Thomas Wasper is a Long Beach-based freelance photojournalist, entrepreneur and author. His book, "A Stitch in Crime: The Poetry of Murder," will be released on Friday.
Q: Your book merges my two hobbies: poetry and murder. And it's funny. You find murder funny, do you?
A: It's my biggest fear. But I wrote the book to loosen the fear and to point out the cock-eyed reasoning of the oh-so-serious killers who committed these murders.
Q: The best reasoning for murdering someone, I think, was David Berkowitz, "Son of Sam," who killed because his neighbor's dog Harvey, which was possessed by a demon, told him to. You wrote in your book:
"I'm Mr. Monster, Son of Sam,
I take my orders, but not from man.
I hear what he says, never ask why.
When Harvey says "Arf!" I say "how high?"
A: Sometimes I wonder if Harvey had a reason for telling Berkowitz to kill, or was he just a bad dog bored out of his mind on a hot summer night having a go with the imbecile next door?
Q: You hit on all the great killers: Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Lizzie Borden. I like your Zodiac Killer poem:
"Zodiac Killer found his prey in the park,
groping and fondling in their cars in the dark.
Virgins survive while the wicked lay dead,
too cheap to put out for a motel room bed.
Q: How long did it take you to put all these poems and biographies together?
A: I worked on it for years. I kept buying books about the killers, and I'd read just enough to get a poem written. Some I just read a little bit. Others, like Charles Guiteau, who shot President James Garfield, I became fascinated with. I read as much as I could about Guiteau. His attorney tried to argue for insanity. Every time he told the court that Charles wasn't intelligent, Charles would jump up and say how smart he was. Or when his attorney said Charles had never held a job, Charles would shout out his list of credentials.
Q: You had an earlier book called "Famous Killers for Early Learners."
A: This is that book, but with some new stuff and a new title and a great cover by Joe Allard, who used Norman Rockwell's painting of a barbershop quartet and turned it into three killers and a bloodied victim. I published "Famous Killers" myself and it sold OK locally, but I needed to find someone to publish it who could get it out to more places.
Q: How did you find a publisher?
A: I was on a photo assignment to take pictures of some publishers, and I showed them the book and they loved it. They loved it so much they made a bunch of changes, including the title. They didn't want parents to get confused and buy it for their children.
Q: You've had nothing but success in your short life. I remember when you won the apple pie contest back in the late 1980s or early '90s.
A: I registered to enter the contest back when there used to be a big Chili Cook-Off in town. Then, they sent me a letter saying they weren't having it because the Health Department wouldn't let them.
Q: Then I wrote about it, saying you should be the winner by default. Plus, it was good pie.
A: That was only 20 years after Watergate. You still had a lot of power. It changed everything. They said they'd give me a blue ribbon and that the mayor would present me with the award at the cook-off. I chickened out.
Q: After that you started your company Selfish Causes.
A: I was ripping off Lance Armstrong's Livestrong. I made a bunch of wristbands that were just for selfish causes instead of charities. They said things like "Alcohol," and "Breast Implants." Then I made what I thought would make me millions of dollars: the humorous sympathy cards. I had thousands of cards made in China, and I was worried that that might not even be enough. I think I sold maybe three cards. I made a tactical error in that the only people you'd want to send them to would be your friends, and they would be the ones who were dead. Their spouses and survivors wouldn't think they were funny.
Q: Kind of like if my cousin were killed by John Wayne Gacy I wouldn't think it was funny. Even if Gacy was dressed up like a circus clown?
A: Yeah. It's not necessarily something everyone would find funny. I was trying to get the book into a big chain and the buyer said, "I think it's hilarious, but we're not going to carry it." That would make a good blurb for the cover.