Book look: John Leake

An American author’s new book confirms his status of being a true expert on the depths and twists of the Austrian soul.

Numerous sociologists, psychologists and self-proclaimed experts on the human mind have tried to sensibly analyse the thinking and way of life of Austrians in order to label the residents of the small country as a people with a tendency of being slightly deranged or just odd.

The case of Jack Unterweger, an infamous serial killer who preferably murdered young women in woodlands outside Vienna, has been used and abused as a sort of confirmation of some of the most controversial theories.

John Leake, a Dallas-born writer, opted for sticking to the facts. Nevertheless, he managed to turn his book about Unterweger called “Entering Hades – The Double Life of a Serial Killer” into a page-turner which easily outplays novels and crime series as far as important factors like thrill and the quality of writing are regarded.

Leake argued: “Life often delivers the best stories. Austrians seem to think something that happened here cannot be interesting. But that CSI crap on TV cannot compete with a story like Jack Unterweger’s.”

Now Leake has released a book about the mysterious disappearance of a professional hockey player from Canada. The young man went missing in the Tyrolean Alps – one of Europe’s most popular winter sport regions – in 1989.1

Unterweger, the vital character of Leake’s 2007 release, committed suicide in prison after being given a life sentence in 1994. In an interview, Leake lashed out at media in the murderer’s home country by branding them as “shitty” and “not well informed”. He said: “They did not know anything about that guy. Some reporters created myths around the person of Jack Unterweger and the rest reproduced them.”

The verdict on reporters’ achievements concerning the topic of his new book might hardly be more flattering since few substantial articles have been released about the case of Duncan McPherson in the country where he might have become the victim of a crime – before Leake began his research.

The result – a 230-page book called “Cold A Long Time” (its German version, “Eiskalter Tod – Unfall oder Verbrechen?” is out now too) – heaves Leake into the league of the best non-fiction authors in the world today. In 42 chapters, he writes about the negative experiences of the missing person’s parents in dealing with local authorities and the police after flying to Austria to find out what happened to their son. Leake is a brilliant investigator, and his new book nothing less but a superb achievement.

Cold A Long Time
By John Leake (
German version published by Residenz Verlag (

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