Choice of Evil (Burke Series #11)

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When his girlfriend, Crystal Beth, is gunned down at a gay rights rally in Central Park, Burke, the underground man-for-hire and expert hunter of predators, vows vengeance.  But someone beats him to the task: a shadowy killer who calls himself Homo Erectus and who seems determined to wipe gay bashers from the face of the earth.  As the killer's body count rises, most citizens are horrified, but a few see him as a hero, and they hire Burke to track him ...

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When his girlfriend, Crystal Beth, is gunned down at a gay rights rally in Central Park, Burke, the underground man-for-hire and expert hunter of predators, vows vengeance.  But someone beats him to the task: a shadowy killer who calls himself Homo Erectus and who seems determined to wipe gay bashers from the face of the earth.  As the killer's body count rises, most citizens are horrified, but a few see him as a hero, and they hire Burke to track him down...and help him escape.

In Choice of Evil, Burke is forced to confront his most harrowing mystery: the mind of an obsessive serial killer.  And soon the emotionally void method behind the killer's madness becomes terrifyingly familiar, reminding Burke of his childhood partner, Wesley, the ice-man assassin who never missed, even when the target was himself.  Has Wesley come back from the dead?  The whisper-stream says so.  And the truth may just challenge Burke's very sense of reality.  Expertly plotted, addictive, enthralling, Choice of Evil is Andrew Vachss' most haunting tale to date.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A gripping tale of evil, cruelty, retribution and love."  -The Plain Dealer

"Choice of Evil is Vachss' darkest Burke yet, exploring man's propensity for savagery, ice-cold cunning and wearing thin the limits of sanity."  -The Clarion-Ledger (Mississippi)

John Searles
Before you go out and buy what sounds like the gay thriller of the year, be warned: If you're looking for the satisfaction of vengeance, you won't find it here. Vachss' killer turns out to have a whole other agenda besides righting gay wrongs. Too bad for us. It might be fun to read about a sicko who's on our side for a change.
OUT Magazine
Beth Amos
Burke, the streetwise ex-con with a heart of gold and a unique code of honor, finds that life seems to be kicking him in the teeth. Somehow the cops have uncovered his latest hideaway and staged a raid while he was out. Not only has Burke lost his home, all his belongings, and his alternate IDs, the cops have hauled Pansy, Burke's aging but still intimidating Napoleon mastiff, off to the pound. After rounding up several members of his "family" — the Prof, Max, the Mole, and Crystal Beth — Burke pulls his own raid, descending on the dog pound and freeing not only Pansy but all the other canine captives as well.

A short while later, Burke is holing up in the home of his girlfriend, Crystal Beth, when she decides to attend a gay rally in Central Park. It turns out to be a fatal mistake: A drive-by shooting occurs, and Crystal Beth becomes one of two victims who die in the onslaught. Tortured with grief and fueled by a need for revenge, Burke takes a keen interest in a serial killer who starts racking up victims immediately after the drive-by, and who seems to be targeting anyone who has spoken or acted on a hatred for gays. The killer, who gives himself the moniker Homo Erectus in the manifestos he provides to the newspapers, quickly becomes a societal hero, and "H. E." is often spoken of reverently.

When a secret gay/lesbian group financed by an unknown benefactor hires Burke to find the killer, they claim that their only interest is in seeing the man escape from town and disappear unharmed. The killer's actions have had a resoundingly positive effect on the incidences of gay bashing, and the group recognizes the value of keeping him "out there" somewhere, even if he isn't actively seeking revenge. But Burke is wary of one member of the group, a very attractive woman named Nadine who attaches herself to him and his quest with a tenacity that's both spooky and puzzling. Yet she proves invaluable when she uses her own connections to provide Burke with some key evidence crucial to identifying Homo Erectus, so he keeps her involved, albeit at a safe arm's length.

After finding himself some new "unofficial" living quarters and ordering a new set of identification, Burke focuses all his attention on trying to smoke out Homo Erectus, whose killings have steadily escalated. H. E.'s protests take a turn when he starts campaigning against pedophiles who try to disguise themselves as gays. Then he concisely demonstrates his abhorrence of this group by killing dozens in one fell swoop when he blows up a plane carrying a group of pedophiles on a secret junket to the Far East.

