Thursday, February 26, 2009

Firday's Forgotten Books- River by Rodrick Thorp

Fridays Forgotten Books- River: A Novel of the Green River Killings by Rodrick Thorp

If the name Rodrick Thorp rings a bell... but you don't know why, it's likely that you saw it on a movie or TV screen. Four of his books were adapted and filmed for cable or theractial release. Starting with his 1966 book called The Detective . In 1979 a sequel followed called Nothing Lasts Forever... in which... well here is a bit the plot summary from Wikipedia

" Detective Joe Leland, who is visiting the Klaxon Oil Corporation's headquarters in Los Angeles, where his daughter Steffie Leland Gennaro works. While he is visiting, a German terrorist team led by Anton "Tony" Gruber takes over the building. Leland remains undetected and fights off the terrorists one by one, aided outside the building by LAPD Sargent Al Powell."

Now if any of those names ring a bell, you might have figured out that the book was filmed as a little action flick called Die Hard. It was that film that brought me to Thorp's work and his last novel 1995's River: A Novel of the Green River Killings.

It has been almost 15 years since I last read River, and it wasn't until I started noticing a copy at the local library book sale that I realized that some of the ideas in the book had stayed with me since that first reading. As the title suggests it is a fictional account of the Green River Killer, who had yet to be captured at the time the book was written. Now we all know that Serial Killer stories are few and far between, kidding, they're a dime a dozen. So why would River be worth checking out? and why would it stay in my brain all these years?

Simple, two big story elements in this novel are unlike anything else that I have encountered before or since. The first of these is the killers attempts and desire to record and document every event and step of his development and life's work. He keeps a storage area with every report card, every doctor bill, every bank statement along with records of his kills. Stop for a moment and think about this. The idea that a killer would provide Law Enforcement with everything they would ever need to prosecute him, and the psychologists with reams and reams paperwork to shift through to discover the eternal question of why. It also plays into the idea that serial killers are often looking for people to know who and what they are.

The second thing that has stuck with me is the way in which, shall we say, justice is served. I don't want to give anything more way, let's just say that every other serial killer story has really paled in comparison.

Thorp had an interesting background, having worked as a Private Detective and an investigative journalist writing about crime in the greater LA area. Thorp passed away before the real Green River Killer was finally captured, and I wonder what a new addition of this novel with an afterward about the real killer would look like. Alas, I'll just have to make due with the copy that I picked up at the Library sale and look forward to re-reading.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Love those library sales. I've gotten more great old books that way.

r2 said...

You've really piqued my interest. I'm going to be sure to read this one.

Iren said...

r2: let me know what you think, thanks for stopping by

braider said...

"River" has " stuck" with me too.
At the risk of sounding paranoid
I wonder very seriously if River
is really entirely fiction.
The fictionalized character in reality was William J Stevens and as "River" suggest there was more than one killer. It has occurred to me that Ridgeway could be the submissive of the two killers and that Stevens was the dominate one
and Thorpe wasn't writing fiction at all.
The author ( I believe) interviewed Stevens when he was in prison and maybe got more truth than the police did.

Iren said...

Braider- thanks for the comment, and the additional information. I didn't realize that there was another suspect and reading just a little about him brought brings the book into greater focus.

Anonymous said...