The Shining Girls by South African author Lauren Beukes is one of this summer’s hottest books, and was recently optioned for television by Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way. The story centers around a violent drifter named Harper Curtis, who stumbles on a house that travels through time. Harper then embarks on a killing spree, murdering women in Chicago throughout the twentieth century. But in contrast to suave Hollywood psychopaths like Hannibal Lecter and Patrick Bateman, Harper is more pathetic than debonair, which Beukes feels is closer to reality when it comes to serial killers.
“A lot of them have major issues with impotence — whether that’s actual sexual dysfunction or just feelings of powerlessness,” says Lauren Beukes in this week’s episode of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “They’re actually just violent losers.”
She also wanted to push back against the tendency of crime stories to present murdered women as sex objects. Each of the victims in The Shining Girls is a unique, well-developed character, and together they convey a fascinating portrait of the lives of strong-willed women. It’s that very promise that puts them in the sights of Harper, who’s drawn to their sense of potential. The murder scenes are gritty and visceral, and all are written from the point of view of the victims, focusing on their horror and outrage.
“I specifically tried to avoid writing torture porn,” says Beukes. “And actually, my editor is one of the leading experts on violence against women in South Africa, so if she said a scene was OK and passed muster, I felt like it was probably OK.”
Click here to read the rest of this story