Book Talk: Rebecca Johns tackles first female serial killer

Wed Oct 13, 2010 6:10am EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Rebecca Johns had always been fascinated by female killers so she found it irresistible when offered the chance to write about the woman known as history's first female serial killer, Countess Erzsebet Bathory.

Her novel, "The Countess: A Novel," is a fascinating tale of the woman known as the Blood Countess, who was born around 1560 into the Hungarian nobility and accused of torturing and killing scores of women and girls, mostly Slovak servants in her staff.

She was never tried or convicted, but in 1610 she was walled inside a castle tower and imprisoned for the rest of her life.

Johns, who lives in Chicago, said she was fascinated by Bathory with so many different stories and even vampire tales.

Later writings had the Countess bathing in the blood of virgins to retain her youth and added to the belief that she was one of Bram Stoker's two inspirations for Dracula.

Johns, whose 2006 debut novel, "Icebergs," was about the families of two men who survived a plane crash, spoke to Reuters about her writing and female killers:

Q: Why write about Countess Erzsebet Bathory?

A: "I have always been interested in women who commit violent acts and other liars and manipulators. She became a natural fit for that interest."   Continued...