Rumors are running rampant that the killer is the notorious and highly feared professional assassin Wesley, except that Wesley is supposed to be dead. Still, there are those who believe a mojo like Wesley's may come back in supernatural form to settle a karmic debt. Burke — who knew Wesley better than anyone — dismisses these speculations out of hand, but the killer's techniques do eerily resemble Wesley's, and there are indications that the killer has intimate knowledge of Wesley's life.

With the help of a cybergeek who attracts the killer's attention over the Internet, Burke finally establishes contact. What he learns then twists all his beliefs around, revealing a truth far more complex and disturbing than any he imagined. When Burke finally comes face-to-face with the killer, it provokes a startling and stunning showdown of the highest magnitude.

With a background that includes stints as a lawyer, a field investigator for the U.S. Public Health Service, and a social casework supervisor in New York City, Vachss is no stranger to the real-world horrors of child abuse and other crimes, and he makes no secret about using his writing as a social platform for his causes. He has created the perfect antihero in Burke, providing a vicarious outlet for the dark and vengeful thoughts that lurk in all of us. Vachss's stories are gritty, dark, and often painful but also compelling enough to get and hold one's attention. Like its predecessors, Choice of Evil is the perfect mix: a lesson to heighten public awareness cleverly disguised in a riveting tale that offers high entertainment and a satisfying sense of justice.

