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Solving Crimes, Spinning Tales: An Interview with James Marquart, author of Unthinkable: Who Kills Their Grandmother?

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James Marquart resides in Frisco, Texas, with his treasured wife, Kimberly. They enjoy traveling, spending time with their beautiful grandchildren, and relishing each other’s company, along with their sassy pup Abbey. James graduated with a BA in Law Enforcement from Western Illinois University, an MA in Sociology from Kansas State University, and Ph.D. in Sociology from Texas A&M University while working as a prison guard. He has served in such positions as Program Chair, Dean, and Provost. He was President of The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and has published many papers and authored several books, three with the University of Texas Press.

You can buy Unthinkable: Who Kills Their Grandmother? here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

Millions of crimes are committed in the United States every year and murder is really a rare event. However, most rare is the killing of family members. It is unthinkable for a grandson to murder his grandmother. The title went through months of revisions until we got it just right. I think it’s very fitting and captures the evil behind the crime.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

The book cover is simply amazing and I could not believe the artist’s rendition. I was expecting something different. I played around on my own and drew up a few covers. The one sent to me for review was a complete surprise and a home run. I just love it. For the physical book, I was amazed to hold a hard copy. After all the work, writing, researching, editing, and dreaming of completion, there it was in my hands. I was so happy to see the physical copy.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

The previous owner of our home was convicted of killing his beloved grandmother for her estate money. When my wife and I found out about this situation, she said, “You need to write a book about this guy, his crime, and our home.” My wife inspired me to write the book. In fact, I had everything laid out in my office to start the writing process. However, for a few weeks I just sat there looking at my outlines and a pad of paper. Finally, my wife said “Just write it.” I did and I am grateful to her; she’s my inspiration. As far as other writers who have influenced me: Truman Capote (In Cold Blood), Vincent Bugliosi (Helter Skelter), and Joseph Wambaugh (The Onion Field). I learned to write true crime from these masters.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I was a Texas prison guard for several years at a maximum-security prison called the Eastham Unit. It housed offenders over the age of twenty-five who been incarcerated three or more times or were malcontents on other Texas prison farms. I saw many unimaginable things, but I was able to talk to many of these offenders about their crimes, upbringing, and their histories. This experience shaped my professional career and life. I am grateful to Texas for this experience.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

The most meaningful part of publishing my book involved including the victim impact statements at the end of the book, right before the perpetrator was sentenced to prison. I wanted the general readership to hear from the victims as to how this unthinkable crime impacted their lives and destroyed their family. The collateral damage of violent crime on those left behind is immense and all too often unseen. I want readers to read and feel the tragedy and unmeasurable grief of those left behind.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

In my mind some songs that capture the evil intent of the storyline would be Halloween, Tubular Bells, and soundtracks from Netflix’s I Am a Killer series.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

The perfect reader for me would be a person who knows nothing about crime and the administration of justice. You know, the Martian who lands on Earth and then reads my book. I want the reader to come away with a dang good idea of how and why murder occurs, how such crimes are investigated, how these crimes impact ordinary people, and finally, to better understand the reasons for punishment.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

Right now, I am working on two interrelated projects. First, a colleague and I are collecting information about a brutal murder of a University of North Texas criminal justice student. She was abducted in 1995 after completing a class tour of the Denton County criminal justice center. Yes, she was abducted in front of the center by a serial killer. This crime spurred the launch of our true crime podcast called “Poison Ivy: Crime on Campus.” Those are my current projects and I am having more fun now than ever before.

How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?

My experience with Atmosphere Press was excellent. I worked with great people throughout the process that had my interests at heart. I could go on and on but my advice to future authors would be to never ever give up, and call Atmosphere Press right away.

You can buy Unthinkable: Who Kills Their Grandmother? here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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