True Crime Analysis, Breakthroughs, Insights & Discussions Hosted by Bestselling Author Nick van der Leek

“I am really into the Watts case…What suggestions do you have after reading the TWO FACE series?”

After reading the Watts series, for much deeper insight into the operative criminal psychology and functional family dynamics, you should probably read the trilogy on Scott Peterson starting with Blood & Seawater, then Night Before Christmas, then Night Eternal.

The Treachery series covering Casey Anthony also gives insight into the family dynamics of child murder.

And then the Van Breda axe murders [5 books] gives a lot more background into why family annihilations happen.

If you’re interested in the ideas of narcissism, MLM and vanity associated with the Watts case, then you should look into the 6 part Jodi Arias series, starting with AUDACITY. If you think Chris Watts was living in a dream world when he committed premeditated triple murder, Jodi Was too. Jodi Arias is another classic example of how love can warp peoples minds, hearts and motives.

For those interested in the background to how Rocket Science evolved, read on:

When I started writing True Crime I had to make a decision whether I was going to isolate analysis to one particular case, or whether to use Intertextuality – linking criminal psychology across different True Crime narratives.

The reason it happened [and keeps happening] is due to the unusually rapid pace of research and writing. And as a result of intensely researching one case, and writing a series, and then a few weeks later digging deep into another case, and another series, one invariably finds huge areas where the criminal psychology is aligned. It matches. Not only is the thinking similar, some of the statements and semantics are too.  This includes not only the statements, excuses and identities of the perpetrators, but their victims too. It’s fascinating. It’s also very, very disturbing.

The first time this happened was between the Oscar Pistorius and Jodi Arias narratives. Then between the Ramseys and the McCanns.  Soon I discovered the basic webs of psychology and symbolism that link all criminal cases to one another, and are embedded programs – effectively – in society, and in all individuals.

This led me to encounter and develop pretty sophisticated psychological concepts already present in psychoanalysis, but somewhat extemporaneous. These sophisticated concepts attempting to explain the human dilemma still needed a little fine-tuning.  Principle among these dilemma is the classic one overarching them all: the Problem of Evil.

And eventually I started rubbing shoulders with strange new words. Cosmodicy, Theodicy, Anthropodicy. If you haven’t heard these words before – well, I hadn’t either. They’re all to do with the science of man [who are we, how are we designed, how can we be fixed?]. I was interested in that not only as a true crime writer, but as me, as someone wanting to know how broken people – and broken families, and societies – can be fixed. And to figure that out we have to know how we are put together. Do these designs work? Do we need new More Intelligent Design?

Let em explain a little more about the basic design constructs people came up with when they tried to approach man’s basic dilemma in the world.

If Theodicy is an attempt to describe via religious constructs how God deals with evil, then an Anthropodicy attempts to justify [or simply interrogate] the “fundamental goodness” of human nature in the face of the evils [that is True Crime] produced by humans. If there’s a lot of literature dealing with God as a sort of Deus-ex-machina, there’s not much literature dealing with man as not only the problem, but also the source  of [and thus the solution to] his problems, and principly, the problem of evil.

True Crime is a handy turf where those problems can be “safely” but also effectively examined and understood. And so through True Crime, so can we. We also understand and fix ourselves, so long as we’re not simply caught up in fruitless transference, projection and voyeurism. And so Rocket Science really found its feet in the genre by attempting to interrogate True Crime authentically. In this way, I believe the contributions of Rocket Science are real and fundamental to an Anthropodicy that we’re struggling with, but until now haven’t even been sure how to define, let alone approach it.

Because an even higher tier to this psychological clockwork feels like it might be a Cosmodicy, the attempt to justify the fundamental goodness of the universe in the face of evil. In modern entertainment we sees these efforts through the slew of out-of-this world blockbusters: the Marvel Comic Universe, Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy and even our own world gone Magic and Mythical: Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games.


But even the theologians and philosophers acknowledge that Cosmodicy is little more than a wave to the problem as it really exists, for us.

Immanuel Kant points out that no working Theodicy yet exists for our world. But he warns, no effective anti-Theodicy exists either. Ernest Becker has made great strides in this regard, and taking Becker’s threads and weaving them into True Crime, I believe – at last – we do have a working and workable science of man [a True Crime Sociodicy that is but less a justification than an explanation, if you will].

