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ChatChat - Claudia Cragg

Oct 23, 2014

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Stephen Singular’s first book, Talked to Death, set the tone for his journalistic career. Published in 1987, it chronicled the assassination of a Denver Jewish talk show host, Alan Berg, by a group of neo-Nazis known as The Order. The book was nominated for a national award — the Edgar for true crime — and became the basis for the 1989 Oliver Stone film, Talk Radio. Talked to Death explored the timeless American themes of racism, class, violence, and religious intolerance, and the critics had been alerted to a new author and an important subject.

Here KGNU's Claudia Cragg speaks with Singular together with his wife, Joyce Jacques Singular, an author in her own right as well as a co-author with her husband for many projects. 

The Singulars are in the midst of writing a book about James Holmes, who carried out the largest mass shooting in American history in July 2012 at the Aurora movie theater. This will examine the larger social issues involving gun control, mental health, video games, neuroscience, the death penalty, doctor/patient confidentiality, and will offer a variety of perspectives from the Twenty-Something generation that’s driven much of this violence.

Since 1991, Joyce Jacques Singular, has worked closely with her husband on many of the true crime books. They both have an intense interest in the psychological aspects of murder and have unconventional views of spirituality.  Over time, this combination filtered into their work together. They've been intrigued with the place where darkness meets the light — and with looking at certain crimes not just from a legal, forensic or sociological point of view but from a spiritual angle as well. This is especially true when killers have committed acts of violence in the name of religion.

Since 1987, Singular has published 19 more non-fiction books that reflect a wide range of interest and diversity of styles. Twice a New York Times best selling author, he’s written three books about sports, including collaborations with NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and controversial NFL superstar Terrell Owens, and biographies of Hollywood power players Michael Ovitz and David Geffen. True crime remained the focal point of his work, but he’d begun writing less about individual crimes and more about social crimes. His 1995 study of the O.J. Simpson case, Legacy of Deception, went beneath the media hysteria surrounding these murders and connected the violent bigotry of The Order with the racist corruption inside the Los Angeles Police Department. Singular’s 1999 book, Presumed Guilty: An Investigation into the JonBenet Ramsey Case, the Media, and the Culture of Pornography, performed a similar role for the infamous child killing in Boulder, Colorado. 

In 2001, Singular brought out The Uncivil War: The Rise of Hate, Violence, and Terrorism in America documenting the increasing dangers of the nation’s deepening cultural war. The book was published well before terrorism struck the United States on September 11, 2001, and the country had plunged into a bitterly divisive conflict in Iraq. The same themes the author had first uncovered in Talked to Death – Fundamentalist religion and intolerance, racism and violence – were re-examined in this book, but now the stakes were much higher and the stage was global. Singular was probing not just the violence itself, but its underlying emotional and spiritual causes. His 2006 book,Unholy Messenger: The Life & Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer, goes even deeper into the convergence of distorted religious beliefs and bloodshed.

In her work on the books, Joyce has attended legal proceedings, visited inmates in prison, interviewed witnesses, studied forensic data, and been involved in developing ideas for stories, photo selection, editing, creative suggestions, and re-writing. The use of both a male and female perspective has added a unique dimension to the true crimes books, three of which have been about women who committed murders. These include  A Killing in the Family which was an NBC-TV mini-series entitled Love, Lies, and MurderSweet Evil, about a young Colorado Springs wife and mother who killed another woman; and Charmed to Death, which became a FOX-TV movie titled “Legacy of Sin.”  In Anyone You Want Me to Be, the story of the Internet’s first known serial killer, Joyce was especially insightful in chronicling women who were drawn into online romances that ended with their deaths.

(KGNU Denver/Boulder Broadcast Link)