An Interview with James W. Marquart, Author of Unthinkable: Who Kills Their Grandmother

Short Bio: James Marquart resides in Frisco, Texas with his treasured wife, Kimberly. They enjoy traveling, spending time with beautiful grandchildren, while relishing each other’s company, along with their sassy pup Abbey. James graduated with a BA in Law Enforcement from Western Illinois University, an MA in Sociology from Kansas State University, and Ph.D. In Sociology from Texas A&M University, while working as a prison guard. He has served in such positions as Program Chair, Dean, and Provost. He was President on The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and has published many papers, authored several books; three with the University of Texas Press.

Read this interview with James W. Marquart, the author of "Unthinkable: Who Kills Their Grandmother?"
  1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Loyal, entrepreneurial, and resilient

2. The title of your book is quite striking. Can you tell us more about the process of selecting it and what you hope readers will take away from it?

The title went through many iterations. I first just started writing words on pieces of paper and this occurred over a few days.  I noted words that I thought captured the essence of the crime and story.  Like a puzzle, I then started putting word combinations together and rearranged and reordered them until I got the right fit and combination of words.  It had to feel right, and I think we got the right word ordering. I want the readers to know that this process took some time, but it was a fun and important process.  My wife even got involved in this title work and she came up with the word “Unthinkable”, which in my opinion captures the essence of this murder story. So, ideas can come from anywhere and as a writer, it’s good to be open and accepting of the input of others. 

3. What’s one moment in the book that you believe creates significant narrative tension or suspense, leaving readers eager to turn the page and discover what happens next?

This is related to the fourth question.  I wanted a tense murder scene to hook the reader, build suspense, and then keep the book in the hands of the reader. 

4. As an author, what was the most challenging part of writing this book? Were there moments that were emotionally difficult to navigate.

The most challenging part of writing my book was in describing the murder of an elderly woman, a grandmother. The victim was a defenseless 80-year-old woman. Who would do that and why?  I wrote and rewrote the murder scene several times.  I wanted to build tension and hook the reader and force the reader to read more, or to not want to put the book down.  That’s not an easy thing to do.  I had a several friends read my work to see if I was getting it right, and they helped me get the setting and context right. I placed that scene in the very beginning, to hook the reader,

5. True crime often leaves lingering questions. Are there any aspects of the case or characters that still haunt you, or mysteries that remain unsolved despite the conviction?

The deeper you dive into a case, especially a murder case, the more you learn and the more questions that surface for you to answer.  I feel quite certain that Rich committed the crime, however, I have some doubts that he did this by himself.  

6. Beyond the specifics of this case, can you hint at any broader societal or psychological implications that the story might touch upon, leaving readers with more questions about human behavior and familial relationships?

Murder is overall a rare event, and the killing of a family member—a grandparent is extremely rare. Yet these crimes are shocking, and yes sensational, but the consequences for victims as “collateral damage” is extensive and never goes away.  I wanted the victims’ story to be told and I hope I did that.  In all too many books and true crime platforms the perpetrator is often the focus of attention.  People are always trying to figure out who did it and why. However, what about those left behind?  How have they fared in life after horrific loss?  As a writer, I want to bring the victim’s side of the situation into the light.

8. Your academic journey is quite extensive, with degrees in law enforcement and sociology. How has this interdisciplinary background influenced your approach to understanding crime and criminal behavior?

Also, as a doctoral student, I worked as a prison officer at a hardcore Texas penitentiary.  The inmates housed this facility were over age 25, had been to prison 3 or more times, or were troublemakers at other Texas prisons.  It was at this prison that I really was forced to grow up and learn how to navigate in the world, albeit a very dangerous world.  This experience has helped find and complete numerous research projects that launched my professional career.  I also met and talked to many old time Texas convicts and this interaction has helped me in my foray into true crime.  In short, I have an inside perspective on how criminals work and their thought patterns. I am grateful for my time in the prison world.

9. Could you share with us how you and Stephen Bishopp, Ph.D., came to collaborate on this project?

Stephen was not really a contributor.  He was so busy with his job at the Dallas Police Department that he had to drop out.

10. Serving as the President of The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences must have provided valuable insights into the field. What were some of the most significant challenges or opportunities you encountered in this role?

The most significant challenge was to schedule and arrange numerous activities for our professional conference which was in Toronto, Canada. At the same time, we tasked with producing the conference program, and the conference was a 4-day event.  We had to juggle or balance many competing interests and interesting personalities.  I was assisted by Professor Leanne Alarid (University of Texas- El Paso) who managed the program and allowed us to host and put on a great conference. You must have great people helping you and I was so fortunate to have Dr. Alarid on my side.

11. Do you have other writers in the family and friends?

No, not at this time in my family.  However, I have a few friends that write about true crime.  One recently had a book published on the criminal travels of Ted Bundy.  I read the book and assigned it in one my classes.  It’s very good. 

12. Often, challenges bring valuable lessons. Is there a particular challenge or setback in your professional life that taught you important lessons and contributed to your growth?

Trying to get my book published was a journey in every way.  I sent out book proposals to 50 some publishers and literary agents.  All this activity and time and expense went for naught.  It was very demoralizing.  I then contacted Atmosphere Press, in specific Kyle McCord, and he wanted to publish my manuscript.  Hearing that news was both exhilarating and a huge relief, and the press and its people and resources were very good to me.  I am indebted to them for their work on my book.  You must listen to them, in my opinion, as they are the professionals and know the business.  It was a great experience. My experience also shows that as a writer you can never give up.  I know that sounds trite but resolve and a thick skin are critical characteristics that authors must have in their tool kit.  I think any author would tell you the same thing. 

13. As you reflect on your success, are there specific individuals, experiences, or moments that you feel particularly grateful for on this journey?

My wife is my source of inspiration and my rock.

14. What advice would you offer to aspiring authors, particularly those interested in writing about criminal justice or true crime?

My advice to aspiring authors is to find something that you are connected to in some way.  As for me, I was lucky in that the offender in “Unthinkable” was the previous owner of our home.  I found some bath towels in our attic and wondered if the offender ever used the towels.  I know this sounds strange, but I could feel or sense his presence.  Indeed, his personal connection to our home functioned as a motivator, or a mechanism to write the story.  A personal connection helps you to research completely the topic and really dive into the story to get it right.

15. Lastly, can you share any upcoming projects or topics that you’re currently exploring or planning to write about in the future?

I am in the planning stages of several projects including one on examining the correlates of innocence as they pertain to wrongful convictions.  However, I am most interested in launching another true crime project, this time involving a mother who lost her daughter to a serial killer.  It was a most heinous murder of a young single mother who was a college student, a criminal justice major.  She was abducted in broad daylight; in fact, she was abducted from a small store that was across the street from a police station in Denton, Texas.  My angle on the book is to explore a mother’s resilience in the face of tragic loss. 

In “Unthinkable: Who Kills Their Grandmother?” by James W. Marquart, unravel the shocking true story of an adored grandson turned murderer. Gripping and unsettling, this book exposes the dark motives behind a family tragedy. Available on Amazon.

Share on:

We believe in sharing knowledge with everyone and making a positive change in society through our work and contributions. If you are interested in joining us, please check our 'About' page for more information.