Over the past 10 years, TEDxToronto has been proud to host some of the most innovative, intellectual and inspiring individuals, all sharing their expertise on a wide range of topics. With this year’s theme, IDENTITY, we decided to give everyone an inside look into some of the upcoming TEDxToronto 2018 speakers.
Tell us about your career path as an interdisciplinary criminologist.
It was an unconventional path. I had two undergraduate degrees when I started as a police officer in London, Ontario where I had a very exciting career for over 15 years; however, I knew early on, the job had a limited shelf life and wanted more. I saw some things in law enforcement and in crime trends I knew weren’t likely to be solved or remedied from within the existing system so I went back and complete a PhD while still a serving detective and, by 2011, started transitioning to academia full-time. I began publishing and doing television work by 2013 and then accepted a tenure-track position teaching crime history and criminology within an English department which allowed me a number of new and exploratory avenues to teach students about the criminal mind through literature and film – which is where most people get educated on crime anyways, whether for better or worse.
What’s the most popular or exciting case you have investigated?
Likely the case of the Oakland County Child Killer which has been the focus of a few books chapters and articles I’ve published and the subject of a documentary series featuring my work which will air on Discovery ID in a couple of months. The case of University of Madison murder of Christine Rothschild, published in my last best seller, Mad City, is equally notable and has garnered both acclaim and controversy, as should any cold case investigation. Look at the Golden State Killer case, for instance. The writings left by the killer in those cases were actually part of a final exam question in one of my courses for years until he was caught.
We heard you have a new book coming out. Can you give us a sneak peek of what it’s about?
It’s actually out now and is the third installment in my “Murder City” true crime series. The title is, Monster City: Murder, Music & Mayhem in Nashville’s Dark Age, and it is the true story of a New Yorker and Vietnam War vet who goes to Nashville on vacation in the 1970s and decides to stay and become a cop there just as two phenomena are colliding: “new” country music and serial murder. He will end up founding one of the pioneering cold case units in America and will go on to, with his elite team known as the “Murder Squad” catch more serial killers and stranger-than-fiction villains than any contemporary detective squad in North America. You can’t make this stuff up. Nashville would not look the same and be a tourist destination like it is had it not been for them.
Name one TEDx talk that had a big impact on you. What made it compelling?
Too many to choose; however, any talk on staying true to one’s beliefs an taking personal responsibility resonates with me. I’d also have to say Dr. Marcel Danesi’s talk on Emojis and the evolution of communication, in part because he and I published a book together last year and he’s a colleague and friend I respect greatly.