A rare treat today–I interview Blaine Lee Pardoe, the author of Virginia Creeper. Blaine’s a fellow historian but I asked him here to talk about something a little different–crime. Specifically the Route 211 Murders, a story that as a Northwesterner, I hadn’t heard much about prior to this discussion. Sit back and enjoy the story behind this recent publication. Then, when you’ve finished, check out the book to see what he hasn’t told us.
Gwen: Virginia Creeper. Wow. I don’t know where to begin here, Blaine. I can honestly say that this is one of the more shocking stories I’ve heard in a while. It just amazes me that it didn’t hit CNN or one of those nightly news broadcasts. So I guess, let’s start there.
I think maybe a few readers will have heard of the Route 211 Killings but what with so much in the news lately, I hate to say it, but it can get overwhelming. Can you tell us a little bit about the background of the murders? What local folks knew about them?
Blaine: Well, the murders dropped off the radar pretty quickly with the death and the presumed killer – Andrew Fitzwater. Also the investigators did not go public with all of the details of what occurred – and with good reason. Also, the murders also were not your typical serial killing. These victims, once it was all pieced together, were spread out over 150 years or so. Drew pled guilty to three of the murders – but died under questionable circumstances, before he could be sentenced. From the police perspective, it was best to let the case slip into obscurity.
Gwen: As I recall, it was your friend–well, at least acquaintance–Pepper who suggested you look into this. Now I know that you’re a military historian, a Civil War buff, and a science fiction writer…how did you feel when he made that request? Did you instantly think it was a natural fit or was there some hesitation there?
Blaine: At the time I was working on a non-fiction book, but I have to admit this didn’t seem to me to be a good fit for me to stick my nose in the case. One of the victims mothers was fairly convincing. There was some distrust in the police, she seemed to think that as an armchair historian I might come it at with a different perspective. She was right about that!
Gwen: So, Blaine, I can’t help but think your background as a historian ended up as an real advantage for you in digging into the mystery of these deaths. Do you agree with that?
Blaine: Police tend to look at facts and evidence related to crimes. I wasn’t bound by that covenant as a historian. I wasn’t limited in my thinking by what common sense would have said was impossible. In the end it helped the authorities, albeit in a minor way. What we uncovered was so heinous and incredible, I wonder if they would have gone down some of the trails I was willing to explore.
Gwen: Can you share one detail with us that you think was particularly compelling about your experience? I’ll understand if you need to keep this off the record, as it were.
Blaine: This became personal. The killer – the REAL killer, came after some of us associated with the case. When you read the book you’ll understand. When someone goes after your wife and kids, it makes it very personal. I remember, when I wrote about that night, how it would feel to have someone attack your home – that gut wrenching feeling. As a man, my instinct was to protect my family. As a military historian, I knew we had to go on the offense. Those two things coming together were a powerful combination. In the end, it helped us find out the real truth about the murders.
Gwen: What happened was pretty incredible…I don’t want to give out too many details but how hard was it for you to get anyone to listen to you? Did you have any hesitation about writing the book? Trouble selling the story?
Blaine: I had to change a lot of the names – but not the places. For some people that has been hard to swallow. My hesitation is that people would not fully understand or comprehend how all of this unfolded. It was hard enough for those of us that were a part of it. A few publishers expressed interest in the book over the years but the content was fairly disturbing. They were worried that people would start wandering the countryside looking for the locales mentioned in the book. Hydra Publications recognized the story for what it was and accepted that risk.
Gwen: Are there any last words that you’d like to leave us readers with? How can we find out more about Virginia Creeper or your other works?
Blaine: Well, what I can tell you is that Virginia Creeper is a very scary book. I don’t like violent images, but in light of that, this has some images that are disturbing. A friend of mine said she couldn’t read the book at night because it gave her nightmares. I guess that’s a compliment.
In terms of my other books – go ahead and check out Amazon.com or my web site, www.blainepardoe.com. I tend to keep my blog updated every week with a little bit of everything, including what I’m currently working on: http://bpardoe.blogspot.com/ Of course you can always follow me on Facebook as well.