Time erases everything
September 11, 2014 7:57 PM   Subscribe

Amazing article about someone I'd never heard of. Thank you for finding this.
posted by purenitrous at 8:40 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Why on earth would you go to Nepal if you thought they might arrest you?
posted by arcticseal at 9:14 PM on September 11, 2014

Why on earth would you go to Nepal if you thought they might arrest you?

Because you wanted so badly to be the biggest fish in the jail pond again.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:21 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

"he moved to Boston for a brief spat"
With whom?
posted by unliteral at 9:53 PM on September 11, 2014

...in 1996 I proposed an article about him to Spin. I didn’t particularly want to write an article, especially not for a glorified version of Tiger Beat...

Vice doth protest too much, methinks! (But seriously, that was a good article, thanks)
posted by whir at 10:12 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

That means he lived there for just a short snit.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:13 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Be sure to read to the end. I was put off by the pace early, but stick with it, it's part of the plan.

Boy. Vice.com keeps bringing it. Who'd have guessed?
posted by notyou at 10:33 PM on September 11, 2014

Great article. I'd completely forgotten about Gary Indiana; I read Scar Tissue, White Trash Boulevard and Horse Crazy when they came out, way back when, and really liked them. Glad he's still writing.
posted by jaut at 10:33 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Spin was a great magazine.
posted by Nevin at 11:04 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

That was a fantastic article. Thanks for posting it.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:43 AM on September 12, 2014

Richard Neville's book on Charles Sobhraj is a great read.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:43 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Serpentine by Thomas Thompson is another good read on the topic.
posted by goo at 1:57 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by Joey Michaels at 2:02 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Great article? It reads like some former college newspaper hack who wants so bad to emulate Hunter S. Thompson, but really doesn't have the chops (or the good taste in drugs and other depravity). Worse, I don't feel like I know anything substantial about anyone mentioned in the story, other than the contempt the author seems to have for most them.
posted by kjs3 at 2:14 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I read Serpentine a long time ago (Thompson's "Blood and Money In Texas" is good too), and vaguely wondered over the years how Sobhraj had ended up, so good article.
posted by bjacques at 3:20 AM on September 12, 2014


Good pun. Because it does, indeed.

I image googled the woman 'with a face like a bunched fist' which illustrates a bit about the biases that suffuse this article. Having said that there are striking bits of insight: "(he) made a sort of mental collage of everything I’d told him earlier about myself, and was feeding parts of it back to me, with various plausible modifications, as revelations about himself. It’s a standard technique of sociopaths" for instance.

Anyhow, about Sobhraj being in the end ridiculous: there's a palpable sense of foreboding in the writing about the actual encounter that undermines this. Gary Indiana seems awfully anxious to imagine he would never have been taken in by this fellow even at his sexiest, though he may have let his guard down enough to let himself get murdered. "You might have been able to get me but you still would have looked ridiculous!" That's an odd sort of one-upmanship.

- But then Fred West was taken to be nothing more than a bumbling Westcountry Benny Hill avatar by people who met him casually -

I agree it's a good article though, and the undercurrents and contradictions and kind of general spitefulness of the writing make it more absorbing, not less.
posted by glasseyes at 6:01 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Jeez, glasseyes, I'd never heard of Fred West until I read your comment. And now I discover that not only was he a crazy fucker with an equally crazy wife, he was also played by crush-object Dominic West in a TV movie I gotta track down. Yikes.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:13 AM on September 12, 2014

Well it was a big thing here because it's kind of local, also an odd combination of horrific and banal. One of the victims went to a school my nieces went to. All of the (surviving) children of the family including his brothers' kids were taken into care and given new identities and I was close to a kid who came across one of them and knew the boy's story. It's a bit too close to home for me to be able to watch fictionalisations of what happened. The house the family lived in was demolished, nobody would ever want to live there.

But yes, I think they got away with it for so long because they did seem really ordinary and a bit stupid. You wouldn't expect ridiculous excuses - "She's gone off to Weston with a lesbian in a blue Mini" - to conceal unimaginable cruelty.
posted by glasseyes at 11:03 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately "really ordinary and a bit stupid" does not at all rule out "a serial murderer." I was doing a lot of serial killer research years back, and soon realized that Ted-Bundy-style genius monsters are really the exception; the majority of serial killers are ugly and stupid.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:07 PM on September 12, 2014

So late to this, but I finally just now read the linked article (and the Crime Library article on him too), and the thing that really strikes me is that he was only doing the serial murders while with Chowdhury. After the period when they were paired up, he only accidentally killed with too much of the drug meant to incapacitate. It just seems more likely to me that Chowdhury was actually the real killer of the pair, and likely the dominant partner, even though Sobhraj was the out-facing guy (smoother, with better patter, etc.? the one to draw people in and string them along?).

It seems in everyone's best interest (particularly Sobhraj's) to maintain this (theoretical!) fiction of him being the mastermind murderer. LE gets their guy, authors get their wonderfully lurid bio subject, the public gets the satisfaction of a solved mystery and colorful villain with accompanying thrilling escapades and escapes, etc. (because just a thief and swindler who was briefly tangled up with a maniac is not as good a story, if you only have the thief and not the maniac), and Sobhraj gets the attention and rep, which seems his main thing, and gets to go back to his beloved prison as mythic serial killer dude. (Maybe living cushy and free in France with millions of dollars was more scary than his small and tightly manipulated prison life? He really did seem determined to break back into that prison.)

The line seems to be that for unknown reasons Sobhraj killed off Chowdhury (his top guy! who had supposedly just gone out and picked up a bunch of jewels for him! yeah, who needs that guy?), but maybe they just cut each other loose. Maybe Chowdhury wasn't as keen to do prison time, and went off on his own to more quietly continue to murder people without all the flash. Maybe Chowdhury was pushing for a murder or murders Sobhraj didn't want to do. Maybe it was a lover's quarrel. Maybe someone else offed Chowdhury.

But for whatever reason, the "Bikini Killer" only seemed to be a killer when that one guy was around. If anyone who has read either of the books mentioned here happens to see this, are there additional details that make more sense of this?
posted by taz at 10:50 AM on September 16, 2014

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