Who Is Andrew Vachss?

Andrew VachssAndrew Vachss has been a federal investigator in sexually transmitted diseases, a social caseworker and a labor organizer, and has directed a maximum security prison for youthful offenders. Now a lawyer in private practice, he represents children and youth exclusively. He is the author of numerous novels, a collection of short stories, three graphic series, and Another Chance to Get It Right: A Children's Book for Adults. His work has appeared in Parade, Antaeus, The New York Times, and many other forums. He lives in New York City.

The dedicated website for Vachss and his work is www.vachss.com


Andrew Vachss
Introduction to Flood
The Vintage Edition

Flood was not my first published book. The first effort was nonfiction: a textbook on juvenile violence and proposed solutions which arose from my stint running a maximum-security prison for youthful offenders. That first book was a "critical" success, but it never reached outside the "profession." An itinerant preacher with a then-unacceptable brand of gospel that we make our own monsters and build our own beasts, that pervasive abuse and neglect of children is a greater danger to our species than cocaine and Communism combined, I longed for a bigger congregation. So I turned to "fiction," essentially adding plot, characters (keeping the characteristics) and (I hoped) sufficient narrative force to get the reader engrossed sufficiently to present my case.

But I couldn't get anyone to publish Flood, despite the best efforts of a wonderful, dedicated agent (Victor Chapin, to whom this book is dedicated) who maintained his belief in me despite reams of rejection letters which looked like photocopies: all saying what a wonderful writer I was, what a great "ear" for dialogue I had, what a "powerful narrative voice," but… the material was "just impossible." At that time (the early 1980's), the material that drives all my work was dismissed as "horror stories" or "grotesque exaggeration."
We know better now. If I had one wish, it would be that the material from which I draw my novels was "fictional." Once journalism "discovered" child abuse, it quickly became apparent that I was not "inventing" or "imagining" anything… I was simply reporting from Ground Zero. Where I have worked for three ugly decades.

Critical reaction to my books has varied (widely) ever since. But criticism on "authenticity" grounds has vanished with the tidal wave of headlines. The truth is inescapable. All that remains are the solutions, and the will to implement them.

Victor didn't live to see Flood published. I wish he had. And I wish that this reprint was now "dated." It is not. The beast still walks among us. I see myself not as a "writer," but as a soldier in the only "Holy War" worthy of the name. This was the first shot I fired.

Andrew Vachss
November, 1997


Books by Andrew Vachss: (Note: The following excerpts come from the covers of the books themselves or from the Vachss website.)

© 1985 (A Burke Novel) - Burke's newest client is a woman named Flood, who has the face of an angel, the body of a high-priced stripper, and the skills of a professional executioner. She wants Burke to find a monster for her - so she can kill him with her bare hands. In this cauterizing thriller, Andrew Vachss's renegade private eye teams up with a lethally gifter avenger to follow a child's murderer through the catacombs of New York, where every alley is blind and the penthouses are as dangerous as the basements. Fearfully knowing, crackling with narrative tension, and written in prose as forceful as a hollow-point slug, Flood is Burke at his deadliest - and Vachss at the peak of his form.

© 1987 (A Burke Novel) - Andrew Vachss's implacable private eye has a new client. Strega. She wants Burke to find an obscene photograph - and that search will take him into the ocean that flows just beneath the city, an ocean whose currents are flesh and money, the anguish of children and the pleasure of twisted adults. It is a place that Burke can visit only at the risk of his sanity and his life. But between the power of Strega and his own sense of justice, there is no turning back. In Strega one of our most acclaimed crime writers gives us a thriller that might have been imagined by Dante. For this is a tour of hell with no stops left out, conducted by a novelist who writes with the authority of the damned.

Blue Belle
© 1988 (A Burke Novel) - Burke is one of the most cold-blooded yet strangely honorable heroes in the history of crime fiction, an outlaw who makes his living preying on the most vicious of New York City's bottom-feeders, those who thrive on the suffering of children. In Andrew Vachss's tautly engrossing novel Burke is given a purseful of dirty money to find the infamous Ghost Van that is cutting a lethal swath among the teenage prostitutes in the 'hood'. He also gets help in the form of a stripper named Belle, whose moves on the runway are outclassed only by what she can do in a getaway car. But not even Burke is prepared for the evil that is behind the Ghost Van or for the sheer menace of its guardian, a cadaverous karate expert who enjoys killing so much that he has named himself after death.

