The Zodiac Killer murdered a number of victims in Northern California in the late sixties and early seventies and was never caught. What if that unknown and unnamed serial killer had a son?
That’s the question that drives THE GAF KILLER-SON OF ZODIAC by Jerry Otis. In this new novel, The Gaf is an interstate killer whose murders have brought him to the top of the FBI’s most wanted list.
Special Agent David Drake and his hand-picked team of agents drop everything and form a taskforce with one purpose—to track down this psychopath and bring him to justice.
The story jumps across the country from one crime scene to the next, as Drake and his team pursue leads and hope the killer gets careless and makes a mistake.
Since he’s his father’s son, that’s not likely for The Gaf. His father has taught him well, and Drake and his team are forced to race the clock to keep the body count from rising.
It’s a page-turning story that earned high praise from one early reviewer, Regan Murphy:
“Otis’s characters are interesting, and I like the fact that he tells the story form both the hero’s POV as well as the villain’s. It’s a fast-paced, edge of-your-seat crime thriller that should keep you up at night for more than one reason.”
Otis, a SAG actor who makes his home now in the rural Northern California town of Pollock Pines has come a long way since earning “crappy grades” in English class, and he answered a few questions recently for The Big Thrill about his book, his research on the real Zodiac murder case, and his road to publication.
As the title of your novel suggests, the focal serial killer, The Gaf, is the son of the real-life Zodiac killer. What inspired that? Did you have a particular interest in the Zodiac case prior to working on the novel?
First and foremost, I wanna give credit to my proof reader, and friend, Kimberly Lovoy, of Tampa, Florida. Kimberly has been with me now for over four years, through two manuscripts, including, THE GAF KILLER-SON OF ZODIAC. Without a second set of eyes looking, and double checking dialogue, as Kimberly Lovoy has done, releasing a well written, error free, readable novel of any type, would be an impossible task. Not to mention Kimberly has given me suggestions on certain plot changes I had contemplated making while writing GAF KILLER. Trust me, changes will happen from time to time as you write. So kudos to Kimberly Lovoy, I don’t know if I would have had the patience she’s had.
Another kudo goes to Jacqueline Miu, a writer/publisher/book cover designer, living in Milan, Italy. Jacqueline designed the Gaf book cover, front and back for me two years ago. The cover captured the essence of Gaf Killer, including the San Francisco row houses on the back cover, which come into play in this crime thriller.
Also I wanna clear up something the reader may be thinking just from looking at the book cover. THE GAF KILLER-SON OF ZODIAC isn’t all mayhem and carnage. It has something for every reader, romance, drama, intrigue, and humor. Yes, people that know me, aren’t surprised that I’ve injected a fair amount of humor into a story that’s about a group of Special FBI Agents doing a track down of a serial killer. And if I had to sum up this story in one sentence, I’d put it this way. THE GAF KILLER-SON OF ZODIAC-FBI’S MOST WANTED, Is a crime thriller where good triumphs over pure evil.
And answer to your question: Over the years I’ve had interest in the Zodiac, starting back when this deranged individual created havoc and mayhem in the San Francisco area, and surrounding states during the late 60s to early 70s. My original novel/manuscript started out as a border patrol agent who turned to crime. Then because of my interest in the Zodiac I switched gears and decided to write a fictional crime thriller based on, as if, the original Zodiac had a son who carried on where his dad, the Zodiac, left off. There’s a sentence in the book, by the Son of Zodiac showing how much he admired his dad, the original Zodiac serial killer.
Gaf was well aware of what his dad had been doing in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. He only wished his dad was still around, because he knew he’d be really proud of him now.
Readers can learn more about the real Zodiac case here.
Did you base your fictional Son of Zodiac on a personal theory about who the real Zodiac killer was?
No one, to this day, not even law enforcement, has never been able to positively identify who the real Zodiac actually was. They’ve had their opinions, and guesses, but law enforcement has no absolute proof that points to any one certain person. Although, members of law enforcement will tell you, their main suspect was Richard Joseph Gaikowski. (Otis suggests further reading about Gaikowski here)
What psychological research did the novel require? How did you set about making The Gaf ring true since he has such a complicated makeup?
