Update: On Monday, July 11, The Cape Cod Times published an article titled “‘Mob mentality’ or caring community? Books about Provincetown serial killer ignite Facebook fight” in which myself, Casey Sherman, author of Helltown: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer on Cape Cod, and several members of the Provincetown community were interviewed about the cancellation of two book events at East End Books Ptown.
Last Tuesday afternoon the paperback launch of our book The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer (Simon & Schuster, March 2021) was canceled at the 11th hour by East End Books in Provincetown, MA, after a series of online bullying, insults, veiled threats, and outright lies about the book, the bookstore, and its authors appeared in our email and across social media. The comments accused us of daring to celebrate our book in the town where the story takes place because members of Tony Costa’s family still live locally.
I want to be clear here. These self-named “townies” are friends and family members of Tony Costa, a serial murderer, not the families of his victims. In a bit of deja vu, they once again closed ranks posting hundreds of comments (see link below) designed to intimidate and defame. In the end, they succeeded in pressuring East End Books to not only cancel our book launch but another upcoming book event on the same subject. This is a big problem and it’s called mob mentality.
Many of the commenters used the phrase “we protect our own.” Maybe so, but they wouldn’t “protect their own” in 1969 from Costa, a manipulative, charismatic “townie” himself who murdered multiple women right under their noses. According to over fifteen years of research uncovering interviews, court testimony, diaries, and media coverage, Costa’s friends and family repeatedly and deliberately stonewalled the police investigation. When it came our turn to ask questions fifty years later, those still living and engaged with the Costa family again circled their wagons and let it be known no one was to speak to us. One wonders: what are these people hiding?
Members of the Costa family have propagated a smear campaign toward this book and its authors since publication. They claim to have no idea who I am. Yet we contacted Costa’s ex-wife many times throughout the research and writing process. We thought it was important to keep the family abreast of our discoveries ahead of publication and to return several of Costa’s personal items we’d found in an obscure library archive. They refused all entreaties.
Now, they accuse me of fabricating my own childhood history for profit. How could they possibly claim to know the truth or fiction of my life?
I fully understand the far-reaching, unrelenting tentacles of past trauma. But very few have lived as traumatic a life as Costa’s family. Even after everything that happened, I completely understand a community that would strive to protect them. But, when that community seeks to maliciously malign my and my co-writer’s reputations through bullying and lies, that is a defamation too far.
We remain undeterred by the opinions of others who have no room in their lives for perspectives other than their own. We will continue to share our story.
LR & JJ