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Murv: The Night Stalker

The witching hour comes early at an upcoming booksigning

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In Murv "M.R." Sellars' first mystery, the killer skinned his victims and ripped out their hearts. In his second, the bad guy was fond of torturing and burning modern-day witches. In his latest, Perfect Trust, the sicko is a sex perv. So, really, there's something for every member of the family!

In all three books, protagonist Rowan Gant is the witch/detective the cops go to for otherworldly advice about the killings. He's a sort of combination of Dr. Strange and Frank Black from the defunct Fox TV show Millennium. Gant retreats into a fugue state where he can experience the murder through the eyes of killer or victim.

What makes the mysteries even more interesting is that Sellars is a practicing witch (warlock doesn't mean male witch but "oathbreaker," he's constantly explaining). His earnest spirituality comes through in the books as Gant and his wife continually inform other characters that being Wiccan doesn't mean sacrificing squirrels or levitating on Halloween but harmonizing with nature and pursuing similar nonthreatening ideals. On the other hand, Sellars says, the spell-casting, energy barriers and out-of-body travel in his books may be exaggerations, but they have their real-life equivalents in unexplained paranormal experiences he's had.

Pagan communities in St. Louis and beyond have embraced Sellars' fiction, which includes 2000's Harm None and 2001's Never Burn a Witch. He expands his fanbase by discussing his work at pagan festivals and sci-fi conventions, and fans of grisly horror and well-paced mysteries are getting turned on to his series, too.

Sellars, a cigar-chomping computer technician whose mother was also a practicing witch, is proud to have educated the general public about Wicca and dispelled some stereotypes.

He reports that followers of alternative religions routinely approach and thank him, because in his novels, he says, "the witch gets to be the good guy for a change."

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