November 16, 2015
Serial killer’s book shoots to the top of Amazon charts—then disappears
by Liam O'Brien
An author’s fascinating or salacious backstory can be key to a book’s allure (and marketing campaign). But the taste of the reading public isn’t infinitely flexible, and this is nowhere better exemplified than in the subgenre of books written by convicted serial killers. Whether authored by real killers, fake killers, or freed killers, it’s hard to avoid public outcry—especially if the book describes its author’s crimes.
However, a recent spy thriller ebook written by convicted rapist and serial killer Paul Bernardo was sold on Amazon Canada via Kindle Direct Publishing for months before the book’s authorship was revealed. The author was only revealed when the title became a bestseller.
Adam Miller at Global News reported:
Bernardo’s lawyer Tony Bryant confirmed to Global News Thursday that his client released the political spy thriller titled A MAD World Order on the popular e-commerce website on June 25.
As of Friday afternoon, the 631 page e-book, which includes violent, gory descriptions of death and terrorist plots, had risen to number one on Amazon Canada’s “Movers and Shakers” list—edging out Janet Zimmerman’s The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook. The book was also number three on the website’s list of best sellers.
Bernardo is serving life in prison for a series of rapes and murders that he committed with the assistance of his ex-wife Karla Homolka, who was controversially released from prison in 2005 after serving a 12-year sentence for manslaughter.
A MAD World Order’s plot, according to Vice, “jumps from the Russian mob, an immersive virtual reality social network, a shadowy Chinese corporate tycoon, a Mexican drug cartel, the National Security Agency, and al Qaeda.” And though the book contains violent content as well as several references to rape, its content does not theoretically preclude Bernando from publishing and legally making money off the book.
Speaking with Global News, Toronto criminal lawyer Ari Goldkind explains:
Ontario passed the Prohibiting Profiting from Recounting Crimes Act in 2002, which prohibits prisoners from receiving money for writing about the details of his crimes.
…“There is no reason, as it distasteful as it may seem, why any profit made from this book or the publishing of this book would be payable to anyone other than Paul Bernardo,” Goldkind said.
Goldkind added that material written by Bernardo would be screened by the Correctional Service of Canada before it goes out, but there would be nothing in their purview to censor the content, particularly since he is not recounting his crimes specifically.
CBC News reported on the quick public outcry from the families of Benardo’s victims. Additionally, the book’s Amazon page began racking up hundreds of one-star reviews protesting the book’s availability on the retail site. And while Amazon provided no initial comment, a follow up report indicates that the book has since vanished from the site.
A web search did not turn up the 631-page fictional work that involved a plot to return Russia to a world power.
Attempts to enter a weblink to the book on Amazon produced “We’re sorry. The Web address you entered is not a functioning page on our site.”
Amazon did not provide comment on the book’s disappearance. Kindle Direct Publishing’s content guidelines claim that Amazon reserves the right to “determine whether content provides a poor customer experience” and pull “disappointing” content; as for offensive content, they claim “what we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.”
Liam O'Brien is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.