An Interview with John Marr
of Murder Can Be Fun
by Lynne Lowe
Why do you
think people have such an attraction to murder and other crimes?
I could go on about
this for a few days, but won't because I want to spare you, and
I still probably wouldn't make much sense. There are probably
20 million reasonsour obsession / repulsion / denial of
our own mortality, morbid curiosity, and so forth. But the big
one is the drama. Murder is dramatic. It's more sensational that
stubbing your toe, and bound to be more emotional on some level
than simple shoplifting. Contrary to the current crop of true
crime paperbacks, murder is inherently interesting.
Who is your
all-time favorite criminal?
You ask a question
like insisting a mother select her favorite child. It's hard
to sayit changes depending on whatever I'm reading. Bundy
and Gacy were quite interesting fellows in their ability to get
away with it, and you have to hand it to weirdo Ed Hickman. One
thing I can tell youit's not Manson.
Why do some
women fall in love with known seller killers? What do you think
the attraction is?
This is related
to why women fall for drunks, drug addicts, and musiciansthere's
the thrill of the rescue, the naughty, rebellious part, the publicity,
and the fact, as John Waters has pointed out, everyone looks
sexier under indictment. Besides, can you think of a better way
of pissing off your parents?
your fascination with all this murder/crime stuff begin?
I've always been
interested in weird, off-beat stuff. I was completely obsessed
with Dan Mannix's Memoirs
of a Sword Swallower when I was 10, reading it repeatedly.
And of course, I have always has a taste for violent, off-beat
fiction. But I was a bit of a latecomer to true crime. I didn't
seriously start collecting true crime until I was in college
in the early '80s and discovered all these great books and crimes
that I'd somehow been missing. Now I'm bored with the whole thing.
The '80s are over, and so is serial killing.
Do you know
any murderers personally?
Oddly enough, two
childhood friends grew up to be murderers. One smashed an old
lady's head in with a brick, the other one shot up a shopping
mall. I also knew a murder victima co-worker at a high
school summer job came out on the short end of a murder-suicide.
I'd like to write about this one of these days if I ever get
How did you
come up with the name of your zine? Was MCBF your first choice?
I got the name
from a Fredric Brown mysterygreat writer, good title, even
if it isn't one of his better books. I had a few other ideas
which I've long since forgotten. It has been 11 years, after
all. One I remember as being even better than Murder
Can Be Fun, but I forgot that one before it came time to
do the first issue! You've always got to write this stuff down.
your topic ideas come from?
From my head, of
course. I read a lot (as if you hadn't guessed that already)
and things cook and jell and all of the sudden it pops into my
headsports deaths! Zoo deaths! Naughty children! The idea
is the easy part. As any writer can tell you, ideas are a dime
a dozen, even the good ones. The telling thing lies in the execution.
like to share some of your researching secrets?
I don't have secrets.
I have a collection of 10,000 books, three library cards, and
a paralyzing phobia that I might overlook something. Mostly I
rummage around, digging through old magazines and microfilmed
newspapers. Sometimes you get lucky.
Who is your
favorite fictional detective?
I'm not a big fan
of series detectives, probably out of sheer orneriness. But I
must confess to a great fondness of Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder,
especially before he stopped drinking.
ever come across a hideous crime during your research that you
found too shocking to publish in MCBF?
No. As a matter
of fact, I don't find many crimes that shocking.
can you give someone who is new to the zine world?
Do something exactly
how you want to do it, not to be like someone else.
do you enjoy reading in your spare time? Are there any that inspired
you when you first started MCBF?
I'm not too in
touch with the latest, greatest zines these days. I tend to stick
to the tried and true old favorites: Cometbus,
Mystery Date, Sidney
Suppey, Thrift SCORE,
Beer Frame, the various
review zines, etc. I'm still mourning over the demise of Pathetic
ever been approached by any mainstream publishers?
I've talked to
editors informally, but until I get off my ass and write a book
proposal or some green editor comes a'knockin' waving a large
amount of green, nothing's going to happen.
What is your
opinion of zinesters who sign major book deals?
I hope they're
not in it for the money.
real-life criminals ever tried to contact you to tell their story?
Every once in a
while I get letters from prison from these guys who want me to
tell their life story in exchange for half the profits. But I
think they have more money in mind that he $50 I could get them
if I was willing to give 'em 50 percent.
consider interviewing someone like Charles Manson, the Night
Stalker or the Hillside Stranglers if they asked you to?
No. I hate talking
to people, especially those people.
any TV shows, movies or books that had an impact on you as a
One of my big influences
was a lack of tv. I just could never get into the damned thing
(except for "Leave It to Beaver"). Bookwise, heavy
influences were the aforementioned Mr. Mannix, Alfred Hitchcock,
anthologies, Cornell Woolrich, Harlen Ellison, Fredric Brown,
and dozens of others I can't think of right now. But even at
an early age, my tastes tended towards the obscure, the out-of-print,
and the arcane.
If an award
was given for the murder of the century, which one would come
in first place? Second? Third?
I'll pass on this.
I take these questions very seriously, so I'd have to research,
devise a weighting scheme, do the statistics, and come out with
a definitive answer. I don't think I can get it done tonight.
If it were
possible to have a roundtable with 13 famous people, living or
dead, who would they be? Why? Where would this gathering take
place? What type of meal/drinks would you serve?
I hate dinner parties,
so I would probably pick 13 famous jerks at random, and slip
them thallium (in honor of Graham Young!) in their pre-meal cocktails.
That way I'd save myself the trouble of cooking for them, too.
Do you believe
in the death penalty?
I've done a lot
of research into this topic, and have come to the conclusion
that the death penalty does, in fact, exist. Sorry!
some of the things that you have received through the mail from
your readers? Any threatening mail/items?
I get the usual
stuff, mostly: books, records, CDs, zines, catalogs, letters
exhibiting varying degrees of mental disturbance, and (my favorite)
checks! Perhaps the weirdest thing I ever received was a photo
of a very pregnant woman with a rash on her stomach sleeping
in a motel room. No further explanation. That was even stranger
that the sex pictures. I've never gotten any threats, though
the occasional irate letter comes along from time to time. Some
Disney fans just don't get the Disney piece and give me impassioned
defenses of the park.
ever been hassled by the "authorities" because of your
No, not once.
This interview first appeared in Java Turtle.
Posted with permission.
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