by Terrance McArthur
This week we have something different-a review of a true crime book, California’s Deadliest Women: Dangerous Dames and Murderous Moms By David Kulczyk. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of this book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
California’s Deadliest Women: Dangerous Dames and Murderous Moms by David Kulczyk
It’s not a pretty thing, yet we have a fascination with it. Thousands of mystery novels, movies, and television shows reveal whodunit, howdunit, and whydunit. Reality shows analyze the deaths, the investigations, the captures, and the trials. Usually, it’s men who kill, but there are times when a woman takes a life.
David Kulczyk (“coal-check”) writes about California, crime, and/or people who don’t fit society’s normal mold. He brings these paths together in California’s Deadliest Women: Dangerous Dames and Murderous Moms.
Twenty-eight women are profiled, from teens to seniors, plus ten others who received dishonorable mentions in the introduction. Most of them shot their way into this book (Kulczyk didn’t include poisoners. He wanted killers who “got their hands bloody.”). Weapons of choice also included knives, boiling water, pillows for suffocation, blunt objects, and a barrel of acid. Some killed their husbands. Some killed their children. Some killed their rivals. Some killed anyone who was available.
A few chapter profiles are less than a page, while others run as long as ten pages. Each one is memorable, including:
• Annika Ostberg: A Swedish-born junkie who left a trail of four bodies, but became famous in her homeland as an example of American injustice and inability to deal with its drug problems. The Swedish government used pressure to bring her home, where she was the subject of books, plays, and a documentary that showed how stupid American policemen were.
• Brynn Hartman: A wannabe actress who married Saturday Night Live’s Phil Hartman, didn’t trust him, and killed him…and herself.
• Colleen Harris: She claimed her husband committed suicide…or…she shot him in self-defense…or…it was an accident…but her previous husband died the same way.
• Jennifer San Marco: The former mail-sorting worker came back to her old USPS building, went postal, and started shooting.
• Man-Ling Williams: Slashed her husband 97 times with a samurai sword.
• Dana Sue Gray: Killed a woman and went shopping. Killed another woman and went shopping. Killed another woman and….
• Larissa Schuster: Clovis’s MVP (Most Violent Player) put her unconscious ex-husband into a plastic barrel and added acid.
These aren’t happily-ever-after stories; the best you can hope for is that somebody caught in the killing spree survived. Kulczyk spills a goodly amount of literary blood, with noir-ish descriptions leading up to the carnage. The based-on-period-photo sketches by Olaf Jens are deeply crosshatched, emphasizing the darker qualities of the soul.
Read it in small segments, taking time to savor each act of depravity. Don’t read this with someone you love. You don’t want them to get ideas, do you?
Interview With David Kulczyk:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
David: I started writing fiction in 1989, and was first published in 1995.
KRL: What have you published before this?
David: I have had eight short fiction stories published, and I have worked as a freelance writer for many magazines and newsweeklies. I have three other books published: California Justice: Shootouts, Lynchings, and Assassinations in the Golden State; Death In California: The Bizarre, Freakish and Curious Ways People Die in the Golden State; and California’s Fruits, Flakes and Nuts: True Tales of California Crazies, Crackpots, and Creeps.
KRL: Do you only write true crime?
David: At this moment in my life, yes.
KRL: What gave you the idea for this book?
David: While I was researching my other books, I noticed how rare female murderers are. There are only around one hundred females convicted of murder in all of California’s history. Most of the women who were convicted of murder were abetting a male who actually committed the murders. So I picked only female murderers who did their own killing.
KRL: Why true crime?
David: Because true crime is usually horribly written and is full of misinformation and outright falsehoods. I knew that I could do better than 90 percent of the writers of true crime out there. I was also sick of reading about the same criminals, oddballs, and screw-ups. There is only so much that you can read about Black Bart and Rattlesnake Dick, not to mention the Depression-era criminals. I never glorify a murderer. I feel that I write for the victims, and the law enforcement officers who solved the crime. I feel that I set stories straight. I name names and give addresses. I think that it is important for the reader to know exactly where these things happened.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
David: I have a schedule that I use to keep a life balance. I sit at my computer from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a break for lunch. During this time, I research and write. I get up very early, like 5 a.m., so I use that quiet time for extra writing and research.
KRL: Future writing goals?
David: All writers are only as good as their last book. I’m honored that a guy like me has had four books published.
KRL: Writing heroes?
David: William Secrest. He is the greatest writer of California history, period! I like Jay Robert Nash’s organization skills and his time bombs that he plants that hack writers will use, so he can accuse them of plagiarism or embarrass them. As far as fiction goes, I don’t read it very often nowadays. When I did read fiction, Kurt Vonnegut and Paul Bowles were my favorites.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
David: I have tons of reference/history books, but I mostly like to get my leads through old newspaper articles.
KRL: What do you read?
David: History of all kinds.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
David: I did not attend college until I was 40.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
KRL: Any upcoming events in California?
KRL: Any upcoming events?
David: Feb 23:Alameda—Books Inc.
March 9: Mountain View—Books Inc.
KRL: If you could spend time and talk to one of the killers in your book, which one would it be?
David: There is not one murderer in this book that I would want to meet. I have no interest in meeting them. I do not care about any of them.
KRL: What is the most common driving force behind the killers?
David: Greed and jealousy.
KRL: As you researched this book, what was the biggest surprise for you?
David: Writing this book affected me greatly. It made me appreciate everyday single minute that I am breathing.
KRL: Annika Östberg became a cause célèbre in Sweden. Why?
David: I believe that Östberg played her Swedish sympathizers. Like the murdering, heartless con-artist that she is, she took advantage of Swedish nationalism and culture of leniency towards criminals.
KRL: What murder was the most repulsive to you?
David: All murders are repulsive to me, but the most repulsive is Stephanie Ilene Lazarus, who murdered a college ex-boyfriend’s wife, while she was a L.A. police officer. She rose through the ranks and ended up being a detective in the art theft detail. Some amazing cold-case detectives took on the case 23 years later, and realized that their colleague was a murderer, and for months they had to keep quiet until they got all the evidence together, without Lazarus catching on to them.
To enter to win a copy of California’s Deadliest Women, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “deadliest,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 25, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.
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You can use this link to purchase the book from Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.