Hard Candy
© 1989 (A Burke Novel) - In this mercilessly compelling thriller, Burke - the private eye, sting artist, and occasional hit man who metes out a cruelly ingenious vengeance on those who victimize children - is up against a soft-spoken messiah, who may be rescuing runaways or recruiting them for his own hideous purposes. But in doing so Burke becomes a target for an entire Mafia family, a whore with a heart of cyanide, and a contract killer as implacable as a heat-seeking missile. Written with Vachss's signature narrative overdrive - and with his unnerving familiarity with the sub-basement of American crime - Hard Candy is vintage Burke.

© 1990 (A Burke Novel) - Two things bring Burke from New York to Indiana: a frantic call from an old cellmate named Virgil and a serial sniper whose twisted passion is to pick off couples on lovers' lane. Virgil's nephew is the innocent prime suspect, and Burke vows to find the real killer the right way - or the Burke way. And then comes Blossom. Slim, gorgeous, brilliant. She's got a heated interest in the murders… and in Burke.

© 1991 (A Burke Novel) - They don't come any tougher than Burke, or any more hard-boiled than Andrew Vachss. Beginning with Flood in 1985, and continuing with Strega, Blue Belle, Hard Candy and Blossom, Andrew Vachss has infused the modern crime novel with a dose of salient reality and a markedly different kind of hero, an outcast who makes his living dispensing mean yet measured justice. Vachss's focused, street-sharp protagonist - an ex-con turned unlicensed PI known only as Burke - comes combat-ready to engage those who prey on and profit from the lives of children. "They're evil," Burke tells us, "and they get away with murder." With Sacrifice, Burke's reputation as the baddest guy dispensing justice in contemporary crime fiction continues. Only this time, the devil Burke faces is real. Or is it? A battered child has disappeared. Burke's job is to find the child. His search unearths a trail leading from a welfare hotel to a wet grave. En route, Burke stumbles into the lair of a voodoo queen, a woman who knows about him - who he is, why he has come, and what he is looking for. With her aid Burke learns the truth about a cult and its creation, "Satan's Child" - a psychotic boy who kills other children. The DA wants the kid locked up. Burke wants the real killers - the terrorists who have turned the child into their personal instrument of death - to pay for the crime. And if he can't make the written laws do the trick, he knows another set of laws - the ones he lives by, the laws never written down…

Another Chance to Get it Right: A Children's Book for Adults
© 1993/2003 Prose/Poetry/Allegory/Parables - Illustrated - When Another Chance To Get It Right debuted in 1993 on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dark Horse was deluged with phone calls as people tried to find the book. Now, eight years later, Dark Horse is offering this widely-acclaimed book in an updated version, featuring the original 13 stories, poetry, and allegory, in a unique celebration of the potential of parenting. The beautiful illustrations add a dimension to the book that is rarely seen in the parenting genre, making it as much inspirational as it is instructional. The updated edition is 30% larger than the previous editions, with 20 never-before-seen pages of prose and illustrations wrapped in a new cover by Geofrey Darrow, conceptual designer for the motion pictures The Matrix I, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolutions. Excerpted from "COMICS Guide" by Don Thompson. Originally published in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1000, January 15, 1993. The book is called Another Chance To Get It Right and it is a tad difficult to classify. It isn't a novel, it isn't a book for children (though a portion here or there certainly should be made available to children), and it isn't entirely nonfiction. It is primarily an essay, illuminated by vignettes, about children - our greatest resource and our hope for the future - and the horrible things we permit to happen to them. Vachss calls it "A children's book for adults." The book is packed with vignettes, powerful ones which pack an enormous amount of emotion and importance into a minimum of words. I will quote one in full and describe a couple of others (inadequately) and hope (fervently) that you will buy the book - and educate yourself. "I saw an infant lying against a tree deep inside a war-torn jungle, too weak to cry. A woman ran past me, covered only with a strip of cloth, a tiny knife in her hand. She stopped, scooped the baby into one arm, and kept running. A blood-bonded adoption, driven by an instinct no war could kill." Think about that paragraph for a few minutes and realize how much is contained in those 57 words (59 if you count two hyphenates as two words each). It is a complete story as it stands or the opening chapter of an epic novel, without an unnecessary word or phrase. The man is good, no two ways about it. Other vignettes are varied in length and mood. A boy set upon by bullies drives them away with just a few chilling words. A child's battle against Japanese beetles takes on a larger meaning in the context of this book and Vachss' own chosen career. And, in a moving and incredibly well done chapter (this is the one you should read aloud to small children), two small boys and their wooden spaceship form an allegory for world peace and brotherhood which does not preach at all, but which gets its message across in an unforgettable way.

