Boys enter the house The victims of John Wayne Gacy and the lives they left behind

David Nelson

Book - 2022

"As investigators brought out the bagged remains of several dozen young men from a small Chicago ranch home and paraded them in front of a crowd of TV reporters and spectators, attention quickly turned to the owner of the house. John Gacy was an upstanding citizen, active in local politics and charities, famous for his themed parties and appearances as Pogo the Clown. But in the winter of 1978-79, he became known as one of many so-called "sex murderers" who had begun gaining notoriety in the random brutality of the 1970s. As public interest grew rapidly, victims became footnotes and statistics, lives lost not just to violence, but to history."--Amazon.

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2nd Floor 362.88293/Nelson Checked In
Chicago, Illinois : Chicago Review Press Incorporated [2022]
Main Author
David Nelson (author)
Physical Description
xi, 323 pages ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 317-323).
  • Author's Note
  • Introduction
  • 1. The Greyhound Bus Boy
  • 2. The Poor Side of Town
  • 3. Class of 1973
  • 4. All Happy Families
  • 5. Silly Love Songs
  • 6. In the Company of Homosexuals
  • 7. The Runaways
  • 8. Summerdale Avenue
  • 9. Light and Concrete
  • 10. The Gallery of Grief
  • 11. Boys Coming Home
  • 12. Remember Me Always
  • Coda: Disco Inferno
  • Acknowledgments
  • Bibliography
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Nelson debuts with a moving and meticulously researched account of the lives of the victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who brutalized and murdered 33 boys and young men between January 1972 and December 1978, burying most of them beneath his house on the outskirts of Chicago. Drawing on interviews with family, friends, and lovers, Nelson portrays each of the victims in full. Some had criminal records, some were gay sex workers, and many were regular kids. Gacy's first victim, 16-year-old Timothy McCoy, came from an extended family and was taking the bus home from visiting cousins in Michigan when he accepted a ride from Gacy at a Chicago bus station. Nineteen-year-old Billy Kindred had a girlfriend, who to this day still wears his promise ring. And 15-year-old Rob Piest, a theater tech and gymnast, was described as shy and sweet by his co-workers at the Des Plaines, Ill., pharmacy where he met Gacy and became his final victim. (The efforts of the Piest family to find out what happened to Rob helped lead to Gacy's arrest.) Gacy, who confessed to multiple murders, was executed in 1994. Nelson succeeds in giving Gacy's victims a voice. This is a must for true crime fans. (Oct 5.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

Rather than focusing on the heinous crimes of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who in the 1970s preyed on more than 30 young men and boys, journalist Nelson explores the lives of Gacy's victims. He writes that most of these young men spent time in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood, where some of them got into fights or were victims of gang violence; oftentimes their families moved frequently and struggled financially. Some turned to sex work, which Nelson argues left them especially vulnerable to a predator like Gacy. Nelson extensively interviewed family members and loved ones to examine the brief but full lives of these boys--their childhoods, first loves, jobs, dreams, and friendships with other victims. Many of the boys were free to hitchhike and roam the neighborhood and weren't reported missing right away, and investigations were frequently closed when mistaken eyewitnesses claimed to have seen victims after they were abducted. Nelson argues that Gacy flew under the radar because he targeted gay men and boys; due to bias and homophobia, police investigations were often lackluster. The book is compelling and moving, though hard to follow at times because it covers so many victims. VERDICT Heartrending and poignant, this is an excellent sociological examination of life in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood in the 1970s.--Karen Sandlin Silverman, Mt. Ararat Middle Sch., Topsham, ME

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