I grew up on Long Island, New York in the 1980s/90s, a time when—despite all the picture-perfect middle-class suburban trappings—there was no shortage of salacious scandals and horrifying crimes being committed. It seemed there was a Satanic Panic story in the news every few weeks.
I’d heard about the infamous Northport cult killing a few years before reading the popular book based on the incident, SAY YOU LOVE SATAN. On June 19, 1984, three teens were involved in the murder of their friend while high on hallucinogenic drugs. The victim was stabbed repeatedly as the main perpetrator purportedly commanded him to “Say you love Satan.”
The murder sparked national news coverage because of the gruesome torture of the victim and the alleged occult aspects. The crime also happened during a period when there was growing public concern over the influence on young people from Satanic references in heavy metal music. Adding fuel to this fire was the fact the Northport killer was wearing an AC/DC t-shirt when arrested, and was a fan of such occult-themed bands as Judas Priest and Black Sabbath.
A few years later I watched PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS, a documentary about the West Memphis Three, another trio of teens accused of brutal murder, in this case of three young boys, in May 1993. During the trial, the prosecution contended the teens killed the children as part of a Satanic ritual, continuing the so-called Satanic Panic of the era.
I noticed similarities between the Northport and West Memphis murders. Most glaringly, the teens who carried out these heinous acts—they were, simply put, pretty dumb. The ringleader in each case seemed to have a marginally higher intellect than his accomplices, though he was in near equal degree more arrogant, if not delusional. His friends were clearly several notches down on the IQ scale.
This is what had inspired me to pen a screenplay about three teenaged boys who plan to sacrifice someone in honor of the devil. They are less than competent in the execution of said plan, and the whole debacle becomes a tragicomedy of errors. This script, titled BOYS’ RITES, ultimately was never made into a film, but it did generate some buzz while being shopped around Hollywood.
When author (and old high school friend) Russ Colchamiro asked me to contribute a story for the Noir-inspired anthology MURDER IN MONTAGUE FALLS, I immediately thought of BOYS’ RITES. While it was not written as a Noir piece, I believed I could shape it into one à la NIGHTMARE ALLEY or SUNSET BOULEVARD. So I adapted the screenplay into a novella, changing one of the three teens—the ringleader—into a girl, transforming the character into something of a femme fatale.
And that’s how my Satanic Panic story THE DEVIL’S DELINQUENTS was born (not of a jackal as previously claimed), indeed emulating many of the “dark film” motifs of classic Noir.
THE DEVIL’S DELINQUENTS appears in the noir-inspired anthology MURDER IN MONTAGUE FALLS, now available on Amazon in both print and Kindle editions.