JK Rowling says cross-dressing killer in new Strike novel is based on real-life murderers

Roisin O'Connor
·2-min read
Holliday Grainger and Tom Burke in the BBC adaptation of Strike (BBC)
Holliday Grainger and Tom Burke in the BBC adaptation of Strike (BBC)

JK Rowling has said that the controversial character Dennis Creed, a serial killer in her new Strike novel, was based on two real-life murderers.

Creed provoked controversy due to his habit of dressing in women’s clothing and a wig in order to trick his female victims before abducting them.

He appears in Troubled Blood – released earlier this week – in which private detectives Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott investigate the case of a female GP who disappeared decades earlier.

After a review in The Telegraph made a number of observations and criticisms of the character, a number of trans rights supporters condemned Rowling, who publishes the series under her pen name, Robert Galbraith.

Rowling has courted controversy on several occasions due to her comments on transgender rights. She has denied allegations of transphobia made against her.

In a post on Galbraith’s website, Rowling reveals that Creed was “loosely based on real-life killers Jerry Brudos and Russell Williams – both master manipulators who took trophies from their victims”.

Brudos, known as “The Lust Killer” in the media, murdered four women in Orgeon during the Sixties. As a young man, Brudos would steal women’s underwear from his neighbours, and was reported to have a fetish for women’s shoes.

Reports were also made of a “large man, dressed in women’s clothing” in the garage where he abducted one of his victims, Karen Sprinker.

Brudos is portrayed by actor Happy Anderson in Netflix’s original series Mindhunter in season one, episodes 7 and 8.

Actor Ted Levine also based part of his performance in The Silence of the Lambs on Brudos.

Williams was sentenced to life in prison in 2010 for murdering two women. He pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including 82 counts of breaking and entering, during which he stole hundreds of items of underwear from women and girls.

In the same post, Rowling said that “change, loss and absence are probably the biggest themes” in the novel.

Holliday Grainger and Tom Burke in the BBC adaptation of StrikeBBC
Holliday Grainger and Tom Burke in the BBC adaptation of StrikeBBC

“The detective agency is investigating a cold case: the mysterious disappearance of a female doctor in 1974, which happens to be the year of Strike’s birth,” she writes.

“The changing face of feminism and ideals and stereotypes of femininity are also examined through the cast of characters.”

In response to the latest controversy surrounding Rowling, an independent Australian bookshop said it would no longer stock her work.

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