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Through the Window: The Terrifying True Story of Cross-Country Killer Tommy Lynn Sells Mass Market Paperback – May 29, 2007
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From the Back Cover
Ten-Year-Old Krystal Surles Watched In Horror
As Her Best Friend Was Murdered At The Hands Of An Intruder.
Then with cold-blooded precision he brought a twelve-inch boning knife to Krystal's throat. With a single, violent slash, he severed her windpipe and left her for dead. Miraculously, she survived and would lead authorities to the arrest of 35-year-old Tommy Lynn Sells, a former truck driver, carnival worker, and cross-country drifter...
He Aspired To Become "The Worst Serial Killer Of All Time."
With no apparent motive and no common pattern to his inconceivable bloodshed, the elusive Sells had carved his way across the country for two decades slaughtering women, men, transients, entire families, teenagers, and even infants with ghoulish abandon.
Through The Window is more than an investigation into a crime spree that stunned a nation. It's an utterly terrifying plunge into the unfathomable dark mind of a serial killer, and the heart-wrenching story of the brave child who finally brought him to justice.
About the Author
Diane Fanning is the author of the Edgar Award finalist Written in Blood: A True Story of Murder and a Deadly 16-Year-Old Secret That Tore a Family Apart. Her other works of true crime include the best-selling Mommy's Little Girl, A Poisoned Passion, The Pastor's Wife, and Gone Forever. She has been featured on 48 Hours, 20/20, Court TV and the Discovery Channel, and has been interviewed on dozens of radio stations coast to coast. Before becoming a nonfiction writer, Fanning worked in advertising, and she earned more than 70 Addy Awards. She lives in New Braunfels, Texas.
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Top Customer Reviews
I have no sorrow for this man. He received the correct verdict. And if I understand correctly, he was executed in 2014. Maybe there was closure for the families. I truly hope so.
The author did a tremendous job with this subject.
Like I've written many times before, I believe that Jack Olsen is probably the best true-crime author that has lived, thus far. I've read many of his books; I just wish that the late author's publisher would make more of his works available in the Kindle format. But one of his greatest strengths: tone. He always seemed to find the correct tone for a story, no matter what that story was. Usually it was murder, but not always.
And he was certainly no One-Trick Pony, especially with regards to tone. If you read "I: The Creation of a Serial Killer" about Keith Hunter Jesperson, perhaps the best true-crime book ever, Mr. Olsen allowed the killer himself to "write" quite a bit of that book. I believe that Mr. Olsen took notes directly from interviews with Mr. Jesperson and just put them down on paper. Talking about making that book come alive! Wow. You just may gasp while you read. (Surely "I" is not for everyone, especially not for the weak of heart. Many people don't like it, including Mr. Jesperson's daughter, who has written a book herself about being the daughter of a serial killer. But I'm not convinced critics of "I" are always being objective.)
Conversely, if you read "Hastened to the Grave" -- surely not my favorite Jack Olsen book but still very good, nonetheless -- he decided to take a somewhat whimsical tone, even though the subject matter was about murder and mayhem. Maybe even malfeasance. But I think that the tone of that book really worked in that scenario; it made a more-than serious subject readable and "enjoyable," if murder can be enjoyable.
I've read many other books from him: "The Man with the Candy," "Son," "The Misbegotten Son," and "Charmer," to name but a few. (As a side note, "Charmer" was certainly more than interesting to me, since I was probably one of the first people in Kirkland, WA, to know about George Russell's first murder as I was working night shift that night. A cop came into the store very early in the morning and told me about it while I was ringing up his purchase. No one knew who the killer was at that point, however; that would only come after unfortunately two more murders.)
The point is, all of Mr. Olsen's books are unique, at least in tone. And I believe that Ms. Fanning found a reasonable tone for "Through the Window," especially since Tommy Lynn Sells killed so many people. The author had to lighten it up as much as was possible, even though this book is still fairly serious.
The only other serial killer that I can think of that killed so many people in such a short period of time: Randy Kraft. And the only difference really between these guys: Mr. Sells was a heterosexual while Mr. Kraft is a homosexual. You surprisingly could argue that Mr. Kraft was more heinous, but that argument is for another day. (I believe that Mr. Kraft still sits on death row, unfortunately, right down the street from me. He should have been put down long ago.)
One of the smartest things that Ms. Fanning does here: she makes Krystal Surles, the young girl who was the most important living witness (Ms. Surles probably should have died but "God needed Tommy to go to prison," as someone close to the case was somewhat-quoted in this book), the star of the show here, while simultaneously not pandering to the reader. I've read quite a few books from Ann Rule, as a counter example, and I have to admit that Ms. Rule often breaks this rule.
Well, perhaps a weak 4, but a 4, nonetheless. Just remember, tone is everything, and even murder can be written to sound too serious sometimes. Luckily for us, Ms. Fanning doesn't make that mistake here.
Diane Fanning chronicles Sells' childhood,numerous jail stays,and nationwide travels. He even worked on the road for a few carnivals.
Some of his murders overlapped the area and time of the "Railroad Killer",Angel Rosendiz. That caused some confusion for law enforcement early on.
Sells has no sadness or remorse. Even killing a freshly new-born baby in the bizarre murder of an entire family! He seemed to victimize mostly younger girls,although victims could be from any age group or gender.
Another sad aspect of the Tommy Lynn Sells case is the probability that there are more unsolved murders across the country that he committed that won't be solved. He identifies some photos of victims and the place where the bodies are discovered but can't or won't elaborate details. This is in part due to his heavy alcohol and drug abuse during his murderous travels.
Diane Fanning has done her research well and some of the information comes from Sells himself. A real page-turner until the trial part of the book.