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My Real-Life Inspiration for Inspired by Murder

Updated: May 12, 2019

I got the idea for Inspired by Murder after watching the HBO documentary, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, on a flight from Sydney to Alice Springs, Australia. Although Robert Durst has never been arrested over the 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathy Durst, police have long suspected that he was responsible for her death. Throughout the documentary, Durst remains adamant that he had nothing to do with the disappearance of his wife in 1982 or the murder of his friend, Susan Berman, in 2000. However, at the end of The Jinx, Durst excuses himself from the investigators to go to the bathroom. Alone in the bathroom and not realizing his microphone was still recording, Durst can be heard making this chilling statement: "What the hell did I do? Killed them all of course."

In 2003, Durst went on trial for the murder of his neighbor, Morris Black. He was found guilty of evidence tampering by dismembering Black's body, but Durst was acquitted of murder due to lack of forensic evidence. Since Morris Black's head was never recovered, the jury felt there was insufficient evidence to prove or disprove Durst's claim that he shot Black in the face out self-defense during a struggle.

Durst was arrested in 2015 for the murder of his long-time friend Susan Berman. The trial continues to be ongoing with a preliminary hearing scheduled for later this month.

One of the things I found most disturbing about Durst was his relentless denial and lack of remorse for the crimes he's believed to be responsible for. There's a famous photo of Durst wearing an orange jumpsuit while smiling in the back of a squad car. It reminds me of a similar photo of Ted Bundy smiling and waving for the media during his indictment in 1978.

This narcissistic lack of remorse planted a seed in my mind for Dr. Leroy's character. Although, once I started writing Inspired by Murder, Dr. Leroy's character quickly took on a life of its own.

While I was in the middle of writing Inspired by Murder, I read A Deadly Secret: The Bizarre and Chilling Story of Robert Durst by Matt Birkbeck. This book was so fascinating and hard to put down that I was actually sad when it came to an end.

I gave a copy of Inpsired by Murder to the Seattle homicide detective who helps me with the police procedural details in my books (read more about this in my blog post, An Afternoon at Seattle Homicide). After he finished it, he told me about a true crime article in The New Yorker titled "A Postmodern Murder Mystery" that contains some similarities to Dr. Leroy in Inspired by Murder. The article tells of a Polish novelist who killed a man and published a book that included details to the killing. Three years later, a detective used details from the novel to gather enough evidence and witnesses to eventually arrest the novelist for murder. The article became the basis for the 2016 film Dark Crimes in which Jim Carrey plays the role of the detective.

For more of what inspired me to write this novel, you can also check out the Pinterest board I created to help me visualize Inspired by Murder during the writing process.

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