A 12-year-old boy cowers in his closet while a lunatic killer slaughters his family...a nursing student unwittingly opens her home to the serial killer on her front porch...a brave firefighter suddenly finds himself in the crosshairs of a racist sniper almost nine stories above the ground. Astonishingly, they all survived. In his latest book, Delivered from Evil: True Stories of Ordinary People Who Faced Monstrous Mass Killers and Survived, award-winning author Ron Franscell explores the wounded hearts and minds of the ordinary people these monsters couldn't kill. His mesmerizing accounts crackle with gritty details that put the reader in the midst of the carnage and offer a front-row seat on the complex, painful process of surviving the rest of their haunted lives. The book is published by Fair Winds Press.
What prompted you to write this type of book? What did you hope to accomplish?
I'm not especially fascinated by mass murders or serial killers, except as the catalysts that set great human stories in motion. I'm far more interested in the people who are splashed by this horror and who must deal with it. I was searching for survivors of horrifying mass killers who had refused to lie down and die, either literally or figuratively. Too often, survivors of these kinds of events simply stop dead in their tracks and spend the rest of their days waiting to die. But I wanted to explore the wounded hearts and minds that don't surrender and don't stop. I wanted to know what things deep down in the heart of our hearts begs us to keep going. When I started, I knew these 10 ordinary people had survived bloodcurdling moments and rebuilt something that looked like normal in their lives, but I had no idea how or at what price. By the time I'd finished my year with these people, I began to see just how extraordinary they really were.
How did you decide which incidents to include in the book?
The first element, of course, was having survivors who were still alive and willing to talk. They had to have some perspective on their experience, so I sought cases where some time had passed. I wanted a mix of infamous mass killings and some lesser-known ones, where the horror was no less, but readers were likely to be unfamiliar with the circumstances. Certainly for the victims and survivors, the size of the headline didn't matter much at the time.
The process of finding these 10 survivors took about 2 months. I started with a basic list of survivors in about 50 American and Canadian mass killings. Some had died, some didn't want to talk (sometimes because they didn't want to revisit it, and sometimes because they hoped to write their own books), and some had clearly not regained their equilibrium. Not all survivors' stories have happy endings, and I found many who had simply stopped dead in their tracks and were just waiting to die. After the recent Tucson shooting and many others, people talk about "healing" and "closure" as if "just give them a week or so and they'll be fine." But we're talking years, and painful years, and society doesn't want to wait around for that. We move on fairly quickly, and that's normal, but then the survivors find themselves on their own, and that's another sadness.
I understand you compiled the stories through newspaper articles and interviews with survivors and responders. How cooperative were the people you interviewed?