What You Missed… notes on our September speaker

From the October issue of The Writer's Life

Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked, by Gregory Fournier, is an account of a serial killer in a small Michigan town where the author once lived. Fournier even knew the killer, as they lived a few houses apart.

John Norman Collins killed seven high school girls. He took his first victim to his uncle’s house when the uncle was on vacation and John was taking care of the dog. At that house he violated and brutally killed her.

The police looked for the serial killer for two years. But it was this first murder that brought Collins to trial. He received a life sentence without parole.

Another writer wrote a book about this case and fictionalized everything, changing the names of the victims, the murderer, etc. Greg decided his book would tell everything — a work that ended up being a 7-8 year obsession.

Fournier's book is in three parts: the victims, the court case. and the aftermath. He felt the structure of the book was very important, so he wrote each murder separately to provide essential details.

The parents of the first victim contacted Fournier to ensure he handled her story in a respectful manner. His meeting with them proved to be a highlight of his writing journey.

The Ypsilanti authorities wanted to hide the grisly story under a rug, so records were “lost.” But fortunately, Greg had a researcher in Ypsilanti who volunteered his services and found the newspaper stories and other reports that made it possible for the story to be written.

To promote the book, Fournier hired local publicist Paula Margulies (the author of The Tau of Book Publicity). She suggested he write a blog, which proved to be the most important advice he received. Initially reluctant, he began the blog, titled fornology.com, and it helped him find and develop an audience. He now enjoys writing it. (You can contact Gregory at gregoryafournier@gmail.com)

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