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Interview with Kris Hollington 2007


Image: Kris HollingtonHow To Kill is the question for Kris Hollington
By Chris High

Following the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in London, the subject of murder for power, notoriety or political belief has more than ever been in the public eye. Now, investigative journalist Kris Hollington has written How To Kill: The Definitive History Of The Assassin (Century), a book uncovering what lies buried in the minds of the assassins and the methods they have used to meet their aims. ‘I’ve been fascinated with assassination for absolutely ages and, for an investigative journalist, it is a very meaty topic with lots of incredible stories and conspiracies,’ Kris explained. ‘Research took around twelve months and involved lots of tracking down of witnesses and digging through old files which, on the whole, was great fun.’

Between 1950 and 2000, over 4,000 assassinations were carried out - including forty on heads of state. Other targets also included popes, politicians, presidents, prime ministers, pop-stars, writers, revolutionaries, actors, royals, generals and dictators, with bizarre weapons such as exploding teeth being used to carry out the deeds. With so much material to choose from, Kris found it difficult to restrict the stories How To Kill covers. ‘There are literally thousands of fascinating assassination stories. My editor originally wanted a book of 90,000 words and I finished up with 180,000. After some fairly brutal discussions we compromised on 130,000 because I wanted to include less well-known cases – alongside the infamous ones – which have also had a dramatic impact.’

There were also more than a few shocks in store for the author. ‘Perhaps the biggest surprise were the facts and figures of assassination and I ended up devoting a whole chapter to them. Facts such as most assassinations take place on a Friday and that over one third of assassins are never caught. I was also surprised to see how weak the conspiracy theories surrounding JFK’s assassination are. For example, conspiracy authors always claim Oswald had under six seconds to get three shots off … two seconds per shot. In a hilarious video sequence, conspiracy theorist Josiah Thompson, author of Six Seconds in Dallas, cycles the mechanism of Oswald’s rifle in 1.83 seconds while explaining that it can't be done in under 2.3 seconds. Hard to believe a conspiracy author debunking his own work, but video footage of Thompson shooting himself in the foot, so to speak, is on the Internet for all to see.’

True Crime is a subject of ever increasing fascination and Kris has his own theories as to why. ‘You get to see the evil side of human nature in all its true gory nastiness, and unlike a novel or film, what you’re reading actually happened,’ he said. ‘True Crime is a thrilling genre which has improved a great deal over the last few years. The quality of books being published now is extraordinary.’

As if writing and working for BBC programmes such as Panorama and File On 4 isn’t keeping him busy enough, Kris is also thinking of becoming a fiction novelist. ‘While working as an investigative journalist I’ve uncovered all sorts of incredible stories that for legal and safety reasons, such as my continued existence, I’ve been unable to publish. I’m very keen to disguise them as fiction so, watch this space as they say.’

As a career path, investigative journalism came to Kris by accident whilst studying for a degree in, of all things, Cognitive Neuropsychology. ‘I took a year out from studying for my Masters, found work on a magazine and absolutely loved it. I then had a go at freelancing and found the best way to get an editors attention was to uncover some hideous crime story so investigations seemed to be the way forward. My “stand out” investigation, as far as I’m concerned, came last year when I investigated the theft of the Munch painting, The Scream, from the Munch Museum in Norway. It was a truly bizarre and incredible story – and a lot of fun to delve into. The embarrassing thing was I ended up doing a better job than the Norwegian police, partly because criminals find it easier to talk to a journo hunting for a good story than a bunch of coppers desperate to put them behind bars, and I caused a bit of a furore when the article was published in the Mail On Sunday. At least they got the painting back and a documentary is being made about it this summer.’

Kris has also set up a unique Website, ‘I’m amazed how much feedback the site has had. Given that I’ve not really publicised it, I’m still getting a few hundred hits every week and a few people have emailed to say they think it’s a great idea. Although there are a few conspiracy websites and lots of JFK sites, there’s nothing else that deals with assassination. A website particularly suited to assassinations that have taken place since the year 2000 as new information comes in, gives me a great excuse to chase some fascinating stories.’

Having studied the Alexander Litvinenko case in some depth, Kris naturally has his own thoughts about the case. ‘There are three books and two Hollywood movies about Litvinenko on the way which says something about how this assassination has gripped the public imagination. It was a horrendous way to kill a man and I hope the assassins pay for what they’ve done. My feeling is that Scotland Yard have identified the right men, but I also think there’s more chance of being hit by a snowball in the Sahara than getting them to face trial in the UK,’ he said.

How To Kill: The Definitive History Of The Assassin by Kris Hollington is published by Century on June 7th.

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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
© 2007 all rights reserved