—Beth Amos

From The Critics
We follow Burke on a can't-put-it-down race to the fireworks of a spectacular conclusion....Burke lovers [will] feel warm and fuzzy all over. Great stuff.
Library Journal
In Vachss's (Safe House, LJ 2/1/98) 11th "Burke" novel, Burke's girlfriend is killed and others are injured in a drive-by shooting at a gay rights rally. Soon known gay-bashers begin turning up dead, and a mysterious stranger calling himself "Homo Erectus" claims responsibility. Burke is hired to find the elusive avenger by a group who wants to help HE (as he comes to be known) disappear before the police get to him. Burke's world is a perpetually dark place where being on the wrong side of the law isn't necessarily a bad thing, where "family" is more about who you trust than who you're related to, and where danger is always just around the corner. This series isn't for everyone. Some readers may find it too dark or too hard, but those who like Vachss's other works should enjoy this one. Recommended for large mystery/thriller collections.--Leslie Madden, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib. & Information Ctr., Atlanta Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
A rally in Central Park to protest against gay bashing encounters a murderous drive-by resulting in five people down and two dead. One of the dead is Crystal Beth, Burke's girlfriend. Claiming responsibility is someone calling themselves "Homo Erectus". Burke is unsurprised when the cops pull him in for questioning because he is homeless, homicidal, a man gun and unable to find the shooters who killed his last chance at love. Choice Of Evil is a novel of the twisted workings of human hearts, the dark side of the human experience, and the bleak life offered marginal men and women caught up in webs of fear, bigotry, violence, and evil.
Charles DeLint
...Vachss strays the closest he's come yet into the supernatural....[He] explores the creation of a myth, how something can become real if enough people believe in it.
Fantasy & Science Fiction
Vachss' fiction is so dark, the content so uncompromising, it makes most supernatural horror fiction look like soft pink and blue bunny rabbit stories by comparison.
Dave Ford
...[A] scorching, mutilayered new crime novel.
The Advocate
Nothing gets to the stone-cold, steel-souled criminal/man-for-hire Burke -- except any threat to his self-chosen family. His fierce tribal loyalties include his Neapolitan mastiff partner Pansy. When the cops raid his hide-out home and take the dog into custody, Burke and his people free Pansy and a canine cohort from the animal shelter with the aplomb of professional terrorists. With Pansy restored to his side, the now-homeless Burke takes a step closer toward commitment to Crystal Beth, the woman of "purpose" with whom he aligned previously in Safe House. Life, however, is never happily resolved for Burke. The bisexual Crystal Beth attends a protest rally against gay bashing and is gunned down in a drive-by shooting. Burke can't come up with a clue to avenge his woman's murder and sinks close to the depressive state he calls "The Zero." Meanwhile, someone else goes after the bad guys in general. A mysterious killer, "Homo Erectus," starts taking down homosexual haters with a vengeance. His victims soon include a prominent pedophilia activist and Erectus begins delivering a message that separates homosexuals from pedophiles with deadly impact. The police want Homo Erectus, but those that lionize him also want to find him. They plan to help the killer disappear before the cops can grab him and Burke is hired to bring Homo Erectus to safety. Things get weird as the supposedly dead professional assassin Wesley -- a pivotal figure in Burke's history -- seems to be involved, or perhaps, it is hinted, Erectus is trying to raise him from the dead. The stakes get higher when the killer blows up an entire planeload of perverts bound for a "kiddie-sex tour" of Southeast Asia. Burke, assisted by a teen cybersleuth, finds a way to correspond with Homo Erectus and the story never slows, even as it careens into a computer screen narrative from the killer. Burke is assisted in various ways by the ongoing characters of his "family," including the redheaded witch Strega. An outsider is also involved -- Nadine, a self-styled sexually dominant lesbian who is almost as intent on getting into Burke's pants as she is on meeting the killer (whom she professes to love.) Nadine is an irritant to the reader as she never rings quite as true as Vachss's other characters. This flaw is eventually resolved when the killer is finally confronted in the flesh, but it slightly mars an otherwise fascinating book. Perhaps not as tightly plotted as Vachss's best Burke to date, Safe House, Choice of Evil still more than serves the author's constant purpose of exposing real evil while engaging readers with his savagely splendid dark fiction. Readers well-acquainted with Burke as well as those who are just now discovering the Cimmerian world he inhabits will be both disquieted and delighted by this latest from Vachss, one of the few writers around who understands the necessity -- and the art -- of doing both.
Kirkus Reviews
Burke, the investigator/mercenary with a heart as cold as Mike Hammer's .45, is hired to protect a serial killer from the cops. First, though, Vachss sets the stage by having the NYPD, responding to an anonymous tip, descend on Burke's off-the-books apartment, just missing him but pulling in his partner, the Napoleon mastiff he calls Pansy. Rounding up the usual suspects—the Prof, Clarence, the Mole, deaf Max, and Crystal Beth—Burke liberates Pansy and a whole lot of other surprised dogs from an animal shelter. But the dancing turns to weeping when Crystal Beth, who's let Burke crash in her shelter for abused women, is gunned down during a rally in Central Park, apparently the victim of a drive-by gay-basher. It's a situation ripe for Burke's uniquely individualistic approach to morality, but this time he doesn't need to do anything, because an avenging vigilante has targeted gay-bashers. Identifying himself in his manifestos as "Homo Erectus," this gay-rights Unabomber keeps stepping up his campaign. After his execution of a prominent pedophilia activist ignites a storm of protest, he goes into high gear with a campaign to separate homosexuals from the pedophiles seeking alliances with them to cover their exploitation of the young (presumably Vachss's real axe to grind this time out), punctuating his jeremiads by bombing a pedophile junket to the Far East. Offered $50,000 by an interested client to bring in the killer so that he can be whisked out of the jurisdiction, Burke (Safe House, 1998, etc.) manages, with the help of a cybertracker, a self-styled lesbian dominant, and a blast from his own past, to trace the killer's m.o. to a professional assassin named Wesley.Wesley's been dead for years, though—or has he? If the prospect of an extended rhetorical duel between tougher-than-thou Burke and his worked-my-way-up-from-kidnaping-children quarry doesn't get your juices flowing, you may want to sit this round out.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375706622
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/2000
  • Series: Burke Series, #11
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 579,082
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Vachss
Andrew Vachss is a lawyer who represents children and youths exclusively. His many novels and two collections of short stories have been translated into twenty languages, and his work has appeared in Parade, Esquire, Playboy, and The New York Times, among other publications. A native New Yorker, he divides his time between the city of his birth and the Pacific Northwest.
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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter One

It was almost three in the morning when she'd called, so I was outside her apartment house in fifteen minutes. I didn't like the doorman eyeballing me more than once, but I didn't see a way around it either. If he thought it was unusual for someone to be calling at that hour, he didn't show it . . . just rang up and got the okay for me to enter the elevator.

        She must have been right at the peephole—the door opened even as I raised my knuckles to rap. The rose lighting was back on. Otherwise, the place was shrouded. "Go sit down," she told me, standing aside.

        I gave up trying to solve the mystery of her three chairs and just took the middle one, letting her play any way she wanted.

        She looked ghostly, floating across the room toward me. Barefoot, in a gauzy white robe that wrapped her body—a frame, not a cover. She took the nearest open chair, reached over, and pulled mine around so we were facing each other.

        "I believe you," she said.

        "Which means . . .?"

        "I believe you wouldn't . . . do what you said. I believe you . . . Oh, never mind. Look, here it is, okay? She . . . asked around. Like you said. I don't know about this 'theory' of yours, but you're right about one thing—they have the men who did that drive-by."

        "Have them?"

