Nathan Ripley on portraying serial killers in his novel Find You in the Dark

Naben Ruthnum, aka Nathan Ripley, discusses his debut thriller.
Nathan Ripley is the author of the thriller Find You in the Dark. (Simon & Schuster)

Nathan Ripley is the pen name of Naben Ruthnum. As Ruthnum, he wrote a book called Curry: Eating, Reading and Race, about the ways that curry has been overused as a metaphor for identity. But as Nathan Ripley, he's written something entirely different — a thriller called Find You in the Dark. It's about a man obsessed with studying past murders and passing on that information to the police.

Morbid fascinations

"Martin Reese is a serial killer hobbyist who goes beyond just reading true crime and is actually interested in violence against women, to the point that he's actually looking for these dead bodies. He looks at it as innocuous, but part of this book is exploring that obsession with violence. It was important to me not to put any gore or splatter on the page when it came to violence against women. What really drives the book and what was most important to me in terms of getting it right was to not have the protagonist be a hero because I'm really pointing out a deep and eerie flaw in him that makes him quite close to the kind of people that end up on the other side of the bars."

Straddling two lives

"He also has to be a believable kind family man who has a deep devotion to his daughter and wife. But he lives this life of deception. That was the tightrope of the novel. Part of the philosophy of the book is that serial killers aren't these incredibly interesting evil deities, they're just creeps whose sexual desires are more important than the lives of other people. I really wanted to both poke at our interest in it and also deflate the fact that these are all Hannibal Lecter-like intellectual gods, they're creepy little men."

Nathan Ripley's comments have edited and condensed.