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Author recounts crime in chilling detail

By DONNA KENYON
Executive Editor

John E. O’Rourke never thought of himself as a writer. But the author of three books is working on two more and enjoying the process.

“I wrote the first two books to pay tribute to New Jersey State Troopers who died in the line of duty,’’ O’Rourke, a retired trooper, said in a recent interview.

Six years in the making, those books led to a desire to write a third, “true crime” novel.

Researching potential topics, O’Rourke discovered that there were no books written about the notorious murderer, Richard Biegenwald, who abducted, raped and murdered young women along the Jersey shore from 1974 to 1983.

The crimes occurred after Beigenwald was released from prison for good behavior after serving 17 years for a prior murder and spending time in a psychiatric facility.

Biegenwald received the moniker “thrill killer” after Monmouth County prosecutors said he told investigators he hunted and killed for the thrill of it. He was linked to nine murders and convicted of five.

O’Rourke said it took him a year to decide what to write about, but he knew he wanted to write a history book.

“The Jersey Shore Thrill Killer, my third book, I look as it my first real attempt at writing,” he said.

His attention to detail is compelling, and may have grown out of his 26-year career as a New Jersey State Trooper.

“The things normal people would dismiss a good investigator does not…True crime is actually history. That is my influence there.”

O’Rourke attributed his meticulous attention to detail in his writing to his emulation of the writing style of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough, and his own investigative work as a trooper.

“The more I am detached from the organization (the State Police) the more I realize the benefits.”

“The legwork involved. You are researching, indexing your findings, putting it into a narrative. It definitely helps.”

“When you are doing an investigation, it is like a story. You have to get into it – a motor vechile stop..observing their demeanor, being attuned to what is going on.”

His law enforcement background also helps to open doors, and gives him credibility with research subjects, he said.

Although O’Rourke said that book writing “is something I never thought I would be doing,” he enjoys the whole process, from research to writing, especially on a topic that has not been covered before.

“I like to capture that and be first one to write about it.

“The more educated I got, the more I started to appreciate history. It is something that happens with maturity and education,’ he said.

His goal is to publish a book every other year. He hopes to grow his reader base with the two books in the making. They are another true crime novel about the kidnapped Exxon executive Sidney Reso from his Morris County home, and a fictional tome about a retired state trooper based in Hoboken.

O’Rourke is a security consultant with high-end clients and lives in New Jersey with his wife and adult daughter. His grown son recently moved out on his own. “It’s another phase in life,” he said.

O’Rourke is the author of “Jersey Troopers: Sacrifice at the Altar of Public Service” and “New Jersey State Troopers: 1961–2011, Remembering the Fallen.”

His books are published by The History Press, based in Charleston, S.C. They are available wherever books are sold and as an e-book. Visit www.historypress.com or the author’s website, www.johneorourke.com.

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