Best selling author speaks of murder, horror


The sky was dark and ominous Friday evening as Dan Chaon read from his novel, “Ill Will.” The mood outside the Griffin Center was the perfect setting for Chaon’s novel of murder and suspense.

Chaon is an American author, having penned three short story collections and three novels. His most recent creation, “Ill Will,” covers a couple of killing sprees that span over several decades.

This book, like his others, seems bound in blood more so than leather. Chaon is known for his grim and dreary plots.

After an introduction by Casey L. Pycior, assistant professor of English, Chaon took to the podium and began letting the audience in on the horror of the story. “The body of the young boy who disappeared had sunk to the bottom of the river, face down, bumping lightly against the muddy bed below the flowing water,” Chaon said, reading to the audience. “The body was probably carried for several miles, frowning with gentle surprise, arms away from his sides, legs stiff.”

Those were the first words Chaon spoke.

“I got the idea for the book when I was a teenager growing up in Ohio and heard about these boys who had drowned,” Chaon said. “Then I started writing it over the course of a year until it sat on my computer for the next ten.”

Chaon said he realized the book needed more than just the stories of boys being murdered by drowning. He believed there needed to be a deeper story than that.

This process, of mulling the story over in his head, took an entire decade.  

The heart of “Ill Will” is a narrative set in Ohio that follows Dustin Tillman, a psychologist who has recently lost his wife to cancer. On top of that, his brother, Rusty, was exonerated after 30 years of being locked up for killing their parents, along with their aunt and uncle.

Rusty wouldn’t have been put away if it wasn’t for Dustin’s testimony which revealed sexual abuse and demonic rituals performed by his brother. With the recent death of his wife and the haunting memories of the grizzly path his brother exposed him to, it becomes hard for Dustin to keep a clear head.

Some readers claim that the style is very unique because of the way the narrative jumps around.

“At some point, I realized I wanted to write this book from multiple perspectives,” said Chaon. “I got to thinking, okay, I can use this as an opportunity to let all of the seven main characters get a chance to speak and tell their story, and I could fill the plot in from there.”

The book became a national bestseller and was named one of the best books of the year by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and several other publications.

After a 40 minute reading and a 20 minute Q and A session after, the event wrapped up. The attendees were allowed to meet with the novelist in the lobby for autographs.

Pycior, who coordinated the event, said he would like to encourage more students to attend events like this one and not just because they are required to for a class or because it’s an extra credit opportunity.

“When you are out of college you think back and there is a lot of opportunities that you missed,” Pycior said. “Like aw, I could’ve gone to that, it was free. He is a really famous writer, you could meet him and talk to him. How cool is that? Don’t miss out on things like this!”