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American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men


An exposé of an America no one is comfortable talking about: the volatile ground where male violence and sexuality overlap.

$15.95 $11.96

Available as an e-book for:

What people are saying…

Awarded the 2014 Stonewall Book Award-Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award

American Honor Killings was featured on Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish.

“Utilizing an empathetic narrative nonfiction approach, novelist McConnell, co-chair of the Lambda Literary Foundation, casts a humanizing eye upon monstrous deeds . . . A journalistic tour de force made all the more impressive by jailhouse interviews . . . McConnell’s unquestionable skill as a writer, which gives both literary heft and immediacy to the narratives.”
Publishers Weekly

“McConnell convincingly shows how fluid terms like ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ can actually be . . . The author’s case studies reflect an intensive investigation into the economic and cultural backgrounds of a wide variety of extremist cultures, research that involved interviews with law enforcement officials, families of victims and the convicted criminals themselves. A shocking look at the subculture of violent crime, not for the fainthearted.”
Kirkus Reviews

“A masterpiece of reportage . . . Homophobia is not accepted as a mitigating circumstance in murder, but there is no doubt that men are still murdered for being gay. From Jon Schmitz (‘The Jenny Jones Killer’) to John Katehis (the teenage hustler who murdered radio personality George Weber), novelist McConnell . . . has compiled a number of these cases and looks into the culture of masculinity for clues to the dynamics behind these killings . . . with no clear answers, but some very intriguing questions, these vignettes of masculine pride and rage will appeal to those interested in gender politics and gay studies as well as true crime fans.”
Library Journal

“A dark and disturbing portrait of the hate crime murderers of gay men as men who are also gay. . . . The glimpse into small town America that American Honor Killings presents is a strong rationale for gay positive role models, including ally groups and self-esteem activities in the educational system—and the sooner the better.”
Huffington Post

“A superbly written and engaging entrée into a cultish world.”
Gay & Lesbian Review

“McConnell, who is gay, is convinced he has written a book that no straight man could have written, and he’s probably right. Navigating the depressing world of these horrific murders would discourage all but the most determined, passionate writers. Finding the humanity in these killers and the nuance in these most inhumane killings would challenge all but the most compassionate of writers.”
LA Weekly

“McConnell pays close attention to character, scene, and illuminating details, while questioning masculinity and patriarchal institutions.”
Huffington Post (recommended true-crime book)

“Whether the killers were spurred on by personal slights to their idea of manliness or a fanatical ideology, there is a sense of shattered psychologies that haunts both these pages and the larger American landscape. The eyes of many men in American Honor Killings are hard to look into, but this excellent book makes a case for doing so—even if what’s there is not so easy to define.”
Interview Magazine

“Like Capote, McConnell blurs the lines of fiction and nonfiction. But only aesthetically—I don’t mean to suggest that McConnell embroidered his work, as Capote is thought to have done with In Cold Blood. McConnell thinks of facts in terms of form, like there’s something to be gained from telling violence as stories, though he won’t tell us what.”
Chicago Reader

“David McConnell explores the role masculinity plays in violence in his latest work, American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men. McConnell reports the stories of six instances where both the murders and victims were men, often interviewing the incarcerated prisoners, and how the cases were portrayed in the media.”
Chicago Magazine

American Honor Killings is a strong addition to any criminology or true crime collection with a side focus on gay issues, very much recommended.”
Midwest Book Review

“McConnell’s research is impressive, his thorough approach itself an ‘argument against the destruction or loss of a single detail.’ Older, well-documented cases are reenergized with new information, and the stories of the more recent murders are told, for the first time, with the layers of complexity they deserve. Something must be said of this book’s timeliness, the experience of reading it after a memorably violent year in America . . . A book like this is helpful, even downright necessary. It advises against lumping each atrocity into the same pile, reminding us to examine the cases separately—the only way we can begin to understand the roots of this violence and how me might squelch it . . . McConnell’s approach is effective because it’s literary, not academic: through extensive research, he’s crafted engaging narratives, each populated by characters that demand our attention.”
Oxford American Magazine (Editor’s Pick)

“In the vein of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, McConnell spent years corresponding with murderers, visiting them in prison, and eventually learning that these killers may not actually hate gay men at all.”
Out Magazine

“As this country again focuses on its endemic violence, David McConnell’s book couldn’t have arrived at a more apt time. By delving deep into the sexual brutality typically explained away with micro-waved Freudianism, he’s given us a work that is searing, personal and yet with a clarity that adds to the national conversation . . . It’s this truth telling, the sifting of sad ashes, that sets this book far above typical genre fare. Reading American Honor Killings is like driving by a forest fire, one vast yet still secretive—a fire that’s been burning for a long time.”
Lambda Literary

“Some may mistakenly think honor killings happen only in far-off, less developed countries, and only to women. But writer David McConnell’s collection of short nonfiction pieces about honor killings in America is a searing look at masculinity and male sexual violence. The deep, vivid examination of these cases is masterful and arresting.”
The Advocate (Hot Sheet for March 1, 2013)