© 1994 - From the author of the acclaimed Burke private-eye series comes an ambitious and chilling novel that shows us not only what evil is, but where it comes from. For Shella is nothing less than a tour of evil's spawning ground, conducted by one of its natural predators. He is called "Ghost" because he is so nondescript as to be invisible and because he slays with such reflexive ease that he might be one of the dead. Once he traveled with a woman who was called "Shella" - because those who had treated her as a horrendously ill-used child had tried to make her come out of her shell. Now Shella has vanished in a wilderness of strip clubs and peep shows, and Ghost is looking for her, guided by a killer's instinct and the recognition that can only exist between two people who have been damaged past the point of no return. The result is Andrew Vachss' most compelling work to date, the thriller reimagined as a bleak romance of the damned.

Down in the Zero
© 1994 (A Burke Novel) - "Baby Boy Burke" it says on his birth certificate - Father Unknown. Raised in a series of foster homes, orphanages and "reform" schools, and viciously abused in each. Two prison terms and a lifetime later, Burke is still an outlaw: an urban survivalist who doesn't exist on paper, working the jagged edges of the criminal underworld. He's a man for hire, but you have to earn the right to trust him. The dark heart of six previous novels by Andrew Vachss - Flood, Strega, Blue Belle, Hard Candy, Blossom and Sacrifice - Burke's earned the title "lord of the asphalt jungle" (Washington Post). And now, after a hiatus of three years, he's back. Still mourning the death of a child whose life he took instead of saved, Burke feels the pull of the Zero - the abyss that lies beyond death. Alone with his sorrow, he's been quiet for a long time when he gets the phone call. It's from a kid named Randy claiming to be the son of a woman Burke once knew, and still owes. The kid's plush Connecticut suburb has been hit with a rash of inexplicable teenage "suicides." He's sure he could be next and he wants a bodyguard. Burke's no professional bullet-catcher, but he goes along for two reasons: Randy's mother did save him a prison stretch years ago. And the kid's neighborhood is lousy with cash. Lousy with other things, too. Burke quickly discovers that the picture-perfect community hides the nerve center of an intense erotic underground where S & M sex is sold, traded… and recorded. As Burke moves down the pipeline to where the cluster suicides began, he finds himself in wealthy homes where the term "emotional abuse" takes euphemism to new heights - and depths. And when a beautiful dominatrix with an ugly secret introduces him to a hideous new version of "legal" kiddie porn, Burke's rage drags him back from the Zero's edge and into a shadowy war with barely visible, shape-shifting enemies. Consumed by grave-dancing with his own demons, Burke is quickly cornered. But his trappers are about to discover exactly what kind of quarry they've got…

Born Bad
© 1994 A collection of short stories - From a writer whose novels have been acclaimed for their unflinching exploration of evil comes a brilliant collection of short stories - some never before published - that distill dread back down to its essence - and inject it straight into the reader's back brain. Andrew Vachss might have scissored his characters from today's headlines: a stalker prowling an anonymous high-rise; a serial killer whose transgressions reflect a childhood of hideous abuse; an inner-city gunman who is willing to take out a block full of victims in order to win a moment of acceptance. Tautly written and endowed with a murderous ironic spin, Born Bad plunges us into the hell that lies just outside our bedroom windows.

