Tit Willow: The Story of the Zodiac Killer

Tit Willow - The Story of the Zodiac Killer

Author Judith Chapman
Publisher  No Publisher (June 2012)
Availability  Paperback and Ebook format at amazon.com

 

Synopsis: The author, who claims to have lived with the Zodiac killer for two decades, tells her personal story. Numerous photographs and other images add interest to the story.

Although I often receive evaluation copies of books (or proposed books), I don't often write reviews. I am generally not comfortable with passing judgment on  the written work of others, unless there is something that especially grabs my attention. This book did just that, although not for the reasons that would seem obvious from the synopsis.

The author proposes that she married and lived with the Zodiac killer for over twenty years, and she outlines a good deal of information that may (or may not) point in that direction. She isn't the first person to claim an intimate knowledge of the uncaught killer and she certainly will not be the last. In this sense, she is but one of many others. However, that is not what captured my attention and kept me reading. In fact, I finished her book in a few hours without the usual sleepiness that often besets men of a certain advanced age.

I suppose it's best to begin with the preliminaries that all book reviews seem to mandate. I'll make it as quick and painless as possible, just four sentences.

This is not a polished piece of work. It has many rough spots, lacks good editing, and drifts off more than once. In other words, it is not a technically pleasing read. However, what is lacks in polish it makes up for in heart.

I have never met the author, never spoken to her, and never had more than a single-line email exchange. Yet, after reading her book, I felt as though I came to know this woman and understand her struggles. In fact, I came to like her and care much more about her personal journey than the Zodiac theory she originally  set out to memorialize.

It's a difficult thing to describe, but one knows when a writer is being open and honest. In fact, I think all readers develop this sense after enough time and words have passed. In my view, this author was sincere and open, even when it must have been very difficult to do so. After reading her book, I felt that the writer told me everything she knew, holding nothing back. It was all there; the pain, the frustrations, the failures, and the deep fear that she often felt. She made no attempt to hide her mistakes, soft-pedal the bad times, assign blame, or make excuses for herself or anyone else. This is something I rarely find among writers, who are often careful to distance themselves from the uglier parts of their stories. This author put it all out there, as far as I can tell, and that kept me turning the pages.

Did the author achieve her goal of putting forth a solid Zodiac theory? In the end, that will have to be decided by each reader. I felt that it fell short in a number of technical areas, such as timing, dates, that kind of thing. The theory is loose, much too loose for me. However, it's certainly at least as good as many other theories floating around in Zodiac-land. She has worked with a variety of law enforcement agencies and provided all that was asked of her. Be her right or wrong, she is going about things in a way that seems to make sense and, from what I can tell, has been above-board, even when the story became obviously very hard to recount.

Can I recommend this book? Yes, but not for the obvious reasons, as I mentioned earlier. This is a personal journey and, in many cases, it's a painful one. I wasn't many pages into her book before I found myself far less interested in her Zodiac theory than I was in her personal journey. Another reader may come away disappointed that the author didn't wrap-up the Zodiac case in a neat bundle. I, for one, am glad she took me along on her journey, all the roughness notwithstanding.

This is a relatively short book but it's not an easy read, in the traditional sense. Don't expect lots of polish here. However, if you have a heart, this writer may just get to you the way she got to me.

8 comments

  1. Gabe Harling 13 September, 2012 at 15:21 Reply

    Thanks Mike. I am definitely going to read it now, thanks again for being very fair and honest in your critique of this book as you have consistently been with Zodiac related topics.

    I would never have given this book the chance however based on your feedback I will certainly read it and be able to go into it with the right mindset.

  2. G Gluckman 15 September, 2012 at 09:24 Reply

    Hi Mr K,

    It does indeed sound compelling. When you think about it, anybody who shates a bed with somebody they believe could be the Zodiac Killer must have a rather interesting life, even if they are mistaken.

    On a slightly tangential note, it is tempting to write off these people as nutcases, but there is a reason why Z-researchers should pay attention to such stories: despite the proliferation of people who have made such claims, it is just as likely that the mystery will eventually be solved by somebody close to him as it is by all the research of the last 40+ years. The problem is, we may have trouble believing the person who delivers the answer.

    The Unabomber mystery was solved because David Kaczynski, and his wife, Linda, acted on suspicions that brother Ted might be the author of a Manifesto written by the killer. For all we know, the mystery might never have been solved David had not acted on his suspicions.

    The lesson we *can* learn from the Unabomber story is that proximates are important: they may be a highly viable source of answers to these types of mysteries. The lessons we *cannot* learn from the Unabomber story: that close friends or family members will take action quickly, or that they will be easy to take seriously.

    David Kaczynski was initially dismissive of suspicions about his brother. If it had not been for the encouragement of his wife, he might never have acted, or at least it might have taken much longer. We can also not forget the importance of his own character and concern for his fellow human in spurring him to action.

    We cannot know whether the people closest to Z will have the same kind of insight as David Kaczynski, whether they will have a companion who will support them when they are tempted to dismiss their own suspicions, or what effect their own character will have on their actions.