        "Found them, I should have said. They're dead. And one of the people killed in the crowd—you were right about that too. The police think it was murder. I mean, deliberate murder. The rest was only for . . . what do you call it? Camouflage? I don't know. But the cops say it was business. Professional business. They think they know who gave the order. That's what you want, right?"

        "That's what I want."

        "Well, I have it," she said.

        "But you want to play with it first? Or you want me to place a fucking bid? What?"

        "Why are you so . . . hostile?" she asked softly. "I've been nice to you. It was fun . . . flirting, right? I know you liked it."

        "We've already been there," I told her.

        "You really hate them, don't you?" she said, leaning so close I could feel her breath.


        "Child molesters."

        "Who doesn't?" I said, sloughing it off, staying clear of whatever was lightning-bolting around the rose-lit room.

        "You should spend more time where I do," she said, an ugly undertone to her soft voice. "And you said to ask. You said it was okay. You told me to do it."

        "What are you talking about?"

        "My . . . friend. The cops. All that. It was easy, she said. They all . . . a lot of them anyway . . . they know you. Or about you, at least. I even know about those murders—the ones in the South Bronx."

        "Jesus Christ, that's the kind of sorry two-bit rumor your pal came up with? That story's a fucking fossil."

        "I know what you think," she said, sliding the gauzy robe off her shoulders. "You think I'm trying to get you to . . . admit something, right?"

        "That's why you keep taking your clothes off? So I'll see you're not wearing a wire?" I laughed at her.

        I could see her face flush. Or maybe it was just the reflected light.

        "I'm just more . . . comfortable this way," she told me. "I don't like clothes. I don't like people to wear clothes. It's another thing to hide behind."

        "Yeah, sure. You spend half your life in a gym, you've got a beef with clothes? You're more confident without your clothes, that's all. Because you're an overmatch against most everyone else that way."

        "I'll bet I'd be with you."

        "No contest," I acknowledged.

        "You don't want to play at all, do you?"


        "Why not?"

        "I'm not a player."

        "What does that mean? You don't have sex unless you're in love?"

        "No. It means I smoke cigarettes but I don't light them with sticks of dynamite."

        "You don't trust me?"

        "I'd have to upgrade a cubic ton to distrust you," I told her, keeping my voice level. "You got me over here because you said you had what I wanted. Instead of giving it to me, you start asking me about some murders I'm supposed to have committed. I tell you I don't want to fuck you," I said, dropping my voice, letting a harder tone bleed through, "you tell me I'm a liar. I told you before: Behavior is the truth. What's the game? I say: 'Sure, you've got a body that would get a rise in a morgue,' and you say, 'Well, you're not getting any of it'? Would that make you happy? Is that your game? Okay, I'll pay that much, if that's what it takes. You're a gorgeous woman."

        "But . . .?"

        "But you can't get juice from marble," I told her.

        "What does that mean?"

        "How many different ways you want me to say it? You've got a stake in this. Not the same one Lincoln and those other guys have. Yeah, I know, you told me: You 'love' this guy. And you just want to protect him, right? Sure, fine. I'll buy it, that's what you want. And I played right along, didn't I? You think I'd turn him over to the cops for a pass on one of my own cases, then don't help. But you already did that, right? Checked me out. Found out some stuff. Enough to convince you that, whatever else I am, I'm not a rat. So here I am. And what do I get? Another strip show. More of your stupid teasing. And some questions about . . . bullshit crap that couldn't be your business."

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

On Monday, May 3rd, welcomed Andrew Vachss to discuss CHOICE OF EVIL.

Moderator: Welcome back, Andrew Vachss. We can't wait to talk to you about your latest thriller, CHOICE OF EVIL. How are you this evening?

Andrew Vachss: I am in better spirits than I have been.

Eloise from Arlington, VA: Ever since the shootings happened in Denver, I've been hearing so much placed on everything from video games to too much gun control. I can't help but think about the parents. Personally, I think their lack of awareness about their sons is atrocious, but maybe I'm not being fair. What are your thoughts on this disturbing event?

Andrew Vachss: There aren't enough facts as far as I am concerned to do anything but express sound-bite-type opinions, but it is clear to me that there was an interaction between these two young people that metastasized over time in what had to have been observable in some way.

Esmerelda from Montreal, Canada: Andrew, I am glad you exist even if it's in this cesspool we call our world. Your work for the children and your books are greatly appreciated. The blues CD is rapidly being worn. Regarding Burke: He has earned a little respite in my eyes. How about bringing Flood back even if she has to leave again? And I am waiting for Ghost to reappear. What men!

