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“The Killer’s Shadow” By: John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

“The Killer’s Shadow”


“The Killer’s Shadow” 

Authors: John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Publisher: Dey Street  

Pages: 304 

Price: $21.00 (paper) 

“Chilling True-Crime Story of Alabama-Born Serial Killer” 

After years of watching crime drama on television, we think we know what an FBI profiler does. 

He examines the scene of the crime, the method of killing, learns what he can about the victim, and constructs a sketch of the kind of person who committed the crime. 

With serial killers, by the way, the criminal is almost always a white male. 


John Douglas, back in the late ’70s, was one of the very first FBI profilers and, with Mark Olshaker, has written nine previous books on the subject. 

Here in “The Killer’s Shadow,” we watch Douglas work on the case of Joseph Paul “Jimmy” Franklin, born 1950 in Mobile, Alabama. He had many aliases. His birth name was not Franklin. 

Franklin was, as is very often the case, raised in an abusive, dysfunctional household. His father, who may have suffered a head wound at Iwo Jima, was a drunk who beat his wife and children and left when Jimmy was eight. Mother Helen beat them after that. 

Not all beaten children become serial killers but almost all serial killers were abused children. 

Douglas remarks that abused female children tend to turn their anger and low self-esteem against themselves, self-punishing, often becoming prostitutes, drug abusers, or seeking out abusive mates who replace their fathers. 

Men, with their load of testosterone, usually turn their anger outwards, in violent anti-social behavior. 

Often this behavior is psychosexual, involving satisfaction received from beating, stabbing, torture and rape. We are familiar with a number of this type of serial killer. 

But Jimmy Franklin was another species, the hate-filled assassin, killing at a distance, in his case with high-powered rifles. 

The sniper plans carefully. He scouts his territory, leaves no evidence and means to get away to kill again. He has no personal connection to the victim. The victim is a member of a group he is out to kill. 

The obsession is hate, not sexual perversion. Douglas calls these killers “mission oriented.” 

As a young man, Franklin had belonged to American Nazi and white supremacist groups but quit because, in his paranoia,believed the Nazis were thoroughly infiltrated by the FBI and the white supremacy groups were not doing enough to spark the race warhe wished to start in America. This murderous behavior, Douglas says, gave Franklin “a sense of identity and purpose.” 

Franklin was on a crusade. He became a health food fanatic, body builder, martial arts devotee and runner, thinking of himself as a devout Christian, doing God’s will as instructed by scripture. Douglas says: “Franklin likened his three-year run of murders before his arrest to Christ’s three-year ministry before his arrest and crucifixion…. He firmly believed he was doing the will of God and justified his goal by saying that if the Lord had wanted all peoples to mix, he would have created only one race.” 

No complicated study of evolution, anthropology, Olduvai Gorge, homo sapiens moving out of Africa, etc. for Franklin. 

He came to public attention when he shot three men as they left a bar mitzvah at a synagogue in St Louis. Franklin laterexpressed his belief that politics, media, all banking, much of American life was secretly controlled by an international Jewish conspiracy, an idea that had been reinforced by his earlier Nazi associations. 

Over time, Franklin revealed that his stronger hatred was against African-Americans, and most especially against mixed-race couples. Douglas believed killing mixed-race couples may have had a sexual component for Franklin, in addition to his pure racism. “I was on a search and destroy mission for race mixers,” Franklin said. 

Franklin seemed impossible to catch since he had no connection to the victims and took care not to be caught. 

Serial killers are supposed to stick to the same method and to have a home territory where they feel comfortable. Not Franklin.He roamed over the U.S., regularly changing his name and his car. To keep himself in funds, he became adept at robbing small banks quickly—one teller, no greed- or when desperate, sold his blood plasma. 

He assassinated a mixed-race couple jogging in a park in Salt Lake City. Occasionally he would pick up a prostitute or a female hitchhiker and, in conversation, if she mentioned she had had sex with a black man, or was willing to in the future, murder her.  

But in Madison, Wisconsin in a mall parking lot, the car in front was moving too slowly to suit him. He blew his horn and when the other driver emerged, Franklin noticed the driver was black and the passenger white. He shot them both. This close-up killing was not his M.O., and left him vulnerable to detection.  

Franklin was caught and it was then, from jail, he would, from time to time, contact police departments around the country,confess to an unsolved crime he had in fact committed, and get sent there for trial. It was his way of obtaining excursions from the monotony of his cell. 

And, since he was in federal prison in Marion, Illinois, he correctly feared he would be murdered by black prison gangs who had learned of his racial crimes. 

Was Franklin insane? No, Douglas says. He was bent, surely, but knew right from wrong, was filled with hate—a man on a demented mission. 

Douglas believes Franklin killed at least 20 people, shot porn publisher Larry Flynt, probably shot civil rights leader Vernon Jordan and perhaps planned to kill President Jimmy Carter. 

Franklin was convicted of many of his crimes and was finally executed in 1997. 

This book was not only educational but terrifying. Franklin’s gone, but who is to say how many more Franklins are out there?  

Don Noble’s newest book is Alabama Noir, a collection of original stories by Winston Groom, Ace Atkins, Carolyn Haines, Brad Watson, and eleven other Alabama authors. 

Don Noble , Ph. D. Chapel Hill, Prof of English, Emeritus, taught American literature at UA for 32 years. He has been the host of the APTV literary interview show "Bookmark" since 1988 and has broadcast a weekly book review for APR since November of 2001, so far about 850 reviews. Noble is the editor of four anthologies of Alabama fiction and the winner of the Alabama state prizes for literary scholarship, service to the humanities and the Governor's Arts Award.
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