It's a “soul-crushing true-crime thriller about a killer and his stalker,” says the book description. The crime thriller appears almost 30 years after Underweger's death: on June 29, 1994, Jack Underweger was sentenced to life in prison for nine counts of murdering prostitutes and committed suicide a few hours later.
As head of the assassination squad in Vienna at the time, Geiger was “almost obsessed” with the unique case, as he put it in an APA interview. This had a dramatic impact on his personal life. The now-retired top investigator has turned the case into a novel.
Ernst Geiger: “Mortzman”, Verlag Edition a, Paperback, 464 pages, 21 Euros
Malte Herwig: “Austria Psycho”, Molten Verlag, hardcover, 128 pages, 22 euros
No ordinary murder
“Mortsman” is “not a non-fiction book, but based on facts.” Geiger insists that he has found nothing, and in some cases associates a few people with only a fictional character. A psychologist from the author's imagination appears in the novel: “But his psychological expertise is abstracted and condensed from various reports,” Geiger explains.
He describes murder cases in a brutally realistic manner: Until now, “the victims have always been ignored.” Geiger wanted to counter the portrayal of Unterweger as a casual murderer: “He often held women under his control for hours, tormenting, abusing, and murdering them.”
“The whole Austrian cultural scene was on his side”
Geiger notes that Unterweger was “a manipulator,” and “he quickly recognized who he could manipulate and who he couldn't. He didn't win with me, so he clashed with me. In his last book he wrote in prison, he called me Kiefer instead of Geiger.”
Until the end, the investigator feared that Unterweger would get away with it: “He could lie and deceive everyone. He had a large group of supporters, the entire Austrian cultural scene was on his side and a large part of the media and intellectuals. He also had good lawyers.
Police suspicion is also a problem
“Killer” paints a contrasting picture, the personality of the criminal, the consequences of his actions for the victims, their families and his lovers, but the suspicions of the police: “They thought it didn't fit,” says the violinist.
“Underweger lives in a beautiful apartment, like heaven, he has everything now. After 15 years he comes out of prison early, the cultural scene is at his feet, the media takes care of him, he does theater, he studies and has a lot of women, even the wife of a business owner. supports him, pays for his apartment, and buys him a Mustang. Why would it be a murderer? “It was ridiculous,” the chief investigator recalled at the time.
For a long time, the authorities had only circumstantial evidence, which is also discussed in the novel. “At that time, forensic science in Austria was still in a position to solve the case,” admits Geiger. In Switzerland and the United States, assistance was obtained through DNA analysis and forensics. In “Mortsman,” you'll find out when and how the criminals were finally able to focus the investigation on Underweger.
Already Geiger's third novel
This is Geiger's biggest case. It always haunted him after the verdict and shortly after Unterweger's suicide. Writing the novel “was a challenge,” Geiger says, though, adding in the same breath: “I had a better overall perspective. As a contemporary witness, it was important to me to give an overall representation.” It was intended to differentiate his work from Elizabeth Shahrang's “Jack” (2015), which Geiger describes as a “romantic metamorphosis”.
“Mortsman” is Geiger's third novel after “Homeward Way” and “Coldtrap” and “Bergas 41,” a non-fiction book about the Vienna police during the Nazi era – and may be his last: “My wife says I should finally stop,” he smiles. “I've had enough now. The six years since I retired have been really busy.
Released on parole in May 1990
Jack Unterweger was initially sentenced to life in prison for killing the young woman in 1976. In May 1990 he was released from Stein Prison on parole – an example of successful rehabilitation.
The “port writer” was able to count on several prominent supporters. Eight years before his release, Underweger's autobiographical novel “Purgatory or Journey to Prison – Report of a Guilty Man” was published. “Purgatory” was made into a movie in 1988, and Unterweger wrote other books.
He was arrested after fleeing in Miami
Immediately after his release from prison, Styrian began to study evenings, which took him to Austria and abroad. These cases should be given importance in the context of prostitution murders. On February 13, 1992, the Gross Regional Court issued an arrest warrant. He was charged with one murder in Prague, another in Bregenz, two in Graz, four in Vienna and three in Los Angeles between September 1990 and July 1991.
After a daring escape, Unterweger was captured in Miami in late February and extradited to Austria in late May 1992. The trial began on April 20, 1994 at the Gross Regional Court. Due to Unterweger's suicide, the verdict was not final.
Another book on the case: “Austrian Psycho”
A second book about Unterweger, “Austrian Psycho,” will be released on January 25. German journalist and author Malde Herwig weaves documented facts, conversations with contemporary witnesses such as Elfriede Jelinek and Peter Handke, and Unterweger's statements into a documentary story, the publisher announced.