Everyone has heard about John Wayne Gacy. He’s the guy who killed thirty three young boys in the mid and late seventies in “Chicagoland” and then buried them in the crawl space beneath his house. Oh, and he was also a professional clown for hire named Pogo.
I’ve read a couple of books about Gacy before but this one definitely stands in a class all its own. As a matter of fact, this is by far the best written and most entertaining true crime book I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot of them). What makes this book stand out is that unlike most serial killer/true crime books this one isn’t written by a journalist, psychologist, family member of the accused or the accused himself. Defending a Monster was written by Sam Amirante, the lawyer whose task it was to defend Gacy against the state of Illinois in what would become one of the most notorious trials of all time. I’d never thought about it before but who better to relay such a story than the defendant’s lawyer? Genius.
“‘Sam, could you do me a favor?’
A telephone call, seven short words, a simple-enough request. That’s how it all began.
I knew the guy on the other end of the line. Everyone on the Northwest Side did. He was a political wannabe, one of those guys that was always around, talking about all the big shots he knew, hoping that the importance of others would rub off on him, a nice-enough guy – maybe a little pushy, a bit of a blowhard, telling tall tales, but still, a nice-enough guy.”
With this book you get a whole different type of story than with most like it. It’s not all just dates and facts and confessions. This is conversations, letters and notes that an accused serial killer would only share with his lawyer. The insight and observations are incredible.
“‘This boy,’ he said, gently tapping the picture with his fingertip, ‘This boy is dead. He’s dead. This isn’t the boy from the drugstore…but this boy is dead. He is in a river.’
Time switched to slow motion. I looked at Stevens and then back at the pathetic, broken lump of a man in front of me. I guess I had some suspicions; if I was honest, they were there, nagging questions put there by Sullivan and other, the mayor. They were all so sure. But until that moment, I wanted to believe my client. I wanted him to tell me that he had driven Rob to the Greyhound station or that Rob was staying with Rossi or Cram and that Gacy had given him a job and that Rob wanted to leave home. Something. Something else.
The gravity of his statement was beginning to register. I looked at Stevens again, puzzled, then back at Gacy. I was shaking my head. Something wasn’t right. ‘What the fuck are you talking about, John? That is Robby Piest, the Piest kid, the kid from the drugstore, the kid that everyone has been looking for. That’s him.’
Gacy looked at me. His sagging, dead, watery eyes pierced me.
‘So…many,’ he softly murmured, barely a whisper.”
This book isn’t for just anyone out there but if you are indeed a fan of the true crime genre I promise you’ll not be sorry you picked up this book.