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Confessions of a Gentleman Killer

(5 customer reviews)
London, 1843


The papers call me “The Gentleman Killer.” I wrapped the throat of my first victim in a silk scarf. That’s what passes as a gentleman these days.


How do you reconcile a man capable of deep, tender love, a health reformer, assistant to the future British Prime Minister, and the son-in-law of a wealthy industrialist, but who kills in a blood rage? I’m told I have a philosopher’s mind, that I’m ambitious. Yet always there’s a downfall.


I leave judgement to you. My name is Kilcairn, and these are my confessions.

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Meet the Author

" I turn my deep and abiding love of history into a passion for historical fiction. "
London. 1843
He hadn’t planned to become a murderer. In fact, he had dreamed of graduating from Oxford, settling down with Cecilia, the love of his life, opening a small law practice, having a child, and stealing away from his overbearing in-laws.
But that’s not what happened. A brilliant man with a philosopher’s mind. Ambitious and capable, but also gentle and thoughtful. Kilcairn, by public standards, was a health reformer, assistant to the future British Prime Minister, and the son-in-law of a wealthy industrialist. But, when his life begins to unravel, blood lust overtakes him and his life of crime begins. Was the urge always there? If not, who pulled the string that began his demise?
A character study of one serial killers mind, Confessions of a Gentleman Killer asks readers just what motivates a man who, otherwise, would be the perfect gentleman.


5 reviews for Confessions of a Gentleman Killer

  1. Otis Elliott

    This book is a thriller, a killer read. It is a fascinating blend of psychology, will power, carnality, adventure, a tale of true love, deceit and deeply-rooted internal struggles. The main character borders on genius with a Beowulfian dragon fighting within his charming physique that can’t be tamed. Johnny Payne has the ability to weave any scene or dialog with verisimilitude to make the reader believe in the historical reality of his characters. There is excellence to be found in the protagonist but usually it is of the opposing kind, the contrary to a Homeric Arete. Does that mean he’s irredeemable? You’ll discover on the last page. I got an advanced copy to read of this novel and read it in one sitting. I love the poetic quality of Payne’s writing as well as its wittiness and rawness, which is found in both its physical and emotional worlds. Is there a gentleman killer lurking inside all of us?

  2. Stephen-Paul Martin, writer

    “I got the time I was hoping for, and dove into your book. It’s truly outstanding. The assured, well-crafted way of depicting a demented character makes him so compelling, yet a number of the women are forceful presences too. The mother/daughter thing that develops is obviously warped, yet you cleverly bring readers to see it from your main character’s position of desire. Quite brilliant! Kilcairn is a great narrator, at once compelling and repulsive, and your skillful use of historical detail creates a fascinating, treacherous world for him to navigate.Valerie is a magnetic character–beautiful and strong, finally a match for your protagonist. I would have done almost anything to spend a night with her, tied up or not (sorry about the pun). I love the way the book ends, with Kilcairn finally released from toxic London, free to womanize peacefully in his home country. Or will he start killing again? Your last line sounds hopeful, with Kilcairn and his lass doing “”the things that each of us was born to do.”” But who knows what Kilcairn thinks he was born to do?

    Beyond all that, I found myself reading your sentences and not just enjoying your story. So many fine word choices, well-made phrases, musical sentences. Not Joyce reincarnate. Your prose is its own thing. Its white paint remains bright despite continuous beating from the sea. The words seem to have fought their way onto the page, and they hold up nicely all the way through.

  3. Kent Johnson

    Johnny Payne is an insanely brilliant writer, lost in the mountains. And across the genres. One day he will be found. I don’t know him, but I wish I did. Though I’d be almost afraid to meet him. He directs a university creative writing program, so he must be a congenial and sociable person. But he seems, in his writing like someone in some kind of off the grid cabin, bomb-making equipment included, deep in the Lost Coast of British Columbia, eating things he picks and kills. I hope this review doesn’t hurt his reputation. Again, I don’t even know him.

  4. Cathy Geha

    “Confessions of a Gentleman Killer by Johnny Payne

    Set in the mid-seventeenth century we are quickly introduced to The Gentleman Killer – a moniker that is ascribed to him by the papers, police, and population. He seems to be a likable, intelligent, interesting man who recites poetry, woos women, works hard and yet has a darker side that sees his blood rise in a way that pushes him into some dark deeds.

