New novel, “Babysitter”, based on the events of the late 1970s Oakland County child killer

Between 1976 and 1977, four young children were killed in suburban Detroit. Investigators were never able to identify the attacker, whom some have dubbed “the babysitter” due to the nature of the kidnappings.

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

“Detroit was the first major city I lived in in my life…so the impressions stay 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 bestsellers. She says she wanted to write a novel set in a time of anxiety, stress and ongoing drama, while 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 stalker of women, as someone who might well be activated by the people around him if he is powerful,” Oates says. “So that’s one of the themes of the novel – how evil is enabled by people around it who aren’t necessarily evil themselves.”

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