Batman: The Ultimate Evil
© 1995 - In the heart of Gotham's darkness glows the cold garish neon of the sex industry, the feverish eyes of desperate drug addicts, the streetlights creating shadows in which muggers patiently wait. This is where Batman's most personal - and most savage - battle begins. And where he must confront a vortex of violence so profound that those who survive lose their souls. Here the night-rider must reach deep within himself to summon the superhuman strength he needs to fight the most vicious and remorseless enemies he has ever faced... those who traffic in the flesh of children. In a compellingly written fantasy novel, bestselling author Andrew Vachss brings his razor-sharp talent to one of the most legendary characters of the 20th century - The Batman. While aiding a social worker in her crusade against child abuse, millionaire Bruce Wayne uncovers a shocking revelation about his childhood and his transformation into The Batman - knowledge that nearly destroys him.

Footsteps of the Hawk
© 1995 (A Burke Novel) - Hard on the heels of his national bestseller Down in the Zero, Andrew Vachss puts Burke - "one of the most fascinating male characters in crime fiction" (Kirkus) - back into motion. Burke has returned to the streets of New York City - territory he knows so well and hates so deeply. Two rogue cops - one male, one female - are stalking each other, and all of Burke's survival skills are not enough to keep him out of the crossfire. She seems to keep him out of the crossfire. She seems to want Burke to help an innocent man get out of prison. He seems to want to make Burke a suspect in a series of murders possibly connected to the rape-murder her prisoner is serving time for. None of it adds up. Burke can't fit any logic around the situation, but it feels "treacherous bad." He's got to figure it out before he can get out of it - and by that time it might be too late.

False Allegations
© 1996 (A Burke Novel) - Burke. Ex-con. Mercenary. Urban survivalist. Career criminal. Scar-carrying member of that vast underground tribe, Children of the Secret. And, some whisper, the city's finest hunter of predators. Perhaps because he was spawned from the same seed. Burke is a man for hire. And Bondi is a private dancer, performing on command her special routine on a high-tech stage. When she learns who's really watching, she wants to buy some revenge - or so she says. Her snake-hipped trail leads to an obsessed enforcer named Heather, and her boss, Kite, who blackmails Burke into taking on an ugly job of investigation. Kite is a professional debunker, specializing in allegations of child sexual abuse. "False" allegations, he says. Witch hunts. But now he may have stumbled across the case of his career - the real thing. And he needs a man who knows something about witches. He finds Burke. Dark, edgy, unflinching, False Allegations is Andrew Vachss reporting from ground zero… and Burke at his most dangerous.

Safe House
© 1998 (A Burke Novel) - In Burke, Andrew Vachss gave readers of crime fiction a hero they could believe in, an avenger whose sense of justice was forged behind bars and tempered on New York's meanest streets. In this blistering new thriller, Burke is drawn into his ugliest case yet, one that involves an underground network of abused women and the sleekly ingenious stalkers who've marked them as their personal victims. Burke's client is Crystal Beth, a beautiful outlaw with a tattoo on her face and a mission burned into her heart. She's trying to shield one of her charges from a vengeful ex with fetishes for Nazism and torture. But the stalker has a protector, someone so informed, so ruthless, and so connected that he need only make a few phone calls to shut down Crystal Beth's operation for good - and Burke along with it. Sinuous in its complexities, brutal in its momentum, Safe House is Burke at the edge of his nerve and cunning. And it's Vachss at the peak of his form.

Choice of Evil
© 1999 (A Burke Novel) - A rally in Central Park, a protest against gay-bashing. A murderous drive-by. Five people down, two dead. One of them Crystal Beth, girlfriend of Burke, the most haunted and darkly talented man-for-hire in the city. First the gay-bashers celebrate… then they start dropping. Claiming responsibility is the mysterious "Homo Erectus," whose identity is as unknown as his mission is clear. Burke is unsurprised when the cops pull him in for questioning - "I was born a suspect." But he is now also homeless and homicidal, a gun without a target, unable to find the shooters who killed his last chance at love, and drifting near the brink of the ultimate despair he calls the Zero. Most citizens see Homo Erectus as a serial killer with a political agenda. But to some, he's become a hero. Like the police, they desperately want to find him. But unlike the police, they desperately want to help him disappear before the dragnet tightens. They hire Burke for the job. Which is when things really get ugly. For as Burke tracks the killer, he stumbles across the unmistakable footprints of the man who was the city's most feared assassin before his own death - an ice-cold murder machine whose very name still inspires terror in the city's underground. The whisper-stream is divided in its verdict: either Wesley never really died… or he's found a way to come back. In Choice of Evil, Burke strays closer to the edge than he ever has before, and closer to the most twisted workings of the human heart and mind. It is also Andrew Vachss's most haunting and frightening novel to date.

