Point of ori­gin: Him­self

He said it was fic­tion, but Orr’s ‘ novel’ reads more like a jour­nal

Real Crime - - John Orr -

Points Of Ori­gin de­tails the crimes of ‘ Aaron Stiles’, a thinly dis­guised ver­sion of Orr him­self, whose name is thought to be an ana­gram for ‘ I set LA arson’. Orr de­scribed Stiles as “a loner and in­se­cure” and wrote that “his fires gave him the much- needed at­ten­tion that he craved”.

Stiles’s crimes mir­ror those com­mit­ted by Orr, and prose­cu­tors drew on the book in court, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to the fire at Ole’s Home Cen­ter ( called ‘ Cal’s Hard­ware’ in the novel). Stiles is fu­ri­ous when the dev­as­tat­ing blaze at Cal’s is pro­nounced accidental. Orr wrote, “Aaron... hated it when he wasn’t prop­erly rec­og­nized.”

Distress­ingly for the fam­i­lies of Orr’s vic­tims, the pro­tag­o­nist blames the vic­tims of the Cal’s Hard­ware fire for their own deaths: “It wasn’t his fault. Peo­ple... just acted stupidly. And their death had noth­ing to do with the fact that he set the fire. They just re­acted too slowly. It was too bad about the baby but, shit, it wasn’t my fault.”

Orr pays lov­ing at­ten­tion to Stiles’s sex­ual re­sponse to the fires he sets. Fire­set­ting is typ­i­cally about power rather than sex­ual grat­i­fi­ca­tion, so ex­perts be­lieve that Orr here is de­scrib­ing his own ex­pe­ri­ence. John Orr de­nies this, claim­ing that he was ad­vised by a writ­ing in­struc­tor to make his char­ac­ters “mem­o­rable” and to por­tray “the bad guys down­right weird”. He in­sists he in­cluded it be­cause, “sex sells, even per­verted sex”.

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