(The names of people and locations are purely fictitious)
Little Bend, Kansas is a small, nondescript town with a population of not much more than 6000. There is very little to distinguish it from other towns of its size, but that would change, one day.
On August 15th, 1957, a beautiful baby boy was born to very happy parents, James and Amelia Benning. Both were overjoyed now that their family was complete. James wanted to honour his grandfathers' memory, so the boy was named Alexander.
Alexanders school and university life are remembered by his teachers, who described him as a highly intelligent young man, and that his only dream was to be a writer. Alexander was a prolific writer, even in his early teens. He created short stories, articles for the school newspaper and even wrote a daily journal. He had two choices when it came to writing, an author or a journalist. After graduating from university in 1981, he chose the former. This was all that anyone could recall about Alexander Bennings early life, his later life, however, would not be so easily forgotten.
Alex, as he prefered to be called now, completed his first novel “Ashes of Fire” in the summer of 1982. It did fairly well, for a newbie author, reaching number 47 on the bestsellers list of that year. This was the kind of encouragement he needed and set about writing his next novel, but he wanted to try to write something gritty, something with teeth. He didn’t enjoy horror, drama, or action, so he decided to write a crime story. It seemed that Alex was cut out for this genre, this new book was a big hit, “Night of Souls”, reached number seven. Alex was overwhelmed with the attention his book was getting, it seemed he had a knack for writing about murder. Over the next 3 years, seven books appeared on the shelves written by Alex Benning, each one darker than it’s predecessor. The last book “Dinner is Served”, was extremely dark, regaling the reader with the tale of a cannibalistic serial killer who dismembered his victims, keeping the meaty parts and then disposing of the rest by throwing them into a nearby river. The book is written from the perspective of the killer and not the investigators trying to catch him. The book was not as well received as Alex had hoped, and this minor bump in his writing career had a profound effect on him, failure was not something he was accustomed to.
The next two books faired only slightly better than ”Dinner is Served”, only very slightly, barely reaching the top 100. This had a noticeable change on Alex, especially his demeanour and everyone noticed it, but hardly anyone mentioned it for fear of Alex flying off the handle, which was not something they had ever seen him do. Alex slowly began to distance himself from his friends and eventually his parents. No one really knew why until portions of his personal journals were published in 1995.
Extracts for the Personal Journals of Alexander Benning
21st February 1988
"I am disappointed with the failure of my last book, and I can’t work out why. It had all the elements of “Night of Souls”, and was nowhere near as dark as “Dinner is Served”. Maybe the genre has fallen out of favour with readers. "
18th March 1988
"That last book ”Exile’s Hunger” was supposed to be my masterpiece, but no one is buying it, at least not that you would notice. I might be missing something with my writing, an element of the story or character that eludes me or is beyond my comprehension. "
27th May 1988
"It has been a long two months, but I think I finally understand what I am missing…..experience. How do I know how a killer feels when committing the crime or what his emotional state is afterwards? Is his heart beating fast, is he overcome with elation after the act? I must understand this if I am to create the best crime novel ever. "
Intellectually, Alex had realised that to make his stories believable, he had to know exactly how a killer acted and felt. He realised that the best people to write about serial killings were serial killers. And this was the dangerous path that Alex would take, not because he was a psychotic killer or that he wanted to kill, he just wanted to know how his characters should act. In his mind, it was just an intellectual exercise, nothing more. The immorality of where this path would lead did not enter into his thinking. And he also did not realise that his actions would inevitably cause suffering, not just for the victims but also for his family and friend.
Continued in Part Two.