Everybody Pays
© 1999 A collection of short stories - A hit man defies the confines of a life sentence to avenge his sister's batterer. An immaculately dressed man hires a street gang to extract his daughter from a Central American prison, for reasons as mysterious as they are deadly. A two-bit graffiti artist with a taste for Nazi-ganda finds himself face-to-face with three punks out to make a mark of their own - literally - with a tattoo needle. From neo-noir master Andrew Vachss comes Everybody Pays, 38 white-knuckle rides into a netherworld of pedophiles and prostitutes, stick-up kids and fall guys - where private codes of right and wrong pulsate beneath a surface system of law and order. Here is the street-grit prose that has earned Vachss comparisons to Chandler, Cain, and Hammett - and the ingenious plot twists that transform the double-cross into an expression of retribution, the dark deed into a thing of beauty. Electrifying and enigmatic, Everybody Pays is a sojourn into the nature of evil itself - a trip made all the more frightening by its proximity to our front doorstep.

Dead and Gone
© 2000 (A Burke Novel) - Career criminal Burke's skill at working the feathery edges of the law are legendary, and this isn't the first time he's been hired to trade cash for an abducted kid. But when the meet turns out to be an ambush, Burke's partner is killed and he's left for dead. Dumped on the steps of the ER, Burke hovers between life and death. While the police - and whoever wants him dead - are circling closer, biding their time. Burke escapes the hospital, his face forever changed by the surgery that saved his life. The whisper-stream mutters that he's dead, and he certainly is gone. From New York, anyway. Burke is on the hunt, knowing he has to find whoever wanted him dead to protect his own life. And avenge his partner. Unable to call on his own family for assistance, Burke goes into his past for help. All the way back. All the way back to his origins as a "child of the secret." The trail starts in Chicago, continues into the Pacific Northwest, then to the remote mountains of New Mexico. And ends in a place that exists only in the dreams of the darkest degenerates on earth.

Pain Management
© 2001 (A Burke Novel) - Andrew Vachss's previous novel, Dead and Gone, prompted the Rocky Mountain News to say, "Starting a Vachss novel is like putting a vial of nitroglycerine into your pocket and going for a jog." With his latest thriller, Vachss turns the heat up a notch by dropping his career criminal and ultimate urban survivalist, Burke, in the middle of some of the most dangerously determined humans he has ever faced. Burke has gone "missing-and-presumed" from his native New York City, following a failed assassination attempt. The shadowy man-for-hire is scratching out an existence in the Pacific Northwest, waiting to see if it is safe to return. Without his underground network of contacts and connections, cut off from his own people, Burke is forced to abandon his trademark complex scams. Instead, he returns to what he refers to as "violence for money." When Gem, the professional border-crosser who calls herself his wife, brings him a job tracking down a runaway teenager, Burke finds himself in a long, dark tunnel of lies - lined with more games than players. Burke takes to the unfamiliar streets, quickly and brutally establishing a presence. The whisper-stream carries him to a fanatical group of criminal Samaritans dedicated to supplying adequate drugs for those suffering from chronic pain. Forced into a potentially deadly alliance, Burke walks the wire between betrayals, risking it all for a girl he has never met. Because the State-raised outlaw knows better than most that there are many kinds of pain. And many ways to "manage" it.

