IT'S ME, Edward Wayne Edwards, the Serial Killer You Never Heard Of by John A. Cameron
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
What motivated me to start this book was another case, advanced in an interview with the author that was posted to YouTube, suggesting that the murder of Teresa Halbach was yet another of Edwards' dirty deeds, fitting the modus operandi the author developed for Edwards. This was the murder made famous in the Netflix documentary miniseries Making A Murderer, for which Steven Avery was ultimately convicted. In the interview, the author suggests that a bystander, captured for only one second in one courtroom hallway scene, was none other than Edwards himself. He suggests that this seemingly incidental cameo would have been no accident, that Edwards could have been in the area during the time in question, and that the framing of another person, indirectly manipulating law enforcement to pursue a false version of the crime, was Edwards' murderous career stock-in-trade. The author theorizes that the attention given to Avery's earlier wrongful conviction may have attracted Edwards to come to the area to do the alleged murder and frame-up.
I felt rather open-mindedly optimistic about that theory after watching the YouTube clip, and it was shortly after that when I coincidentally spotted this book while wandering the stacks at my local library! After getting to page 211, however, I am very decidedly pessimistic about not only the theory that Edwards killed Halbach and framed Avery, but also the entire related story which the book advances.
A good story though both are, I've abandoned this book for now. I may finish it later. I should be clear that the Steven Avery/Teresa Halbach connection was advanced by the author after the book was published, so you'll find no details about that within.
This edition (likely the only one) is a lovely hardcover. Yet I am baffled by the publisher's choice of typeface. Who sets a book entirely in sans serif? While the materials of the book are quite lovely, and no-doubt not cheap to use, the publisher seems to have given the book to a team of noobs to execute, and the author was apparently left entirely to his own devices as to how to present the story. After reviewing an intermediate draft, I think any reasonable editor would have had a serious conference with the author on points of style and presentation to insist on a serious reworking. Alas, what you see is what you get.
This book attempts to sell you on a serious crime theory, and to do this, you need a first-person documentary account. Instead, we have a very awkward third-person retelling that essentially novelizes the whole concept. Conversations are had, set in passages of quoted dialog, and the reader is left to wonder: is this an actual quote, as in, did he really say this, or is this just a bit of stylistic dialog advancing a point in the narrative, intended to be interpreted as the "gist" of what transpired? To take this book SERIOUSLY*, you do not want to find yourself confronted with such questions.
The author advances a novel theory of crimes alleged to have been committed by Ed Edwards, some of which have been attributed to other perpetrators, a number of whom have been convicted and, if the author's theory is correct, are wrongfully so. If the author's timeline and attributions are correct, it would make Edwards the No. 1 serial killer in the world, par excellence, with a killing career spanning some 62 years or so. From the first kill in the late 1040s to the last in 2010 (if I'm remembering correctly), every one done with an extremely high level of skill and precision so as to not attract attention at the wrong moment, and not leave evidence pointing directly at him. Here is a purported serial killer who required no learning curve, no sloppy or hesitant early kills to acquire skill and technique. He was born a master, and that was by itself going too far for me to believe.
The author assembles various prison and judicial records (or unofficial reports, the formatting set in the book for some exhibited listings appears contrived to look official, but may not be an actual record in any real database or file, in this way becoming only a dressed-up synopsis notation) in an attempt to create a timeline tracking Edwards movements and correlating them to crimes. But, there are very large empty spaces in the result of this process where no firm evidence is forthcoming. The author also gives us the cryptograms from the Zodiac case, along with a purported solution and recovered plaintext messages via his friend Neal, a genius. The messages are interesting, for what it's worth, and feed into the notion that Edwards might be the Zodiac, but not one page is spent elucidating the process which arrived at this solution, nor a discussion about how Neal can be confident it is a valid solution.
Another opportunity to gather firm evidence to bolster the theory is completely wasted in the letters and conversations which the author and his friend Neal have with Edwards. Rather than frank factual discussions about their ideas and direct solicitations from Edwards for corroborating statements or dis-confirming evidence, the keystone players engage in a sort of tongue-in-cheek string-along game with the man. They adopt personas and hedge their information, structuring a contrived relationship with him which they think might get Edwards on their side; somehow make him more cooperative, less likely to be dismissive or engage in deliberate misdirection (a tactic the author warns Edwards is a master at).
Well, I think they seriously misplayed their chance. Edwards responded very cordially to all their inquiries, eludes that there are more bodies and stories to talk about than they apparently know about, and that in any case, a meeting ought to be arranged soon as he knows a state execution is already pending on other recent convictions. Yet, in my opinion, the author and his friend instead choose to continue to toy with Edwards about their theory and knowledge, and in due course not long after their direct communications open, Edwards' death sentence is carried out...leaving all their questions still effectively unanswered!
The rest of the author's evidence consists of little more than entirely subjective handwriting and photo analysis. Does this writing sample from Edwards' correspondence with the author look like this note left by the Zodiac? Does this face, known to be Edwards, sufficiently resemble this face, possibly the perpetrator of one of the other documented crimes?
And with that the whole book's case melts down to the simple judgement of the eye of the beholder. No real leads are developed or run down conclusively. No new evidence is brought to light. And most tragically, Edwards' is never really given the opportunity to come forward and explain how "It's ME" and provide details of the listed crimes and leads or details which could be later corroborated and verified, the substance that would form the foundation of a solid case.
If in fact Edwards is the killer he is alleged to be, guilty of the other murders the book attributes to him, especially the Zodiac and Black Dahlia killings, I am afraid that clear and convincing evidence of this fact may be, with Edwards' death, forever lost to history. But, at least with respect to the Zodiac legend, we can add both Edwards and the author's names to the very long list of people who have claimed to have clear and convincing evidence to have either been or known the Zodiac.
* This use of capitals is an INSIDE joke. The text is infected with plenty of words and sentences highlighted in all-caps; the author makes no use of typographical or other mechanisms for adding emphasis to his points (well, except for !!!). Instead he's written it all out in a sort of plain-text fashion that reads a little like an emailed screed from a CRACKPOT. Too bad really, as I don't think he is one, exactly.
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