    The chapters of the book are women’s names bookended beginning and end with the focus on the protagonist of the story. Kilcairn, The Gentleman Killer, tells his story in first person venturing into his past to elucidate portions of his life and perhaps give a glimpse of his career as a lawyer and a killer. He is a bit like a dichotomous seed with two parts that make him whole and both sides are quite different though they feed on one another.

    The way Kilcairn tells his story is forthright and honestly told without gruesome bloody details. It is a matter of fact statement of life events as he saw and experienced them. Kilcairn was always a bit “dark” but that darkness seemed to leap out from time to time in a way that lead to the death of women he happened to be with. The feel of the story is of the era and took me to the place and times as I read what was written.

    The ending of the book had me thinking about what would come next in Kilcairn’s life, if he were a leopard we would know he could not change his spots but as a man, would he continue to kill from time to time when his blood was high or turn over a new leaf?

    Did I enjoy this book? Yes
    Would I read more by this author? Definitely”

  5. Ethan Cooper

    “Don’t know how it happened; but three of the last eight books that I’ve read have serial murderers as characters. In two of these books—THE QUEEN OF PATPONG and THE HOUDINI KILLER—the authors—Tim Hallinan and P. Moss, respectively—endowed their killers with some redeeming qualities. In QUEEN, for example, the odious Howard Horner had moments of appealing seductiveness. And in HOUDINI, Evie Eastway first kills in self-defense, shooting a rapist with his own gun, and then progressing to murdering scoundrels who have scandalously evaded justice.

    So what about CONFESSIONS OF A GENTLEMAN KILLER? Well, Kilcairn, the protagonist and murderer in CONFESSIONS, has rage within him that Johnny Payne, this book’s author, does, to some extent, try to explain. Indeed, Kilcairn’s strange and once abused mother actually connives with a woman friend who has sex with the uncomprehending Kilcairn, who, at the time, is just a boy. But is the murderer Kilcairn, who is psychologically scarred, ever sympathetic? Nope, not even once. What he is, instead, is a male who is susceptible to rage, which he disgorges by murdering women, usually with a knife. He is a repellant character.

    While Kilcairn does not have any redeeming qualities, he does have an interesting mind, which has a philosophical bent. And this enables Kilcairn to address, while never rationalizing, his misdeeds. Here, I point out that Kilcairn’s murderous spree is set in London in the 1840s. And here is a snippet of his thoughts.

    “Only sex and carnage, those messy fluid activities, had filled me with exaltation. I’d always assumed that learning and remembering the words of the great sages would let me float over the trail of corpses, rendering them irrelevant. Bishop Berkeley’s philosophical proof that the mind’s perception exists prior to all physical reality appealed to me ever since I first read his words at Oxford. I had ardently desired to live as an idealist, outthinking the muck. But really, I was little more than a creature stuck in the world of animate and inanimate objects, a body with a mind attached like a tumor, controlled by instincts, unable even to point to their origins. I wished, for a fleeting moment that I could enter into the cycle that others call guilt, repentance, and redemption… Really, though, they were just words to me, an artificial catechism… I was, indeed, immersed in a bizarre experiment called living from which there was only one escape.”

    At one point, the evil Kilcairn admits to 14 murders. And I’m not really sure; but I think more occur as his story progresses. Fortunately, for this reader, Johnny Payne gets graphic with only three—the murders of the flower girl, Lois, and Mattie—and even then, the murders are a matter of technique, not gore. Still… very disturbing.

    The title of CONFESSION is surely a reference to CONFESSIONS OF AN OPIUM EATER. In fact, Payne has Kilcairn take a scruffy Thomas De Quincey to his club. I don’t know this writer or this book. But I just looked on Wikipedia and see that De Quincey “inaugurated the tradition of addiction literature in the West.” Maybe that’s what Payne is getting at; but in Kilcairn’s case, the addiction is murder.

    CONFESSION has lots of craft and it is weirdly involving. Regardless, not for the squeamish.”

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