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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 reasons—our 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 say—it 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 you—it'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 musicians—there'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?

When did 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 victim—a 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 the time.

How did you come up with the name of your zine? Was MCBF your first choice?
I got the name from a Fredric Brown mystery—great 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.

Where do 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 head—sports 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.

Would you 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.

Have you 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.

What advice 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.

What zines 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 Life.

Have you 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.

Have any 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.

Would you 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.

Were there any TV shows, movies or books that had an impact on you as a child/teenager?
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!

What are 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.

Have you ever been hassled by the "authorities" because of your zine?
No, not once.

This interview first appeared in Java Turtle. Posted with permission.

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