I’m obsessed with “good guys.” You know the ones—they’re actually bad but hiding in plain sight as “good.”
“I know there are young men that take advantage of young women and vice versa, but I know for a fact that Brock is not one of those people. He is respectful and caring, talented, and smart enough to know better.”
“It’s not his character to people who know him. It’s just not in his character to do the things they have alleged him to do—three rapes in one night—it’s just crazy.”
These quotes are from people defending convicted rapist Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer who assaulted an unconscious woman, and Daniel Hozclaw, the Oklahoma City police officer convicted of 36 counts of sexual assault and rape.
The assessment society made when these men were arrested (before they were tried and convicted for their crimes) was that they were too young, too privileged, and too accomplished to be guilty. We want our criminals to look like boogeymen, with long beards and blood-shot eyes—they should be easily recognizable as evil, incapable of living in polite society.
Men like Hozclaw, Turner, NFL player and serial rapist Darren Sharper, and convicted serial murderer Ted Bundy are the antithesis of that. They are good looking, pedigreed, and moneyed. They’ve achieved success in impossible fields. But in reality, those successes allow them to obscure their true nature.
That’s what I set out to explore when creating the antagonist in my first novel, Baby Doll. When sixteen-year-old Lily Riser vanishes, she leaves behind a devastated family, including an identical twin. Eight years later, she escapes and returns home with a shocking secret about the man who took her. Without revealing any spoilers, I can say that Lily’s captor, Rick Hanson, is handsome, charming, happily married, and respected by the community. Rick has built a life for himself that offers the perfect cover to indulge in his darkest desires.
The idea for Baby Doll and the genesis for Rick Hanson came about when the Ariel Castro story broke. Castro held three Cleveland women captive for over ten years, until the girls were finally able to escape. Every time Castro’s picture appeared on TV, I saw something sinister in his expression. He’d had a previous record of domestic violence and his ex-wife had warned people about him, yet Castro still managed to avoid detection. I kept thinking about how many people were out there in the world who were smarter and more charismatic—who would be able to operate completely under the radar.
Initially, I felt uncomfortable writing Rick Hanson because he was so vile and unapologetic, but I knew that if I was going to write him, I couldn’t shy away from it. Rick never admits that he’s wrong or accepts that he’s ruined people’s lives. He’s like a lot of convicted serial murderers and rapists, proclaiming their innocence until the very end. What fascinates me is that they believe they’re innocent. Whether they’re sociopaths and unable to feel empathy for others or they have a justification for why the victims are wrong, they live in denial. That’s who Rick is—the good guy who can never admit he’s anything but, despite the terrible things he’s done.
Of course, in real life, I’d never want to cross paths with any of these criminals, especially Rick Hanson. But, writing Baby Doll, I was in control of Rick’s destiny, defending the innocent from the damned and ensuring that good triumphs over evil.
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Hollie Overton was raised by her single mother, and Hollie—an identical twin herself—draws on her unique childhood experiences for her first novel, Baby Doll. Overton's father was a member of the notorious Overton gang in Austin, Texas, and spent several years in prison for manslaughter. Hollie is a television writer and resides in Los Angeles.