Based on the story of notorious Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen, who murdered as many as twenty-one women near Anchorage between 1971 and 1983, the bad guy of Resurrection Bay, jointly written by Steven Womack and Wayne McDaniel, is Decatur Kaiser, baker by day and butcher by night. Actually, serial killing is more of a summertime activity for him. Each year he sends his wife and two kids to visit his in-laws for a couple of weeks. Then he finds a victim, abducts and rapes her, and lets her loose in the lonely Alaskan wilds so he can hunt her like big game.
The genesis for this homicidal misogyny is the rejection Decatur experienced as an acne-faced fifteen-year-old when he asked a girl to see Smokey and the Bandit with him. “At that moment in time—Sunday, May 30, 1977, 10:45 a.m.—Decatur Kaiser died,” the authors write. “His soul iced over and froze. His world ended.” In this instance, he kills not only his reluctant intended date, but his adoptive parents as well.
Never suspected in what were ruled the “accidental” deaths of his parents and the mysterious disappearance of his movie-spurning schoolmate, Decatur went on to follow in his overbearing father’s footsteps, opening a bakery in Alaska after meeting and marrying his wife Cindy down South where he grew up. In Alaska, Decatur plays the role of town good guy, providing the cops with plenty of free donuts, taking leadership positions in the local church, and masquerading as a normal family man in between his annual carnage of young women in the remote Alaskan wilderness. Of course, when Decatur kidnaps Susie Turnbull during her first night as an exotic dancer at Bushwhackers, the local strip club, he doesn’t know that his victim is the daughter of Police Sergeant Dick Turnbull. When she doesn’t return home as expected, Turnbull goes in search of her.
Resurrection Bay was born when Womack, the author of the Edgar and Shamus Award-winning Harry James Denton series and a professor of screenwriting at the Watkins Film School in Nashville, learned that Manhattan screenwriter Wayne McDaniel was looking for a collaborator to transform his script into a novel. “The script had been optioned, Wayne told me, but as so often happens, it had wallowed in the black hole of development hell until it was dead,” Womack writes on his blog. “His agent advised him to write a novelization of the script, sell the book, and thereby get the script back into play.”
Given the subject matter, Resurrection Bay is obviously deeply disturbing—the protagonist’s actions so dark and cruel at times that it can be difficult to continue reading. So, of course, were the crimes for which killer Robert Hansen was convicted in 1984 and for which a court sentenced him to 461 years in prison. And reading Resurrection Bay, it helps to know that the real-life bad guy was caught, that the book’s depraved slaughter will eventually come to a merciful end.