Theologian J. Matthew Ashley described the relationship between theodicy, cosmodicy and anthropodicy:

In classical terms, this is to broach the problem of theodicy: how to think about God in the face of the presence of suffering in God’s creation. After God’s dethronement as the subject of history, the question rebounds to the new subject of history: the human being. As a consequence, theodicy becomes anthropodicy – justifications of our faith in humanity as the subject of history, in the face of the suffering that is so inextricably woven into the history that humanity makes.

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And so within this schema, the Watts case emerges as a classical modern True Crime Anthropodicy. These are fancy words to say through the inverted fairy tale of the Watts Family Murders, we can at last understand how our various man-made constructs [nations, cultures, corporations, societies, families, marriages, individuals, children, even the unborn] fail us, and why we as children, adults, individuals, communities, collectives, need to be better to do better. We can, but it starts with an authentic acknowledgement of what’s not working, and why.


  1. Laura Thompson

    I’m 80% of the way through Oblivion; saving the last little bit to have something to look forward to reading while I’m out of town working.

    Next up will be Nick’s Scott Peterson coverage. I’m amazed that the jury got it right, (in my opinion), with what evidence the prosecution was able to present. Scott Peterson is on death row due to a single hair inside some pliers, a girlfriend, and the fact of the bodies washing up where he had been “fishing.” OJ Simpson’s blood was found in a trail from the crime scene to his vehicle to his home, where his victims’ blood was also found, and he’s currently playing golf. I think they are equally guilty men, but the vastly disparate outcomes makes you ponder a lot of things.

  2. Janie

    Thanks for that post Nick on what to read next and defining what your writing is all about. True about the evidence and different outcomes of the Peterson and Simpson trials. Of course race and celebrity played a part in the Simpson case. I think the incompetence of Marcia Clark and her team, Judge Ito, and the grand standing of Johnny Cochran led to the not guilty verdict. If anyone is interested in finding out why OJ was acquitted, and how the prosecution could have won the case, watch the 2 part You Tube video of Vincent Bugliosi, the L.A. prosecutor that convicted Charles Manson and his followers. In part 1 he talks about the book he wrote after OJ’s acquittal, blasts the prosecution for losing the case. In part 2, he conducts a “mock trial” representing the prosecutor and arguing the case as it should have been presented. It’s fascinating to see how that case could and should have been handled and how it would have given the jury no choice but to convict him.

    • nickvdl

      Hi Janie – good points. I’ve written a trilogy on the OJ Simpson case and I’m not sure Marcia Clark was as incompetent as many have suggested. It was 2 lawyers against 8. And once the state – through lead detective Fuhrman – had been smeared with the racism brush, even though one of the prosecutors was black, it was game over.

      The pantomiming and play-acting around the gloves [“If it doesn’t fit you must acquit”] was also a brilliant piece of theatrical reductionism.

      Clark’s mistake was spending so much time on the mind numbing DNA evidence, and not reading her audience [the jury] as well as opposing counsel did. This was easy to do because there was so much evidence. The sheer mountain of evidence eventually became almost banal. Sometimes the simple things win trials – being nice, explaining things briefly and simply, and offering simple, sound reasons even though the dynamics are complicated. Lawyers need to understand that judges and juries are people too, and sometimes they don’t want to be where they are, and they especially don’t want someone [as they perceive it] wasting their time, or attention span.

      Human nature is weird in this way, which is why often the bad boy asshole that’s a showman, a liar, a loudmouth and a trickster, gets the girl, whereas the shy but stable and ethical accountant is ignored.

  3. Janie

    You’re right. The DNA evidence went on way too long. Especially for a jury whose been sequestered for a lengthy time. The DNA matched move on. Of course then it became about the DNA being planted by a racist cop who had it out for OJ. The same cop that had came to his house on one of the many domestic disturbance calls that Nicole made and didn’t seem to mistreat him then. Mark Fuhrman even tried to help free a black man from prison that he believed was wrongly convicted. I would have not had him plead the fifth, it made him look guilty and that’s all they needed fo aquit Simpson. The part of the video where Bugliosi argues that to pull off this conspiracy, there would have had to be several people , in different areas of law enforcement, forensic scientists, witnesses, etc., that didn’t even know each other, would have had to all agree to set Simpson up and then discuss how to coordinate getting that done.

