Searchlight: Zodiac

Zodiac book.If there’s one word that effectively sums up Robert Graysmith, that word is obsessed. You really can’t blame the guy for being obsessed with the Zodiac killer. From the very beginning of the investigation, Graysmith was there, as the San Francisco Chronicle was just one of the three papers the elusive killer sent his cryptic letters to in 1969. A cartoonist at the time, Graysmith is now the author of several true crime books, including the seminal Zodiac: The Shocking True Story of the Hunt for the Nation’s Most Elusive Serial Killer. His other books include The Murder of Bob Crane, The Laughing Gorilla, Unabomber: A Desire to Kill, and Zodiac Unmasked: The Identity of America’s Most Elusive Serial Killer Revealed.

For nearly forty years, Graysmith has been involved with the Zodiac case, though only peripherally at first. During the first ten years since the killing began, he worked diligently on deciphering Zodiac’s letters, and collected intimate knowledge about the killings. Working alongside reporter Paul Avery and SFPD Inspector Dave Toschi (the inspiration for Bullitt and Dirty Harry), Graysmith was privy to details of the case beyond the scope of the general public. After the case grew cold, Graysmith just couldn’t let it go, and began investigating on his own, combing through a literal ton of evidence, interviewing hundreds of people, destroying his marriage in the process, leaving no stone unturned. Zodiac is the result of that investigation.

Robert Graysmith

Photo credit: Ben Margot

The book dives into the complete timeline of the killings, with names of the victims, settings of the crime scenes, and recreations of the events based off police and forensic records. Graysmith is also an excellent artist, and provides several drawings of the locations, and maps of where the bodies were found. This book is 100% nonfiction, though at times it reads as though it’s a fictional account of a serial killer. The reality is it’s all true, and the killer had never been caught. Often cited as the inspiration for David Fincher’s film Zodiac, that’s actually only partly true, as there were many sources Fincher used, including interviewing those involved in the cases, as well as Graysmith’s other book, Zodiac Unmasked, which our good friend David James Keaton claims is as close to the film as you’re going to get. But if it’s ‘facts and just the facts’ that you’re after, Zodiac: The Shocking True Story of the Hunt for the Nation’s Most Elusive Serial Killer by Robert Graysmith is highly recommended as a deep look into one of the most twisted minds in American history.



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