    David K also happened to be a well-educated, well-respected man with the mentailty and means to get the attention of LE while maintaining an aura of credibility. This is a highly important point.

    The Zodiac Killer’s proximates, whoever they may have been, might come from any social class. They may or may not have been well educated, and they may or may not be the sort that LE and the world trusts or takes seriously.

    Just as importantly, we have no idea how they would go about trying to get their message out. David Kaczynski hired a lawyer to help him approach LE. He was organized in his approach, he knew how to present facts and he didn’t make stupid mistakes or try to cut a movie deal.

    When the Real Zodiac Killer’s wife, or daughter, or son, or next door neighbor decides to reveal their suspicions, they could be any kind of individual, with any in a vast range of human qualities from the brilliant or noble to the muddled or self-serving. They may be honest to a fault. They may be looking to hustle a buck. They may craving their time in the limelight.

    Whatever the case, there is a good chance that they, and not any of us would-be theorists, will hold the answer to the Zodiac Killer mystery.

    Many thanks,

    G

    P.S.: Nice post. I will definitely read the book.

    • Michael Kelleher 15 September, 2012 at 10:01

      Hi, G.

      You raise excellent and important points. There are folks “out there” who knew and interacted with this killer, folks who had personal relationships and intimate knowledge of him. As you point out, we should all be willing to hear these things, just in case the pieces fall together in a certain way.

      In this case, I believe the author was both honest and sincere. As I mentioned in the review, these qualities are rare and compelling. I truly cared much less about her theory than I did about her journey, which was a wild and often painful one.

      I hope you enjoy the read. Perhaps you’ll post back after you’ve finished the book. I’d like to hear other points of view about this work. It caught me on an emotional level first, so I’m curious to hear what impact it had on others.

      Mike

  3. G Gluckman 16 September, 2012 at 15:39 Reply

    Hi Mr K,

    Just finished the book. It’s very much as you described. I cannot help but feel deeply for Judith. Personally, I was pleased with her writing style. It’s not Shakespeare, but then again who reads Shakespeare? The prose was smooth enough for my taste, even pleasing in spots.

    As far as her way of laying out her Zodiac theory…I rather liked it. It was not heavy-handed. It offers the obligatory handwriting and composite sketch matchups–which mean almost nothing to me–but beyond that she simply drops occasional allusions to behaviors and phrases that Zodiac used. She doesn’t yammer at us with her justifications for her beliefs. She simply drops her observations in front of us for better or for worse, and moves on with her story, wisely seeking to intrigue, without insulting anybody’s intelligence.

    Although it doesn’t go deeply enough into details to make a strong theory, it is a good story. I did not read it analytically, but at some point I would be interested to hear other people’s assessment of the theory itself. I think it would be discourteous not to discuss it, and she has earned that much with her honesty. To disagree is better manners than to ignore, in my view.

    To me, the biggest problems were the lack of details (which I just praised) and Peter’s young age. The latter is problematic, but not fatal, imo. You mentioned problems with dates. I didn’t cross reference any times as I read. Can you elaborate?

    In closing, the thought that strikes me the hardest is the fact that there are so many people who describe similar stories: life with a disturbed individual who seems to cause everything from love and admiration to ambivalence and bewilderment and torment and terror. And suspicion. These people are often stereotyped in the Z-community, and elsewhere. But maybe it’s not their claims that are so remarkable, but the fact that there are so many people who have lived such lives.

    Best regards,

    G

    • Michael D. Kelleher 16 September, 2012 at 16:08

      Nicely said, G. My biggest problem was the age, and I was troubled with the lack of dates/places with known Zodiac activities. However, as you said, these are not fatal problems, just issues that would need to be addressed.

      I’m happy to know that you sensed the same honesty I did. This made it a true pleasure for me to read. Also, as you wrote, it would be helpful to know more. The author mentioned to me that she was working on a revision/update, so we may get another look at her theory. I, for one, look forward to it and wish her well with both her theory and future writing. She has a pleasing style.

  4. Bayarea60's 4 January, 2013 at 06:18 Reply

    Thanks Mike I will definitely pick it up. Probably wouldn’t have if you hadn’t written what you wrote about it. Like you said Z lived with, around, came from somebody. I doubt he lived in a cave. Most serial’s that I recall have all lived within our society, right there for all to see.

  5. Calvin 24 January, 2015 at 12:39 Reply

    She is obviously lying because she is one of those people that are trying to profit from the case by claiming to related to the Zodiac Killer. If she is really the Zodiac Killer’s wife, she should have known where he got his inspirations from.

  6. John 26 March, 2016 at 00:47 Reply

    It is of course possible that the Zodiac was a sociopath in the true sense of the term and had no living relatives who were close to him at all. I strongly suspect that this is why he was never caught and it may also be the reason why he never will be identified. He had nobody close and nobody knew him intimately. So he was basically invisible. He may have been a rather aloof fellow, perhaps even considered shy by those who did meet him.

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