“In a culture where artists and celebs and everyday LGBT folks talk of being bullied, but never of being the bully, McConnell’s expose challenges us to acknowledge the natural impulse to violence that rest in everyone.”
The Advocate (Interview)

“Come to these cases for the same reason McConnell does—not for the gore and depravity, but for the wish to understand what shadowy part of American manhood can be so volatile, leading again and again to tragedy. McConnell’s careful consideration and painstaking research make American Honor Killings a worthwhile and valuable book.”
Next Magazine

“Some of the finest non-fiction crime writing can be found in David McConnell’s new book, American Honor Killings. At it’s best, Mr. McConnell’s writing compares favorably to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Norman Mailer’s Executioner’s Song. It is entirely appropriate that this book is dedicated to Edmund White, because, like Mr. White, David McConnell is the master of both the telling detail and the occasional punchline . . . it is a remarkable literary achievement. And as often happens in great literature, the biggest questions remain unanswered. I strongly recommend this book.”
Queer Reader

“A quick skim of the book will lead readers to see this as a work that highlights brutal crimes against gay men. But the book deserves a more nuanced and careful meditation. Through in-depth research that includes interviews, synthesizing and comparing news articles, traveling to the crime sites and getting to know the environments in which the crimes took place, and an elite novelist’s eye for detail and storytelling, American Honor Killings is a work that relates to all men. It somehow made the true and clunky and speculative details of crime read smooth like a Cormac McCarthy novel. The research, especially for a work of literary nonfiction, will immediately remind readers of Truman Capote’s masterpiece In Cold Blood, but at times the level of concise detail, especially when considering how McConnell addresses multiple unrelated crimes throughout this book, surpasses even what Capote achieved in his ultra-detailed observation of a singular crime . . . The book should be required reading in university-level gender studies and criminal justice programs, as well as in nonfiction form workshops.”
The Good Men Project

“McConnell researched these cases extensively, then sat down with the murderers in jailhouse interviews so he could learn more about their motivations and reflections years later. The result is a harrowing bit of creative non-fiction, each case retold and examined thoroughly, complete with McConnell’s cogent analysis and first-person accounts of the crimes.”
Xtra Magazine (Canada)

“And what [McConnell] finds and then conveys in American Honor Killings reminds us that while they are not us, the civilized world, they are more than just ‘others’ for whom hate crimes legislation is just one small piece of a puzzle that McConnell fearlessly unearths, no matter how rotten what underneath lies.”
LGBT Weekly

“[McConnell’s] singularly gripping new non-fiction book . . . stunningly repurposes the strengths he brought to his earlier works: a restless introspection, a refusal to portray people as less than three-dimensional, and a sense of all-pervasive mystery.”
*Airplane Read of the Month
Passport Magazine

“McConnell’s attempts to compare the ideal of threatened masculinity with the murderous rampages of young men are thoughtfully considered, fleshed out to the point where his narrative reenactments are chilling to read and not for the faint of heart.”
Bay Area Reporter

“Subtitled ‘Desire and Rage Among Men,’ McConnell’s book is a study of murderous hate crimes against gay men.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer

“David McConnell has written with beautiful clarity and power about a very specific kind of murder. Not only is this book the best sort of true-crime writing, but it is also a stunning exploration of the concept of manhood in America. Refusing to judge or to gloss anything over, McConnell turns his impressive skills as a writer to a topic that all of us think about and few dare to discuss.”
—Sebastian Junger, best-selling author of War and The Perfect Storm

“David McConnell’s American Honor Killings is a masterpiece of reportage: engaging, deeply felt, and brilliantly imaginative. His subjects are heartland murderers driven by hatred of the Other–gays, nonwhites, Jews. But rather than take their crimes and ideologies at face value, McConnell dives into the killers’ inner lives and emerges with shockingly intimate portraits of ordinary Americans gone horribly wrong. At turns heartbreaking and terrifying, American Honor Killings has the soul of a detective novel set in the darkest chambers of the human heart. If Truman Capote were alive today, he would die of envy. David McConnell has taken the mantle of great American nonfiction writer.”
—Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill

American Honor Killings is a spooky, addicting account of twisted sexual drives gone violently awry. McConnell’s writing is as profound as Albert Camus’s and as memorably chilling as Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. The reader of this astonishing text is dared to set aside squeamishness and look right into the heart of American darkness, where bloody and horrifying acts are the tragic outcomes of lives gone from bad to worse, the murderers themselves victimized by neglect, abuse, and an atmosphere of racist, homophobic hatred, the ugly underbelly of poverty and desperation.”
—Rick Whitaker, author of Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling and The First Time I Met Frank O’Hara: Reading Gay American Writers

