If the prosecutors and the cops have their way the author of two sensational books on the Bernardo-Homolka murders will go to jail for a long time. Is Stephen Williams - a man accused of disobeying court orders and violating publication bans - a martyr for free speech or a heartless self-promoter?
THE BLINK of the motion detector on the split-rail fence warns of my intrusion as I turn onto a long driveway leading to a Victorian yellow-brick farmhouse. The 100-acre property outside Mount Forest, a two-hour drive northwest of Toronto, belongs to Stephen Williams and his partner, Marsha Boulton. With its assorted animals (sheep, two ancient horses, pedigree chickens and Wally, the soccer-playing English bull terrier), it’s a hybrid of Old MacDonald, Green Acres and Upper Canadian Gothic. Action central is the kitchen, a large square space painted a deep periwinkle, with windows on two sides overlooking the fields. Though this room is Boulton’s domain, Williams’ personality intrudes in the black appliances, the cacti and the stack of books and magazines at one end of the wooden dining table. He likes black because it means there’s no need to make decisions about colours, cacti because they are prickly (like him), and the books—they’re as essential to him as breathing.
At the back of the house, Williams has a large office stocked with weights and a punching bag—all the romantic trappings of a tough-guy writer. This is where he wrote Invisible Darkness: The Horrifying Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka (published in 1996) and Karla: A Pact With the Devil, which came out last year. Both books explore the botched police investigation into the murders of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, and the sweetheart deal that will see Homolka released from prison next summer after serving a mere 12 years for torturing, raping and killing three young women - including her own sister.
Williams is already on a tear when I sit down in the kitchen, and he’s still at it when I leave five hours later. At six foot four, with shoulder-length grey hair and a girth that he likens to that of the late Orson Welles, he is a commanding figure, especially when you add a rumbling boom box of a voice. With her generous smile and large blue eyes, Boulton, who is also a writer, listens, makes and serves food, and occasionally interjects to tone down his rhetoric.
Pacing about the room on his dainty feet like a defence lawyer pleading a case, Williams talks the way a heavy sea lashes the shore, relentless yet mesmerizing, unleashing tales as fantastic as Sinbad’s adventures with all the bombast of Duddy Kravitz on a roll. Among his more extended rants is his contention that “I did not initiate this battle in which I have found myself, any more than the hundreds of thousands of grunts who were sent to Vietnam or lately to Iraq initiated those wars. Other people who live on other planes with multiple agendas did… What can the grunt say when he is in country except ‘I am in the shit now’? To ascribe any responsibility to me for the battle in which I find myself is like ascribing the cause of the Vietnam war to the soldiers who died in it.”