New novel, ‘Babysitter,’ based around late 1970s events of the Oakland County Child Killer

Joyce Carol Oates’ latest book is an experimental novel that unfolds in the historic present, according to the author.

Photo credit: Jessica Ruscello/Unsplash

Between 1976 and 1977, four young children were killed in Detroit suburbs. Investigators were never able to identify the perpetrator, who some nicknamed “The Babysitter” due to nature of the abductions.

In the years leading up to this event, author Joyce Carol Oates found her literary voice while spending six formative years in Detroit. In her new book, “Babysitter,” she captures the hysteria of the moment and interrogates the social infrastructure of southeastern Michigan.

“Detroit was the first large city that I had ever lived in in my life…so the impressions remain so very strong with me” — Joyce Carol Oates, author

Listen: Why Joyce Carol Oates chose to set her latest novel in Southeast Michigan.



Joyce Carol Oates is an award winning author behind several national best sellers. She says she wanted to write a novel set at a time of anxiety, stress and unfolding drama, while also noting how we used to think of serial killers as isolated people, rather than members of our community.

“Today we think of a serial killer, or serial harasser of women, as somebody who may well be enabled by people around him if he’s powerful,” says Oates. “So that’s one of the themes of the novel — how evil is enabled by people around it who are not necessarily evil themselves.”

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