The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez is one of the most terrifying books I have read.
Philip Carlo’s book, which is widely regarded as the definitive account of Ramirez’s reign of terror in Los Angeles and San Fransisco in the 1980s, is not pleasant reading but the retelling of the crimes are some of the most gripping and frightening I have ever read. Carlo flips between Ramirez’s killing spree and his childhood and then details his trial and disturbingly the bevy of women who write to and visit Ramirez, believing they are in love (and lust) with him. Ramirez even has a wife who married him in jail.
According to Carlo’s website, the research for the book took three years and is based on nearly 100 hours of exclusive personal interviews with Ramirez on California’s Death Row.
I tended to flick through the latter parts of the book covering the trial and the interviews with Ramirez but the first half of the book with its comprehensive detail of each and every one of Raimrez’s crimes (he was convicted of 13 murders in 1989 and sentenced to death) builds up the tension and horror so that you feel transported to the oppressive heat of a Los Angeles summer (circa 1984 and 1985). His crimes were sickening and terrifying in that his victims were chosen randomly – often it was a matter of whether a window or door was open and back in the 1980s in some of the areas Ramirez targeted, people rarely locked doors or windows, as much out of trust and innocence as trying to keep cool in the sticky heat.