Meet True Crime Writer And Novelist James Renner At Lakewood Public Library
Fearless true crime writer James Renner’s passion for truth-seeking and storytelling began as a child. Author of the best-selling book Amy: My Search for Her Killer about the unsolved 1989 kidnapping and murder of 10-year-old Bay Village girl Amy Mihaljevic, Renner has been on a lifelong quest to solve this baffling crime that still sparks national attention. Along the way he has also penned The Serial Killer’s Apprentice, as well as his novel The Man from Primrose Lane.
Renner will be at Lakewood Public Library at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15 in the Main Library Auditorium to discuss The Man From Primrose Lane and his passion for crime writing, and to read a never-before-published short story. Books will be available for sale and signing at the event.
What drew you to writing about crime?
When I was a kid, a girl in the next town over was abducted and murdered, her killer never found. You can’t help but be aware of crime after an event like that. I decided then, at age eleven, to one day look into the abduction to see if I could help solve it. In the end, I came at it from the angle of a journalist and writer, instead of a cop. In a way, that abduction was like tipping a domino in a track that eventually led to this career as a novelist. As The Fixx once said, “one thing leads to another.”
You are also a filmmaker (something many may not know). Did you always see yourself going in that direction, as well as storytelling in print form?
I love every form of storytelling. Books, movies, comics. I’m teaching myself to be a better campfire storyteller right now. Each form has different rules you can play with. Some ideas lend themselves to sound and picture better than print. I worked in film first, here in Cleveland and L.A. In high school, I made movies and showed them in the town hall and made popcorn and charged people $5 to get in. Over the years, writing has paid the bills though.
You have written about some pretty controversial topics; have you ever received a truly strange letter or email after a book or story was published?
I had to get an unlisted number after the book on the Amy Mihaljevic case came out because I got a couple death threats. I get a lot of emails from psychics. I usually pitch those. Of all the psychics I’ve met writing crime, there have only been two who had the gift. But that’s a story for another day.
You are currently trying to make a movie about the Amy Mihaljevic case, you are releasing another book and you have a family. How do you find the time, and the motivation?
I write a little every day of the week, every day of the year. It adds up quickly. It’s a compulsion, really. And not a particularly nice one. So time’s not an issue. The motivation is telling a good story that people talk about. That and bourbon.
What do you want the audience to say about you when they go out for coffee after your appearance?
“I once saw a double-billed presentation of monologues performed by Orson Welles and Mark Twain but this James Renner kid made them look like Laurel and Hardy.”
Lakewood Public Library will be showing Renner and Charles Moore’s documentary “Catching Salinger” at 7 p.m. on Jan. 10 in the Main Library Auditorium. In the film, Renner and Moore take to the road to trace the footsteps of reclusive writer J.D. Salinger and his character Holden Caulfield. This screening will be the film’s west side debut on the big screen. The documentary premiered at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque in 2008.