link into Erin (Publicist for Ira Gansler) at hookofabook@hotmail.com, now through Dec. 31, 2014, will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card.
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(A briefer version of this post appeared in the ITW’s The Big Thrill for March 2014)

People still ask me why I decided to write thrillers about cops and… werewolves. As if it were a conscious decision. Sometimes stuff just happens, and next thing you know you’re “that werewolf guy.”

How did I get here?

Well, there was a progression of sorts, and it makes more sense than it ought to. As usual, it’s all about the things we read and watched and listened to when we were kids. The things that piqued our interest, the things that tickled our creativity, the things that made us feel as if we belonged even if we were outsiders. The things that gave us shelter from reality, taught us lessons before Life could, and gave us license to dream (even if those dreams were nightmares).

Growing up, I went through a series of phases that would lead me to the place where writing about a homicide cop who is also a werewolf – and who finds himself in the crosshairs of an evil Blackwater-like security contractor made up largely of (you guessed it) werewolves – would seem completely logical.

I didn’t realize I was on a journey, but apparently I was and its highways and byways led me here, to the release of my fifth Nick Lupo thriller. WOLF’S CUT is out from Samhain Publishing on March 4/5.

It was an interesting journey, so let’s step back and map it.

I grew up in northern Italy so, even having been born in the U.S., I began a sort of dual existence: two cultures, two languages, an old country and a new, and old way and a new. Perhaps it would be no surprise or coincidence that just about every character in my Bram Stoker Award-nominated first novel, WOLF’S TRAP, would also display some sort of dual nature. And the protagonist named Dominic (Nick) Lupo – no, it’s not subtle, is it? – would exhibit the ultimate dual nature of being both human and wolf, man and monster, and eventually both good guy and bad guy. After five novels, with one more in the works, I look at him this way: Lupo’s a good guy, but he’s getting over it.

So here’s the map.

As a kid, I loved the Universal monster movies, and none as much as ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. While it was clearly a comedy, it utilized the Universal Monsters straightforwardly enough to scare an impressionable youngster watching alone, late at night. WGN’s Saturday night late “Creature Features” was the perfect vehicle, and I reacted with as much empathy to the tragic Larry Talbot in that comical context as I did to Talbot in THE WOLF MAN.

But in those days I was also devouring books by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, as well as the movies based on those authors’ best-known works. My early science fiction forays predictably carried through those books and movies, and even to SF-based JONNY QUEST cartoons, cementing my interest in mixed-genre adventures. As a developing reader, soon I began immersing myself in British thrillers written by Alistair MacLean, Duncan Kyle, Jack Higgins, Ian Fleming, and others… but at the same time I also worked my way through various detective series, including such disparate authors as James Leasor and Ellery Queen, but also Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, eventually settling on the more hardboiled style of Mickey Spillane, Brett Halliday, and others. I was already connecting the harder edge in thrillers to the harder edge of the noir and hardboiled.

I had written plenty of in-school short stories by then, and even started my own novels a couple times – mostly thrillers, war stories, or detective-driven mysteries, channeling my reading preferences.

And I was also dipping into horror, enjoying the work of James Herbert, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and similar writers until the day I brought home a grocery rack paperback by some guy named Stephen King. It was new, his second book, ‘SALEM’S LOT, but I’d never heard of him. I was riveted – and very effectively scared! – by the idea of vampires running rampant in a town just like mine. I was a latch-key kid home alone until 8:00 every night, and Wisconsin winter days are dark by 4:15. Reading that novel as the sky darkened outside really worked on me, and in a flash I knew I was lost to horror. Even though I’d experienced good written horror before, this was the first time I decided I wanted to do what this Stephen King was doing.

I was on my way, but for a while I still wrote stories that mostly wanted to be straightforward SF or mysteries. Still, my reading always edged into darker themes. When it came to SF, I gravitated toward the New Wave and its more psychological focus (see Harlan Ellison, for instance). When it came to horror, King introduced me to Peter Straub and others who kept me fed as I also filled in my resume by going back to Poe and Lovecraft. And then I stumbled onto two magazines that forever changed my approach: David Silva’s THE HORROR SHOW and THE TWILIGHT ZONE MAGAZINE, both of which introduced me to writers I hadn’t met before: Robert McCammon, Joe Lansdale, Richard Laymon, David Schow and others who became known (rightly or wrongly) as the Splatterpunks. Their work was a revelation, because suddenly I realized the horror could be brought home as King had done, but maybe the darkness wasn’t supernatural but inherently human. The serial killer next door, as it were.

Starting in the mid-Seventies, music became an important part of my inner life, and as an Italian-American kid I found myself in the room when a fair amount of opera and Italian folk and folk-pop songs were played. You’d think I would have hated it, but I didn’t. I began to appreciate the inherent drama of operatic music and its almost visual storytelling. I didn’t stop at Italian opera and soon found myself also appreciating orchestral highlights from Wagner, among others, and a fair number of highly dramatic Russians. When I started paying attention to radio, first there was the Beatles and various classic rock acts, but along with Pink Floyd I gravitated toward a kind of rock that was in its own way operatic. Some called it pretentious, but to me “progressive rock” (or “art-rock,” sometimes) was simply more ambitious and open to telling stories beyond the usual easier love and love-gone songs. I didn’t realize yet that music – and progressive rock references specifically – would find its way into my novels right from the very start.

And so it was that these and various other influences swirled around in my head, and would sometime later result in WOLF’S TRAP – a novel I considered a one-off, until its sales led the publisher to decree it required a sequel.

And thus a series was born.

It appears that Nick Lupo’s journey hasn’t ended. WOLF’S CUT picks up where WOLF’S EDGE left off, with some unfinished business between the two women who want him, and the crosshairs of some new and old enemies settling on his back. Lupo himself isn’t the same good guy he began as, having developed into the kind of cop who’s too often willing (but mostly forced) to go off-book because his antagonists aren’t always entirely human.

I enjoy forcing Lupo navigate the dark waters of hazy-at-best ethics and morality, trying to hold his life together as more and more impossible requirements are heaped on him, in my mind making him increasingly a Larry Talbot kind of guy (just to bring us almost full-circle). The parallel stories of Lupo’s youth have given way somewhat to those of his father and grandfather in World War II German-occupied (and post-war) Italy, many of which are loosely based on stories passed on by my own parents and grandparents who lived through the period, connecting my reluctant hero with a destiny that goes back much farther than he realizes.

It has been an interesting journey.

After WOLF’S TRAP, the novels WOLF’S GAMBIT and WOLF’S BLUFF introduced and expanded upon the Blackwater-like security contractor Wolfpaw and hinted at their origins (think Nazis and their occult obsessions). The fourth book, WOLF’S EDGE, went there along with Lupo’s male ancestors and closed the loose Wolfpaw trilogy. And now WOLF’S CUT begins a new loose trilogy in which the nature of Lupo’s antagonists shifts slightly and expands, while still harking back to his father’s days on the hunt through the ranks of the real Odessa and its Nazi-smuggling activities.

The journey continues, and I hope some adventurous readers will want to sign up.
I never thought mingling horror, thrillers, Nazis, police procedural, erotica, and crime would be so much fun.

But it is!

I hope you’ll join me.

www.wdgagliani.com (includes blog)
Twitter: @WDGagliani
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