I did a fair amount of research, as I do with everything I write, down to the street names, freeways, towns, characters, etc., and that was done here, as I wrote Gaf Killer. By the way, as luck would have it, when I was about two-thirds into writing Gaf Killer, Kimberly Lovoy found a link to a psychological medical term that’s used in determining just how crazy a person is, its called “Global Assessment of Functioning” or “GAF.” I’d like to claim I knew about that term before writing this story, but it just happened to be dumb luck on my part. The reason the Son of Zodiac, went by the name Gaf, has nothing to do with that medical term used in the mental health world, but after finding out about that term, I did interject the term it into the story. The actual reason The Son of Zodiac chose to go by Gaf is revealed late in the book, and btw, it has nothing to do with that medical term.
In answer to “Complicated Makeup”: I had the Son of Zodiac continue on as if he were taking up where his daddy left off. “Daddy” is a term used by Gaf when talking about his dad, the original Zodiac. That’s the way the Son of Zodiac thinks. He believes he is doing good, doing what his daddy would have wanted him to do, and that’s to carry on where he left off. The Gaf Killer thinks he’s perfectly normal, and only acts when he feels he’s been disrespected, thinking, and I quote from the book. “I consider myself a friendly people person, as long as I’m treated with respect, and if not, you are dead, like six feet under dead.” Gaf will tell you, “I wouldn’t hurt a flea. I can’t understand why no one understands that, especially the ones who disrespect me.” One other quirky thing about Gaf, is that he has an affliction to a certain food group, making him even more dangerous, especially to food servers.
Tell us a little about David Drake and his team. How did they develop in your imagination, and what helped make Special Agent David Drake a character you wanted to spend time with?
Special FBI Agent David Drake, who’s in charge of the track down, is the type of FBI agent I’d be if I were with the Bureau. He’s a loyal, results oriented, career agent who will fiercely stand by the agents on his team, and in return, his agents look to him not only as their boss, but also as their friend who they can count on for guidance as the track down progressed, no matter how many setbacks they encountered. David Drake and his team of special FBI agents think of themselves as being a tight-knit family unit.
Your story jumps between various locations where the killer strikes. How did you decide on the locales? What were you looking for as far as dramatic crime scenes go?
The locations I picked evolved as the story progressed, mainly due to the type of job this psychopathic serial killer has. That part of the story, the locations, comes to light throughout the track-down. When you read GAF KILLER, it’ll all make sense. As far as picking locations go, I’ve lived in some of those areas, and the others just evolved as I wrote.
As far as dramatic crime scenes go, I’ve made them seem graphic and real, like crime scenes you’d see while watching any crime show on TV, or a crime based feature film. I’m currently working on getting a script written, which I plan on pitching to major studios as a feature film, and also to the FX Channel as a series. The title of the movie or the TV series will be called “Son of Zodiac.” In this case, the title will be the only change to the story.
You’re a member of SAG and have an acting background. How did your acting experience help with storytelling behind the keyboard instead of in front of the camera?
I kind of always knew I was a decent storyteller, dating back to my early years in grade school. As I state on my publisher’s website, Black Opal Books, “Being a good storyteller is the most important trait you can have in order to be a successful author. Writing a bunch of mumbo jumbo will get you nowhere. Grammar can be corrected, but good story telling can’t be faked.”
As far as my acting background having an influence on my storytelling, being a good actor requires training, knowing your way around a set, and working on a body of work. I really had no training before I self-published Frostburg Lane back in 2013. That was a learning experience, for sure. The best way I can describe that process, would be to say it was like being in “Writing/Publishing boot camp.” What I learned from self-publishing Frostburg Lane helped me in getting signed by a literary agency and publisher. I currently do very little acting, but occasionally will take speaking parts I like. Acting is something I’ll always enjoy doing, not for the money, but because I just liked doing it. Pretending to be someone else is a really fun and exciting experience, plus you’ll get hands on experience witnessing how other actors perform their craft, and how films are shot.
Your bio mentions that you persevered through several rejections and found real tenacity. Tell us a little about the road to publication and what you learned in the process.
