I didn’t base Billy Dent on any particular real-life serial killer. I wanted him to be something new, something different. New and different enough, at least, that readers wouldn’t know what to expect. That unknowing, that inability to divine what comes next — that’s where terror makes its nest.
After I’d finished the first two books and was working on the third, I happened to catch an MSNBC special on Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer, while on a flight. I was captivated by it. Billy isn’t real and he isn’t based on anyone real…but Dennis Rader is the closest thing I’ve seen in the real world to William Cornelius Dent.
If you are at all interested in the bizarre coincidences that sometimes link art and life, check out this article from the Wichita Eagle. It tells the story of Rader’s daughter and how his depredations impacted her, as well as a crucial decision she made.
It is eerily similar in many respects to the Killers trilogy, right down to lines like this:
Dad committed his first murders at age 29. She was 27. She worried maybe something would change in her in two years….
“What the hell is he doing in prison to be ‘busy’?”She later learned that he had a fan club – loons who wrote to him. She worried they’d look her up.
In the end, Parker said, we are not our parents. We are who we are.