Andrew Vachss: The real question for me is whether Ghost can reappear, and it has been something I have been wrestling with for years now, and thank you.

Sam from Reno, TX: CHOICE OF EVIL is somewhat of a departure for you in that it is straight horror. Why this move?

Andrew Vachss: As far as I am concerned, pal, I have always been writing straight horror, emphasis on straight, as opposed to fantasy. This book is different only because it has "supernatural" elements, but I don't know any more horrible things than what I have been writing about for my whole career.

Cressida from Texas: Could you tell us a little bit about what your Parade piece was about? I couldn't access it off of Is there any way I can get a copy?

Andrew Vachss: You will be able to get a copy off of as soon as Parade's own copyright runs out, which is very generously -- one week.

Patrick from Richmond: Anything behind your choice of Homo Erectus as the name of the serial killer?

Andrew Vachss: Well, it was consistent with the character of the individual. It has a multilayered meaning complete with a sense of deliberate mockery, which is consistent with the character, but it was meant to be taken as homosexuals standing up, and if you have read the book, you will understand that this standing up was homicidal.

Lawrence Cirelli from Basking Ridge, NJ: I was recently fortunate enough to be offered a contract on my first novel. While ecstatic, I was concerned about a clause in the contract that gives the publisher 50 percent of all movie and television rights. Is this standard? Is it generally negotiable?

Andrew Vachss: Negotiation is not about justice. It is about power.

Eric Webb from Kapolei, HI: Mr. Vachss, what motivated your change from "straight" detective/crime fiction to adding a more supernatural tint to your writing? Also, do have any more plans to develop comics through Dark Horse comics or with Tim Bradstreet?

Andrew Vachss: I try and allow each book to be dictated by the issue that drives it, so just as a certain type of activity would be present in one book and not in another, the same could be said about supernatural. I am planning to return to comics. I do have a specific project, but I can't talk about it because the contracts are not signed.

Tracy from Virginia: Does you writing support your practice of law, i.e., what are basically pro bono clients?

Andrew Vachss: To a large extent it does.

Brady from Alexandria: Matthew Shepard's senseless death turned the nation's attention to gay hate crimes, and now you are rightfully bringing their injustice into focus with CHOICE OF EVIL. Do you think we are closer as a nation to passing legislation on hate crimes? What can be done? Why did you choose to focus on that issue now?

Andrew Vachss: Remember -- if you understand the publishing process -- that I actually wrote this book before Matthew Shepard, and although this is not the appropriate forum because the explanation would take so long, let me just say that the problem is not with laws but with law enforcement.

Kate from San Diego: Would you say that you get more satisfaction from writing novels or being a lawyer? If you had to give up one, which would it be?

Andrew Vachss: I get more satisfaction from my work. Writing is an extension of that work. So it is the flower, not the root.

Patrick from Cleveland: Where did the myth of reaching back originate?

Andrew Vachss: I don't know, my friend. It is one that I heard as a child told to me by people that were elderly who were themselves told it as children, and there are people who would swear it is no myth. I tried to explain the myth in this book.

Greta from Greenburg, PA: Great shot of you and the dog on the back cover! What kind of dog is it? Did you just adopt him?

Andrew Vachss: First of all, that is a bitch, and second of all, she is a pit bull bitch, very sensitive about her appearance. What you have is a puppy, and we don't mutilate our animals and thus didn't have her ears cropped. That's why you might have trouble guessing the breed. There are lots of pictures of her on my web site.

Vernon J from Blue Island: Is it true that you are going into the publishing business? If so, how -- and why?

Andrew Vachss: Oh Vernon, I am going into the publishing business because I believe in putting my money where my mouth is and because there are wonderful authors not getting published. Like everything else in life, you can be an observer or a participant, and I decided to be a player. The book is called THE BEGGAR'S SHORE by a brilliant young writer, Zak Mucha. It will be out this fall.

Saul Rivera from Los Angeles: Andrew, I've enjoyed your work since the first book I read -- FLOOD -- and I'm also a big motorhead Mopar fan, so my question is about the Plymouth Burke drives: What model is it, and are the modifications done to it that you write about based on a real-life vehicle? Thanks for your wonderful work, and keep it coming.

Andrew Vachss: I am a Mopar fan myself and yes, the modifications (this is no damn Batmobile) are all real-world based. In fact, if you want to see the ultimate Mopar, check out the shark car in the Cross series.

