The Torso Murders Inspire Two Cleveland Novelists
Two writers slated to appear together at Lakewood Public Library this month have several things in common. Both are from Michigan; both have had long, professional careers in Cleveland; and both turned their fascination with the famed Cleveland Torso Murders into novels.
On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 7:00 p.m., Michael Jordan and D.M. Pulley will appear in the Main Library Auditorium to discuss their recently published novels, “The Company of Demons” and “The Unclaimed Victim.”
Between 1935 and 1938, thirteen people were found decapitated in Kingsbury Run, a dark place where the down-and-out of Cleveland's Depression-era society lived in a "hobo jungle." The murderer was never found. As a lawyer new to Cleveland many years ago, Michael Jordan was in a conference room examining some black-and-white photos from the mid-20th century. Another attorney mentioned that one photo was of Kingsbury Run, where the Torso Murderer had left his victims. Jordan was soon hooked on the tale of this grisly, unsolved murder case, which even Eliot Ness could not crack.
“The Company of Demons” opens in present-day Lakewood, when a body is found in a dumpster behind the Tam O’Shanter. (Lakewood residents of a certain age will be pleased to find that a Detroit Avenue bar popular during the 1970s and 80s is still serving drinks in Jordan’s novel.) When lawyer John Coleman, a man with a drinking problem and a troubled marriage, learns that the torso found in the dumpster is his drinking buddy from the bar, it brings up echoes of both the Torso Murderer from the 30s, as well as the Butcher, a serial killer that Coleman’s detective father failed to catch. The novel’s twists and its complex characters reflect both Jordan’s familiarity with the legal system and his fascination with the Torso Murders.
D.M. Pulley used her own professional experience to shape “The Unclaimed Victim.” Her engineering degree from Case Western Reserve University and love of old buildings drew her into a career as a forensic engineer, investigating structural failures in Cleveland buildings. “The Unclaimed Victim” is inspired in part by the Gospel Union Press Building in Tremont, a place Pulley says is full of bizarre choices and hidden rooms, over 175,000 square feet with no master planning. After years of investigating some of Cleveland’s historic structures and reading everything available on the Torso Killer, Pulley became fascinated with the idea of telling the tale from the victims' perspective, rather than that of the investigators. The novel’s story is told alternately by two women, one a prostitute in the 1930s seeking refuge from the Torso Murderer, the other a daughter in 1999 mourning her father's brutal murder. Although working decades apart, both characters resolve to reveal the true killer.
Join Michael Jordan and D.M. Pulley at Lakewood Public Library on October 18 for what promises to be an examination of one of Cleveland’s greatest unsolved mysteries.