  4. Janie

    Yes the morons holding up the signs definitely proved that! I’d like to know how they had time to get the supplies, create the posters, and then get to a place where OJ would be passing by. Bugliosi referred to the sign holders as “mental midgets”. 😂

    Did you watch the interview he did with Judith Regan about his “hypothetical” book “If I Did It”? It’s infuriating! His stupidity was at an all time high. I heard he’s going to be on Twitter to share his thoughts on various things and then he said he’s got some getting back to do. He never learns! What’s the name of the trilogy that you wrote about him? Is it on Kindle?

  5. Sylvester

    Yes, Bugliosi would have done it differently. When he prosecuted the Manson case he had to go with a theory that would explain motive to a jury, and while I understood his reasons for choosing the notion of “Helter Skelter” (wanting to start a race war, blackie against whitey, etc.) I know that’s not why Manson directed Watson et. al. to go to Cielo Drive. Often prosecutors have to go with one theory over another because they think it will move or persuade the jury. When Chris Darden was added to the DA’s case state versus Orenthal James Simpson, the motive he offered up was as old as the Bible, and almost had the jury when he played the 911 tapes – but their minds were already made up. In a way Bugliosi’s scenario of Helter Skelter and blackie against whitey would have played to the Simpson jury if you simply reverse it to whitey against blackie, which is what the Simpson jury thought their world had become, and won Simpson an acquittal.

  6. thetinytech2018

    Not to mention the call Nicole made to 911, as she’s frantically talking to the operator you hear OJ breaking into the condo and the pure terror in that womans voice. The police failed that woman horribly, but that’s for another post. Restraining orders are a piece of paper that mean less than nothing to the instigators they’re filed against. If you’ve ever dealt with a similar scenario, it’s almost impossible because when the restraining order is violated, by the time the cops show up the damage has been done and the assailant is long gone.

    I wonder what would’ve been the result of that trial had Mark Furham not been a part of it and if the suitcase full of evidence was recovered from that slime ball Robert Kardashian. He walked into an active crime scene and left with OJs Louis Vuitton suitcase filled with God knows what, and nobody seemed to notice. By the time they did, it was long gone and “wasn’t of any significance” according to him. Robert Kardashian should’ve been sanctioned by the state bar association for withholding/destroying potential evidence or at the very least, disturbing the crime scene. I forgot the name of the book but it was written by someone on OJs defense and the only reason Mr. Kardashian was on the defense team was because he was friends with OJ. Nepotism at its best. According to the book, he was almost as clueless as he was useless and was nothing more than a seat warmer that they didn’t want around.

    • thetinytech2018

      ^^ The above comment was supposed to be a reply to Laura Thompson, however it ended up here so I apologize.

    • Sylvester

      Tiny Tech, even Robert Kardashian had a specific role to play in the Simpson Saga. He read the note Simpson penned to the public. The pitiful sorrowful note, which was riddled with poor grammar and misspellings, which truly showed that the Juice did not receive a proper education. He was a product of the Hollywood star maker dream machine after he became a star running back for USC. Here is an article written 6/24/01 – quite old – but comprehensive that sort of shows the behind the scenes lawyer strategies as well as thoughts from the jury. If you have already read this Time article, just disregard. It’s called “Making the Case”.,9171,133249,00.html

  7. dayzlazy

    Nick, I’ve read all of your books but I especially enjoyed the Watts series. You (and Lisa) are the only author(s) brave enough to tackle the darker, unspoken, unchallenged and ignored issues behind the murders. Yours may not always be the popular view but I agree it’s necessary if we hope to understand and evolve. Do you have any plans to add another book to the Rebecca Zauhua series?Thank you so much and please keep writing!!

    • nickvdl

      Thanks Dayzlazy – I do want to do another book on Rebecca Zahau. There was a little talk and contact with the attorney involved, and also Rebecca’s sister, but then it fell through. So I might get back to it at some point. The 1 review on the second book is kinda a disincentive though.

      I highly recommend MURDER MOST FOUL after reading the Watts series.

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