Jeff from Arlington, VA: How much artistic control do you have over the upcoming movies that will be made from your work? Are you concerned that your message will be lost or corrupted when it goes through the Hollywood machine? Thanks.

Andrew Vachss: I have control to the extent that I can exclude certain elements, but as far as concern that the message will be lost, it is a roll of the dice, and the potential rewards justify the risks.

Doug from New York, NY: Tell us what's going on with the productions of FLOOD and Cross. How far are they along?

Andrew Vachss: Cross is allegedly very far along because they have a director on board and, at least according to them, expect to have this movie in production this year. As to FLOOD, I suggest you dial 1-900 who knows!

Xendra from D.C.: What understanding do you want your readers to have about gay bashing as they finish CHOICE OF EVIL?

Andrew Vachss: Good question. I want them to understand that it is simply another form of evilly motivated oppression of human beings. It is indefensible bullying and says far more about the perpetrators than it does about the victims. It is an act of extreme cowardice that is based on the perception that there will be no reprisals. This book, among its other elements, attempts to put in perspective how things might change if there were reprisals.

Andrew from Seattle: You been a New Yorker your whole life. Why the recent move out west?

Andrew Vachss: It was time to get out of town!

Janet from Utah: What do you think of the way our nation's police departments handle crime solving today? After all of your extensive experience as a lawyer and crime writer, do you constantly see ways that crimes could be solved faster?

Andrew Vachss: Not constantly but certainly on occasion. In fairness, I have often been consulted by many law enforcement agents, and they have shown an absolute desire to solve the crime that was much bigger than their egos.

Bill from California: What's your theory as to why the media keep harping on the Littleton tragedy but neglect to even mention that every day in America six juveniles are murdered by their own parents? Are the media trying to demonize teenagers, or will they eventually get around to analyzing the music that murderous "parents" listen to and demanding legal action to protect more parents from the harmful influences of Garth Brooks?

Andrew Vachss: My friend, you should be writing editorials. I don't believe you asked me a question. I believe you made a statement, and it was a damn good one.

Larry Wraight from Baldwinsville, NY: You and your wife seem such a perfect match for the depth of pain that you both have worked so successfully against. Can you describe her influence on your writings?

Andrew Vachss: No, but I am glad to hear from you, Larry, and I hope you are still organizing.

Rose Dawn from San Diego: Any chance you'll be adding a tour stop in San Diego this time? We buy books down here, too, y'know!

Andrew Vachss: Hi, Rose Dawn! I miss you, too!

Pam from Hannah: What was your break into publishing? How did you come to a career in writing after being an attorney?

Andrew Vachss: It is too long a story to tell, but I can sum it up in three words: blind dumb luck.

Hannah from San Fran, CA: What is the "choice of evil" in this novel?

Andrew Vachss: The point of the novel is that evil is a choice, not a biogenetic mutation. Not some bad DNA, not some defense attorney's psychobabble, but deliberate, voluntary conduct. You make a choice to be evil. Unlike traditional "horror" books, this is a real horror story.

Jan from Did you base Homo Erectus on any particular serial killer, or is he more a composite character of evil?

Andrew Vachss: Actually, when you read the book thoroughly, he is representational far larger and deeper in scope than a mere serial killer. Unlike lots of people who write about serial killers, I have known some -- and, trust me, they are not real interesting.

Bridget Carr from Albuquerque, NM: Hi, Mr Vachss. My apologies first that this is not a question about your book -- rather, it is about your cause. I am an epidemiologist and public health officer in the Air Force. Currently I am stationed at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, conducting injury and accident prevention research at the Headquarters Air Force Safety Center. I am very interested in child and domestic issues. I would love to volunteer my services (prevention research, cost-benefit analyses, profiling) for this great cause. I think I could dedicate about ten or so hours per week. One potential outcome of such research is to help you and others in the courtroom. Do you have an epidemiologist on your "team"? May I help? Thank you very much for your consideration. Maj. Bridget K. Carr, DVM, MPH

Andrew Vachss: I was once an epidemiologist with the U.S. Public Health Service myself. I understand the importance of your work, and if you email the web site at, someone will get back to you -- and thank you!

Scott from Delaware: In your opinion, what horror/mystery novels have adapted well to the big screen?

Andrew Vachss: If it weren't for long airplane rides, I wouldn't see any movies. I am really the last guy to answer this question intelligently.