“Looking at the nature of masculinity and searching to find why crimes like this happen, McConnell arrives at no clear answers and instead adds new questions about rage and pride and takes us into the politics of gender and society’s expectations of gender . . . There is a lot of information in this book and a lot to read and a large cast of characters. It is a fascinating read and an educative one as well. McConnell proved himself to me as a writer with his novels and he now proves that he is just as good a writer of nonfiction.”
Amos Lassen

“McConnell tells these stories through the personal lens of his own experiences, observations, and responses. Moreover, he manages to extend sympathy to perpetrators as well as victims. The result is a blend of true crime journalism and sociological treatise, fascinating and sometimes chilling to read.”
Edge on the Net

“Subtitled ‘Desire and Rage Among Men,’ McConnell’s book is a study of murderous hate crimes against gay men. In explaining the reasoning behind his book’s provocative title, McConnell notes that America differs significantly from countries where honor killings are pervasive in that its society ‘isn’t organized by clan or tribe or even family.’ Nonetheless, he writes, America is a nation where ‘the seat of honor for men is personal, religious, racial,’ and among the worst affronts to that honor today are gay sexuality, ‘immodesty,’ and ‘decadence.'”

“Not for the faint of heart, American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men is a detailed exploration of hate crime motivated murders of gay men, from 1999 to 2009. McConnell adds his own personal analysis and reflections on the crimes and links them together in a terrifying and all too familiar way.”
Baltimore Out Loud

“In a culture where artists and celebs and everyday LGBT folks talk of being bullied but never of being the bully, McConnell’s exposé challenges us to acknowledge the natural impulse to violence that rests in everyone.”
The Advocate

“In this unnervingly beautiful new book, David McConnell investigates six murders of gay men over the last two decades . . . what’s most exciting about American Honor Killings is the way its nuance and detail sharpen the point of its cultural critique.”
Towel Rod

American Honor Killings is an impressive effort to understand masculinity and violence in contemporary U.S. society. It’s a graceful, thoughtful and productive counterargument to the claim that there are no explanations for horrifying violence—one that comprehends the humanity of a kind of violence that we would prefer to call inhuman, and one that I hope can serve as a tool for a deeper public conversation.
NewCity Lit

“McConnell has written a book as horrifying and as necessary as [In Cold Blood], and as likely to stand the test of time as a document of the consequences of sociopathic thinking.”
Shelf Inflicted


Read “On Writing a Real Life Murder,” David McConnell’s Akashic Insider feature.

In American Honor Killings, straight and gay guys cross paths, and the result is murder. But what really happened? What role did hatred play? What about bullying and abuse? What were the men involved really like, and what was going on between them when the murder occurred? American Honor Killings explores the truth behind squeamish reporting and uninformed political rants of the far right or fringe left. David McConnell, a New York-based novelist, researched cases from small-town Alabama to San Quentin’s death row. The book recounts some of the most notorious crimes of our era. Beginning in 1999 and lasting until last year’s conviction of a youth in Queens, New York, the book shows how some murderers think they’re cleaning up society. Surprisingly, other killings feel almost preordained, not a matter of the victim’s personality or actions so much as a twisted display of a young man’s will to compete or dominate. We want to think these stories involve simple sexual conflict, either the killer’s internal struggle over his own identity or a fatally miscalculated proposition. They’re almost never that simple.

Together, the cases form a secret American history of rage and desire. McConnell cuts through cant and political special pleading to turn these cases into enduring literature. In each story, victims, murderers, friends, and relatives come breathtakingly alive. The result is more soulful, more sensitive, more artful than the sort of “true crime” writing the book was modeled on. A wealth of new detail has been woven into old cases, while new cases are plumbed for the first time. The resulting stories play out exactly as they happened, an inexorable sequence of events—grisly, touching, disturbing, sometimes even with moments of levity.

Click here to download a reading group guide for American Honor Killings.

Watch David McConnell discuss American Honor Killings at C-SPAN.

Read an interview with David McConnell at Out Magazine here.

Read an interview with David McConnell at Bookslut here.

Read a feature interview with David McConnell at BuzzFeed.

Read about David McConnell’s American Honor Killings music playlist at Largehearted Boy’s Book Notes.

Read a piece by David McConnell at The Paris Review.

Read Guy Vs. Guy, David McConnell’s online column at Psychology Today.

Listen to an interview with David McConnell on Outsight Radio.

Listen to an interview with David McConnell at The Writer’s Voice with Francesco Rhennon.

Watch an interview with David McConnell on Connie Martinson Talks Books:

Book Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Published: 3/5/13
  • IBSN: 9781617751325
  • e-IBSN: 9781617751530


DAVID McCONNELL is the author of the acclaimed novels The Silver Hearted (a finalist for Lambda and Ferro-Grumley awards) and Firebrat. His short fiction and journalism have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, including the Literary Review (UK), Granta, and Prospect magazine (UK). He is the former cochair of the Lambda Literary Foundation, and lives in New York City. His latest book is American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men.

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