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A Novel View: All Evil's Alike

by Ian Spiegelman
Originally published in the New York Post, April 11, 2004


With his latest book, "Down Here," best-selling crime novelist Andrew Vachss makes the case that rapists, pedophiles and al Qaeda are one and the same.

"I promise you, there are people in America whose only problem with the Taliban is that they did it for the wrong god," Vachss tells PAGE SIX's Ian Spiegelman. "Whether it's incest, rape, terrorism or Nazism, it's all the same thing—accumulating and abusing power."

In his new book—the 15th in the popular "Burke" series—Vachss' mysterious manhunter is on the trail of a serial rapist who wants revenge against the woman who put him in prison, Burke's longtime grudging ally Wolfe. In the process, he develops an ingenious computer cataloging system that reveals patterns in seemingly random, unrelated sex crimes.

Vachss—also a criminal-defense lawyer who represents minors exclusively—hopes police departments will follow his cue.

"In a perfect world, law enforcement would say, 'God, why don't we do this?' There is not enough information being shared by law enforcement. There's not enough being collected, shared, correlated and redistributed."

As always, Burke is assisted by a family of criminals whose headquarters is a seedy Chinese restaurant that's a front for any number of illicit enterprises. Are these characters—the mute martial-arts master Max, ancient con man Prof and transsexual grifter Michelle—based on real people?

"My first law office was in a booth in a Chinese restaurant," says Vachss. "I didn't have any money. I was driving a cab at night. In return for the space, I represented the interests of the establishment. I had a great deal. A pay phone in back was always answered, 'Mr. Vachss not here—you call back later!' "

To people who have a hard time believing that the brutal American underground described by Vachss even exists, he says: "I wish them a happy life on the prairie. When I first wrote about pedophiles modem-trafficking in kiddie porn [in 1986], the reviewers went insane about my 'sick mind.' I can't imagine today what rock a person lives under that they don't take this as fact. I don't know what color sky is on their planet.

"The material for the books comes from work I do," he explains. "And the books advance the mission of the work I do. I never have to put on a writer's cap."

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.



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