Eric Webb from Kapolei, HI: On a recent deployment to Asia I saw much of what you have been fighting against in things like the "Don't Buy Thai" movement. However, (a) how much do these movements leak outside of Thailand into other Asian countries (Indonesia, for example), and (b) is there a measurable way to gauge what these efforts produce?

Andrew Vachss: The first answer is that when you read the new book you will see that we are looking well past Thailand, and as to your second question, with all our efforts there is a difference between a direct action -- such as a rescue -- and an attempt to change a system, which is a many-decade investment, so that you measure different operations differently.

Dorothy from Jacksonville, FL: What is the myth of reaching back? I look forward to reading CHOICE OF EVIL. I just ordered it today. Thanks.

Andrew Vachss: I am looking forward to you reading it, too, and when you are done your question should be answered!

Roger from Tallahassee, FL: Doesn't your job get you down? How do you stay focused on the positive when the negative seems to permeate so much of society?

Andrew Vachss: There is no reason for me to get down. I can save more kids' lives in a year than an ER surgeon, and we collectively have made more job protective progress in the last 30 years than in the previous 30,000.

Larry from New York: Your books are impossible to put down -- I read them in one sitting usually. What tips would you give to aspiring writers for creating books that hook and hold the reader's attention?

Andrew Vachss: Lead a life that gives you access to material that would hook and hold people's attention if you told them about it.

Lance from Daytona, FL: Do you have a favorite among your books?

Andrew Vachss: Yes, my beloved orphan, SHELLA.

Luas Arevir from Downey, CA: What could a fan do to help the cause of the children -- where could we volunteer, where could we send donations, how could we help you and your clients? Any mail, email, contacts that you can provide that you approve or endorse?

Andrew Vachss: If you will send us an email to the web site, we will give you the comprehensive answer your question deserves, and thank you for being willing to stand up.

Amanda from Franklin: I am wondering if you know the endings to your books when you start writing. Are all the twists carefully planned through outlines?

Andrew Vachss: I don't use outlines, but I write the book completely in my head before I start typing.

Jimmer Washington from Rapid City, SD: I have written a novel and wonder if you would tell me how I can get it published. Would appreciate your help!

Andrew Vachss: If I knew the answer I would gladly share it with you. I am sorry; I just don't.

Eric Webb from Kapolei, HI: Is there a way to get copies of A BOMB BUILT IN HELl? No bookstore seems to have heard of it.

Andrew Vachss: That is because it has never been published, pal. I am still deciding. There is an offer to publish it as a limited edition. I just haven't made up my mind yet.

Kate from Trenton: What's next for you, Mr. Vachss? When do you expect to publish the next Burke book?

Andrew Vachss: Kate, I just wrote this one. I don't have a schedule because writing isn't my primary career, but my typical rate appears to be every 12-15 months. I will have another collection of short stories out in September.

James from San Fran: Have the movie rights for CHOICE OF EVIL been bought? Have you considered writing the screenplay?

Andrew Vachss: The movie rights have certainly been bought. Almost a preemptive strike. Almost before the book was finished. And as for screenplays, the studio decides who the screenwriter gets to be.

Carol from L.A.: The tragedy in Colorado provides an opportunity to demand attention to the horrors we are visiting on our children. I get more angry each time another talk show decides to discuss why our kids are so angry. Some of us moms who have lost the battle to protect our children know. Yesterday during our visit my daughter told me that at school the therapist who conducts "affective ed" -- whatever that is -- had been talking to them about Colorado. My daughter continued that if she had a gun she would kill her father and what I should have done was adopt her -- then we would not have him! Is there any way we could organize around the Zero and address Clinton's summit on angry kids so that we could explain some of this loudly and clearly? I work in the nonprofit sector, and I think this cause is ripe for the organizing. Do you? Would you ...?

Andrew Vachss: What you should do is post exactly what you have said here to the Zero message board, and you will get the only answer worth getting, and that is what people are actually willing to do.

Moderator: I realize it's early, but how do you think you will be celebrating New Year's Eve 1999? Any special plans to ring in the year 2000?

Andrew Vachss: No. One day is the same as the next to me.

Moderator: Are there any books you are looking forward to reading this summer? With all that you do, how do you find the time to read?

Andrew Vachss: I am looking forward to reading any new book by Joe Lansdale, Martha Grimes, Charles De Lint. I make time.

Dan Krull from Atlanta: I really love your work. A friend turned me on to you, and in turn I have passed your work on to others. How did you get your start in writing? Will there be any more Burke novels?