My first novel, a YA genre called Frostburg Lane, which as I mentioned early I self-published, is where I came to find out how the publishing world works. In the beginning, 2010 when I started Frostburg, ‘till its release in 2013, I learned a lot. That experience helped me in my quest to be signed by a literary agency, and ultimately see Gaf Killer published August 1, 2015. I was rejected, over a six month period in 2014, by forty-eight literary agencies, so just like doing acting auditions, if you have thin skin, and can’t take rejection when your query letter is either rejected or never read, then you need to find another line of work. I forged ahead, because I knew I had a good story and felt a literary agency out there somewhere would recognize my manuscript for what it is and decide to sign me. That happened on September 14, 2014.
What’s your writing process like today? You live in Northern California in a little town called Pollock Pines. Does a small town benefit your creativity?
Presently I work a full-time sales job, deep among the tall Ponderosa Pines, here in Pollock Pines, California. Actually the surroundings do help me somewhat, mainly because I’d much rather live in a rural area, than in some big city with all its noise and pollution. With that said, the GAF KILLER manuscript, other than the four months of editing I did right up until it’s release, was written and edited, for the most part in Alpine, California while living in a second-story two bedroom apartment overlooking a parking lot. That setting had no influence on my storytelling, mainly because the majority of the Gaf manuscript was completed during early 2013, through early 2015, and worked on mostly at night. So I would say the setting here is nice, but where you live should have little to do with the story itself, but it does help somewhat, especially if you’re living in an area you like, as where I’m at now, deep among the tall Ponderosa Pine trees of Pollock Pines, California.
Most important of all, when and where will your book be available?
Released August 1, 2015. There are several ways to order a copy, including a signed and numbered copy.
For signed and numbered copy, email Black Opal Books’ customer service dept: email@example.com
In the subject line of email type “Attn: Arwen-ordering THE GAF KILLER-SON OF ZODIAC.”
In the body of email give her your name & address, and Arwen will get a copy sent to you ASAP!
For an unsigned copy:
Any reader who orders a book form or an e-book copy of THE GAF KILLER-SON OF ZODIAC, I’ll send a personal note thanking them for their support. After purchase, email me here, firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send my personal note right out, thanking you for your support!
What’s next on the horizon for your writing work?
I have another crime thriller that I’m currently working on, with intentions of releasing in summer of 2016, called David Drake-The Love Maids Case. It’s a story that takes place in central Louisiana, deep in bayou country. A group of women who work for a high end house cleaning service that caters to rich clientele (single/married men, politicians, and law enforcement).
Le Boudin County Police Chief Roberts, and Sheriff Davis start a joint investigation when females working for Love Maids start showing up dead, one by one. Roberts’ and Davis’ list of suspects includes the ex-governor of Louisiana, Cooter Jackson, and his trophy wife, the Ms. Heather Rose. When the investigation crosses state lines, into Mississippi, Chief Roberts and Sheriff Davis decide to call in the feds for help. That’s when Special FBI Agent David Drake, and his team of hand-picked special agents take over the investigation, with Chief Roberts and Sheriff Davis assisting, or augmenting the FBI with their officers, when called upon by David Drake.
Jerry Otis is a SAG Actor who turned to writing about a half dozen years ago. The entire publishing process has taught him one thing, “Never give up.” Even after getting over 40 rejection letters from other literary agencies or editors, he continued to forge ahead. He’s found out that if you have a good story, a literary agency, or editor out there somewhere will recognize your manuscript for what it is and decide to sign you.
Otis lives in northern California in the rural town of Pollock Pines. Although he’s now going to be a newly published author with Black Opal Books, it’s something that in his earlier years he would have never dreamed of becoming, considering the crappy grades he received in English classes, from elementary all the way up through high school. It wasn’t until he got into college that he found out he liked to write, and it was at that point in time he realized it’s not just the grammar that’s important, it’s the story telling. Remember this, “Without a good story, you have nothing but a bunch of rambling, mumbo jumbo, so no matter what kind of degree you have in Literature/English etc., that degree will get you nowhere unless you’re a good story teller. Grammar can be corrected, but story telling can’t be faked.”