The Getaway Man
© 2003 - Eddie starts stealing cars long before he's old enough to get a license. Driven by a force so compelling that he never questions, just obeys. After a series of false starts, interrupted by stays in juvenile institutions, he connects with two brothers, professional criminals who make Eddie one of their own. But, when their last job goes to hell - alarms blaring, and police sirens closing fast - Eddie stands his ground at the wheel.... In prison Eddie's skills and loyalty come to the attention of J.C., a notorious and respected hijacker. When he gets out, Eddie becomes the driver for J.C.'s crew. But J.C. is looking to pull off that one huge job every con dreams of... The Retirement Score. The road looks clear until Vonda, J.C.'s voluptuous girlfriend, lets Eddie know she needs a getaway man of her own....

Only Child
© 2002 (A Burke Novel) - After years on the run, Burke is desperate to return to his native New York, the only way he can reconnect with his outlaw "family." But to survive in their part of the City, where reputation is everything, Burke must take major risks to reestablish his presence. So when a Mafia man contacts him about the murder-as-message of his sixteen-year-old daughter - the offspring of what he calls an "outside the tribe" affair that he must keep secret at all costs - Burke's depleted bankroll persuades him to step out of the shadows and do something he hasn't done in years... actually investigate a crime. Burke needs cover to penetrate the teenage subculture of the Long Island town where the girl lived and died, so he puts together a crew of gifted role-players, including a pair of lesbian "power exchangers" who market their special brand of sex on the Internet. When Burke himself surfaces as a casting director, seeking tomorrow's stars for a movie to be shot on location, the investigation quickly spins off into uncharted depths. What he discovers is a new kind of filmmaking, a new kind of violence, and a predator unlike any he's ever known. When they meet head-on over a brutal work of cinéma vérité, only one of them will survive the final cut.

A Bomb Built in Hell
© 1972 - Author's Notes - In 1972, I was represented by the John Schaffner Agency, largely on the strength of some short stories I had published in minor magazines.* My first full-length effort was, essentially, the journal I kept during my time in the infamous New York City Welfare Department from 1966 to 1969, ending when I left to enter the war zone inside a country calling itself Biafra.** That book was (as was all my work prior to Flood) considered unacceptable by the publishing establishment, on the grounds that there was no market for "this kind of material." Victor Chapin, my tireless agent, who never lost faith in me, thought that my varied ground-zero experiences (including, by that time, not only [observing] the genocidal madness in Africa, but a stint as a federal investigator in sexually transmitted diseases; working as an organizer in Lake County, Indiana; running a center for urban migrants in Chicago; running a re-entry joint for ex-cons; and managing a maximum-security prison for violent youth) would lend themselves perfectly to a "hard-boiled" novel of the type that was so successful in the 1950s. A Bomb Built in Hell followed. And (again) was unanimously rejected by publishers. They professed to love the writing, but felt the events depicted were considered a "political horror story" and not remotely realistic. The rejection letters make interesting reading today. Included in the "lack of realism" category were such things as Chinese youth gangs and the fall of Haiti. And, of course, the very idea of someone entering a high school with the intent of destroying every living person inside was just too... ludicrous. Naturally, the book was also "too" hard-boiled, "too" extreme, "too" spare and violent. I heard endlessly about how an anti-hero was acceptable, but Wesley was just "too" much. Bomb was meant to be a Ph.D. thesis in criminology without the footnotes, exploring such areas as the connection between child abuse and crime, and the desperate need of unbonded, dangerous children to form "families of choice." Thus, the narrative is third-person, and the tone is flat and detached. Victor, ever loyal, insisted that there was no dispute about my ability as a writer, but that I needed to add some intimacy to a book everyone called "dry ice." So... Flood. Same themes, but first-person narrative, interior monologues, fleshed-out back story, (some) characters with whom the reader could identify (and even, presumably, like). Some sense of human connection. But the same themes. Victor read the manuscript and told me I had finally done it ... we were winners. And then he died. Suddenly and unfairly. Years later, after Flood came out, offers for Bomb magically appeared. Some from the same publishers who had rejected it the first time. I never took the offers, thinking of the original book as a "period piece." Later, at the suggestion of Knopf publisher (and my editor) Sonny Mehta, I cannibalized pieces of it - Bomb was Wesley's story, Flood was Burke's - for Hard Candy, and Wesley has remained a character in the series (despite being dead since Candy) ever since. Rumors of the original book's existence have been present ever since an excerpt was published in 1988 in the HBJ series, A Matter of Crime, edited by Richard Layman. The rumors are true. And how I wish some of the book's predictions had not proven to be so. I dedicated Flood to Victor Chapin. And I dedicate this to him as well. It's been a long wait, old friend. I hope it reads as well from where you are now.