Andrew Vachss: People like you are a real treasure to me because without the mega advertising budgets, word of mouth is how we survive -- and speaking of survival, there will be another Burke novel if enough people buy this one, and publishing being what it is, if not, not.

Tibey from Long Beach, CA: What's the status of any of your work -- novels, comics, et cetera -- making it onto the big screen or TV?

Andrew Vachss: When Hollywood buys the rights to property such as mine, TV is one of their options, but I have no ability to read their minds and if I did, I would not be cheered up at the prospect.

Jeff from Arlington, VA: Ever since it happened I have wondered about your thoughts on the Littleton shootings. I was at a book signing of yours shortly after Jonesboro, and you mentioned the relationship of those two boys. Now after Littleton you have talked briefly about Eric and Dylan's relationship, both here and on What sort of relationship do you think that these boys had? Do you think it had something to do with their decision to kill? Please elaborate. Thanks.

Andrew Vachss: There isn't the time or the space to do it, but your observation is an astute one. As in Jonesboro I do think the key was the relationship between those two young men. I intend to elaborate on it in much greater depth when more facts have been collected and when I have room to do so.

Eileen from What's the latest word on the new Judy Henske album?

Andrew Vachss: You will have to ask Judy. All I have to contribute to that is my hopes!

Moderator: Tell us about your new CD.

Andrew Vachss: The CD you are probably referring to is called SAFE HOUSE, available everywhere, but all I did was the compiling. One of my favorite blues artists of all time, Son Seals, will be recording two songs I wrote for his new CD, which should be out before the end of the year, and anyone who wants a sneak preview should show up at the Chicago book signing, where Son and I will be appearing together.

Tara from Connecticut: Hi, A.V. Not a question but just wanted to say thanks for the Zero, which is the only board on the Net that speaks the truth.

Andrew Vachss: Thank you for saying so.

Moderator: Thank you so much for taking all of our questions, Andrew Vachss. It's a pleasure to host you in our Auditorium, and we look forward to the next time. Any parting words you'd like to say to your many online fans this evening?

Andrew Vachss: Yes. Evil is a choice. That is the title of the book, but it is also a choice to fight back, and for all of you engaged in that struggle, I am glad to be your comrade and give you my respect.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    As has been said, "There is no other living American author with prose as razor-clean as Andrew Vachss.....Vachss is a Zen warrior with a pen." And he is also a warrior who explores the cruelest areas of life, whether it be pedophilia, ritual killing, sadism, or sexual deviance. He does this with no holds-barred; his words are startling, candid, often producing what some may call abhorrent but certainly frightening scenarios. Having said all of that CHOICE OF EVIL may well be his darkest Burke novel yet.

    There is a tad of levity at the onset when Burke's dog, Pansy, is arrested in a police raid, and the rescue involves releasing a clutch of yapping canines. But then the terror begins when Burke is hired to find and protect a vigilante calling himself Homo Erectus who has declared war on gay bashers.

    Just as the prose is razor sharp so is the narration by Phil Gigante, a veteran of some 70 audio books (including Burke stories). He delivers a forceful voice performance, made even more frightening by a clear, at times almost emotionless reading. While some less proficient readers might be tempted to give drama full throttle in some of the nightmare producing scenes, Gigante knows that in this case less is more.

    - Gail Cooke

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Wild Burke tale

    Activist Crystal Beth felt strongly that she had to be at the gay rally in Central park though she was bisexual and her boyfriend private detective Burke objected. However, a drive-by shooter kills Crystal in what appears to be an attempt to destroy the rally. The police suspect Burke because of whom he is, but no evidence surfaces. <P>Meanwhile, a serial killing vigilante, Home Erectus, begins a campaign to eradicate gay bashers and pediophiles. Law enforcement officials, much of the media and public want this self-appointed executioner stopped. Admirers of Homo Erectus hire Burke to safely bring him to them so they can keep their hero away from the cops. Though just starting his search, Burke is back in his element, the streets. <P>CHOICE OF EVIL shows that Andrew Vachss remains one of the darkest writers of urban mysteries that exists. Burke retains his over the edge mentality that makes readers either love or loathe him. The current well written but grimy story line has the usual suspects, but clearly centers on Burke, who is a living time bomb who gives meaning to hell in Manhattan. <P>Harriet Klausner

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    Posted January 11, 2009

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    Posted August 16, 2010

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