Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

March 30, 2014

Reality Imitates Fiction – or Visa Versa?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Frank Fiore @ 10:19 AM

So where do creative minds get their inspiration – or, commonly known – their muse? You’d be surprised.

Lots of crime novels and movies are vaguely based on real-life events — a writer reads about some psychopath with a burned face murdering teenagers and thinks, “What if that guy had knife hands?” But the story of how Thomas Harris, the author of the Hannibal Lecter novels, came up with his most famous character is much creepier … and totally random.

In the 1960s, Harris was writing for a magazine and was sent to a Mexican prison to interview Dykes Askew Simmons, an American inmate on death row for triple murder. Simmons was not the model for Hannibal Lecter — he was nothing like him.

During the interview, Simmons told Harris a story about how he got shot by a prison guard, but a doctor saved his life. Wanting to get more details for his article, Harris asked to be taken to the doctor (“Dr. Salazar”), whom he naturally assumed was the prison’s resident physician. If you’re familiar with any of the Hannibal movies, you have some idea of what happened next.

Rather than talk about the shooting, Salazar seemed more interested in manipulating Harris into psychoanalyzing Simmons, questioning the writer about Simmons’ physical disfigurements, his victims, and “the nature of torment,” a topic that rarely comes up outside of chats with murderers and truly disastrous first dates. Despite that, Harris admitted that the man had a “certain elegance” about him. After the meeting, Harris asked the prison warden how long Salazar had been working there, only to be told that the man was in fact an inmate — one deemed too insane to ever leave. Salazar had been a surgeon who had used his skills to “package his victim in a surprisingly small box.”

As often happens in real life, Salazar’s actual story doesn’t involve a spectacular escape that includes flaying guards alive. Yes, Salazar actually did end up getting out of jail, but he dedicated himself to providing medical assistance to the elderly until he died in 2009.

Jeeez….creepy!

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