Andrew Vachss, Portland/New York, 2000

If you're looking for Andrew Vachss' first novel, A Bomb Built in Hell, then you're in the right place. Amazon.com recently serialized the novel, which had remained unpublished since it was written in 1973.

The following is a list of comic books by Andrew Vachss:

(prose portions only)
Dark Horse, 1994
Hard Looks
10 volume anthology
Dark Horse, 1992-1993

7 volume story
(with James Colbert)
Dark Horse, 1995

Predator: Race War
Trade paperback
Dark Horse, 1995
Batman: The Ultimate Evil
an adaptation of the novel by Andrew Vachss
2 volume story
DC, 1995
Hard Looks
adapted stories
Trade paperback
Dark Horse, 2002


Conversations with Oprah: Andrew Vachss
Originally broadcast on The Oprah Winfrey Show, July 16, 1993

Winfrey: Andrew says there - says that there's a group out there that he calls the children of the secret.

Mr. Vachss: Yeah.

Winfrey: And those are...

Mr. Vachss: Those are the children who have been used and abused by their own, confused about their place in the whole world, and who have been quiet, who have been carrying the pain in their own hearts which, if you could put a stethoscope next to, you'd hear tick, tick, tick. These are people who when something traumatic and drastic happens in their life, they say, 'Jeez, I never knew Mary was like that. I never - Bill had those kinds of feelings.' People are carrying the hardest weight there is to carry, that is betrayal by people who are supposed to love and protect you-the hardest weight of all. And who haven't had the benefit of letting it out. I think if you could harness the formerly abused child, now adult vote in this country, it would be a presidential voting bloc. It would be that large a group of people.

Winfrey: I think you're right. Why is it you say that if a man rapes his own daughters, he's sick. But if he rapes a neighbor's daughter, he's evil? You - you've - you said that.

Mr. Vachss: I - I say it with sarcasm. I say it out of contempt. I say it because that's the damn law. If a guy has sex with a little five-year-old girl down the street, everybody agrees he's a pervert.

Winfrey: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Vachss: But let him do it to his own five-year-old daughter, everyone wants to call in a therapist.

Mr. Vachss: We don't call him a rapist anymore, we call him a victim of family dysfunction.

Winfrey: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Vachss: That's my problem with it. I say it with contempt. I think - what's the worst crime? What's the worst crime? And yet incest is the crime for which you're least likely - least likely to go to jail in this country.

Winfrey: So we need to change the laws, obviously. Or what do we need to do? You know - I know you, and I get into it because you say you can't stand this conscious-raising thing that I do. But that's what I do. I try to raise...

Mr. Vachss: I know, but you've done it. Now that conscience is raised, now...

Winfrey: I try to raise the conscious - yes.

Mr. Vachss: But once people's conscience is raised, it's their turn. Right?

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
December 20, 1993

Today the President will sign the National Child Protection Act of 1993, which seeks to give parents the assurance that their children are not being cared for by criminals.

To accomplish this, the bill:

Among those joining the President at the signing ceremony today will be actress/producer Oprah Winfrey, a survivor of child abuse who has been a vocal proponent of the legislation, which is informally known as "The Oprah Bill."

Also at the Roosevelt Room ceremony will be Andrew Vachss, the originator of the idea of a national background check, the bill's Congressional sponsors - Sen. Joseph Biden, Rep. Patricia Schroeder, and Rep. Don Edwards - and former Illinois Governor James R. Thompson, who has worked with Ms. Winfrey on the legislation.

Among the organizations represented at the ceremony will be the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Girl Scouts USA, the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse, Children's Defense Fund, Child Welfare League of America, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, and the National Collaboration for Youth.

Andrew Vachss et al

The following links are provided along with many others on the www.vachss.com website:

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

The Linkup - Survivors of Clergy Abuse

National Association to Protect Children

Family Violence & Sexual Assault Institute

Heroes Great and Small, Inc.

Making Daughters Safe Again




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