Michael Jordan didn’t know who the Torso Murderer was. But once he did, he was fascinated.
Jordan is a retired lawyer who, years ago, found himself in an office for a deposition. While waiting, another lawyer pointed at an old photograph on the wall and noted it was a photo of Kingsbury Run. The lawyer told Jordan that’s where Cleveland’s notorious Torso Murders happened and was surprised to learn Jordan didn’t know about them.
Jordan isn’t from Cleveland but was intrigued.
The Torso Murders, also known as The Kingsbury Run Murders, were a series of slayings that took place in Cleveland between 1935 and 1938. At least 12 people were killed and dismembered. Two victims were identified.
The murderer was never found, but Eliot Ness, the safety director of Ohio at the time after his stint in Chicago made famous by “The Untouchables” TV show and movie, had his suspicions about a man, but he couldn’t make the case.
Flash forward to present day and Jordan is on the brink of publishing his debut novel, “The Company of Demons.”
Jordan, who now splits his time between Cleveland and Longboat Key, got his inspiration from this encounter with the lawyer and learning about the Torso Murders.
The book follows lawyer John Coleman, who is shocked when a friend is murdered.
“I’m looking forward to the fun of doing something new at this stage in my life."
“So in my book, I theorize what if the torso killer came back today for one final act of vengeance, and I have an attorney who is my protagonist with family ties to the killer. He has all sorts of issues of his own, and while he’s dealing with those, the Torso Murderer emerges to be a real threat,” Jordan said.
Jordan, 64, found the more research he did, the more fascinated he became with this case. He did what he could to get a sense of what was happening in Cleveland in the 1930s. He read original newspaper articles on the killings and visited the Cleveland Public Library for period information.
“And I wanted to create characters who are not simple representations or caricatures,” Jordan said. “I wanted characters with real depth, real conflicts. Maybe you won’t like all of them as a reader, and maybe you [will wonder] where they are coming from? What is their motivation here? So I worked very hard to create characters that have a lot of inner turmoil, and surprise the readers with things about them ...”
Jordan retired in 2010 and now works as an arbitrator. Since retirement, he has had more time to take writing seriously, he said, and has taken a college course and attended numerous seminars on writing in Ohio and New York, something he thinks other would-be writers should try.
“I really enjoy it. It’s very different,” he said. “It’s demanding, so I find that challenge something I very much enjoy. I love doing the research. I love talking to people and trying to put together a story I hope readers will find interesting.”
Part of that challenge is carving out time to write. Jordan made sure that over the five years it took him to create this book, he wrote every day, whether it was for one hour or five. He said even completing work on one page a day was satisfying.
One time, he said, he spent four hours on one paragraph. He couldn’t get it to read right to him, he said. He said the key is just to sit down and do it.
“In my view, the only way to overcome [writer’s block] is to keep at it,” he said. “The problem’s not going to solve itself.”
Jordan said he wants to continue writing books, most likely dramas and thrillers, and is working on a second book now.
“I’m looking forward to the fun of doing something new at this stage in my life,” he said.
“The Company of Demons” debuts Jan. 16. The book can be bought on Amazon and IndieBound or at Barnes & Noble.