|By Rich Tupica|
Lansing author explores the case of the Cleveland Strangler
A chat with local author Steve Miller about his new true-crime book “Nobody’s Women” can take some disturbingly dark turns. He knows this genre isn’t everyone’s bag.
“I’ve been places where (the) true crime (section) is put in the back along with the skin mags,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a guilty pleasure or what, but obviously true crime is huge. I mean, look at all the TV shows, the movies … and we’re documenting history.”
For the past year Miller has been working on a book about Anthony Sowell, also known as “The Cleveland Strangler.” Between 2005 and 2009 Sowell, now 53, killed 11 women and kept various body parts from each of his victims in his home. It was Jeffrey Dahmer-like brutality. In 2011, Sowell was convicted, and now resides on death row in Ohio. This story caught the eye of Miller and it soon consumed his life.
On Thursday, Schuler Books in Okemos hosts a book-signing event with Miller for this unsettling paperback, published through Penguin/Berkley. This is Miller’s third outing in the true crime genre.
“I never studied serial killers before, and I thought it’d be a good challenge,” Miller said. “It was a horrific story and I thought maybe there was another story to be told.”
Miller said Sowell never actually talked about the murders, so Miller relied on the eight hours of interrogation tapes he acquired from police.
Miller wasn’t able to meet with Sowell, so his interviews were done by phone, where he saw a side of serial killers most people don’t think about.
“He was very flippant,” Miller said about his conversations with Sowell. “He felt he had the upper hand. Talking to him on the phone and reading his letters, I’d go, ‘This guy’s kind of a dick.’ He’s a serial killer and he’s a dick. Other murderers I’ve talked to over the years show some contrition, but (Sowell) was not contrite.”
“He would take these women by surprise,” he said. “I say in the book, ‘This guy is a true monster. This is what a monster does.’”
Miller said it was Sowell’s victims and their under-publicized stories that encouraged him to keep writing this gruesome account.
“These were women who were snatched off the streets,” Miller said. “They all had terrible problems. Most of them had really sordid pasts and drug problems. But these women still existed; they lived and breathed. It spoke to me that these are people who weren’t well represented. As the case progressed, they weren’t missed. Society didn’t miss them. That’s where the title came from: they were nobody’s women. I felt terrible about it and I thought maybe I could shed a little light on it. It really became clear to me that I made the right decision when I attended the trial and saw the families of these women. They weren’t ‘nobody’s women.’”
Possibly to break up the bleakness of the material, Miller spent the last year simultaneously working on a book about the Detroit rock ‘n’ roll scene, which will be out next year. Miller has also covered countless trials and murder cases, including serving time as a reporter at the Dallas Morning News and working as a national reporter for the Washington Times, People magazine and U.S. News and World Report.
“Nobody’s Women” book signing with Steve Miller