In addition to blogging about my life and the book store, I am also going to post book reviews for books which are available in the store (until they've been bought that is). This is a review for Born to be Killers, the first book I read since opening my store. (I'm working on my fourth book since opening so there's plenty more reviews to come.)
I am a huge true crime fan. I love reading about historical crimes, serial killers, financial crimes, mob bosses and unsolved mysteries. When I've got free time my default channel to watch is Investigation Discovery. So when I was choosing a book to read from my brand new library of hundreds of books I never would have thought to read, I came across a true crime book I hadn't heard of before. To be honest, I don't even know how I came across this book. I've personally (and painstakingly) collected every book in my store myself and I could tell you with near certainty whether I got any particular book from a yard sale off of Rosemont or a library sale in Glen Allen. This book just seemed to appear in my collection, so it stood out to me.
Born to be Killers is a hardback book of 576 pages with a red dust jacket. Oddly enough on no page does it have an author listed. All it says at the bottom of the title page and on the spine of the dust jacket is "A Time Warner Book". The book is separated into four sections: Children Who Kill, Men Who Kill, Women Who Kill and Couples Who Kill. Now I will say if you're not quite as depraved as it seems I would be you're probably gonna read that list of sections in this book and decide this book's not for me. I would have to agree. The first section (Children Who Kill) is particularly disturbing.
The Children Who Kill section is comprised of 14 sub-sections. The first describes the types of reasons and causes that typically occur for children to go from innocents to murderers. These reasons, as explained in the book, can include abuse, neglect, drugs and alcohol and neurological disorders. It does briefly mention the influence of violent television and other media. I would say that while this book is a good resource for case facts, take the analysis with a grain of salt as you read. This book is a bit outdated (originally published in 2004) and I know for a fact that they're have been multiple papers published since then that show violence in television and video games has shown to not have a negative effect on a child's behavior and some have even shown a positive effect, allowing the adolescent to act out violent impulses in a safe setting. Although I'm sure other studies have shown the opposite. The book doesn't cite any sources for their information which makes it seem more opinion based (although who's opinion? since an author is not listed).
After this brief introduction the book goes into the case histories which include a pair of eleven-year-old girls who killed two toddlers in 1968, a teenager who convinced her classmate to kill her abusive father, and the infamous West-Memphis-Three case, one in which consumed the country with it's viciousness, satanist twist and apparent injustice. The stories in this section are particularly graphic and disturbing, even more so because the perpetrators and most of the victims are children. Even for someone who is always interested in the darkness of humanity, I found many of these stories hard to read, with the worst of them staying with me long after I've closed the book (just look up Job Venables and Robert Thompson...it will give you chills).
The next section is about Men who Kill and include some of the most infamously frightening killers in history. The introduction to this section is titled "Are These Men Monsters?" and goes on to introduce several types of killers. These categories include the serial killer, the disorganized killer and the mass murderer. The Men who Kill section includes the stories of Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper, the Boston Strangler, Ed Gein and Vlad the Impaler. As you can tell (if you're familiar with you historical criminology) these stories range from 20th century murderers to crimes dating back centuries. It also includes more unknown cases like Thomas Wainewright and Dr.Harold Shipman. This section is the largest in the book and takes up nearly half the text.
The next section is Women who Kill. The introduction to this section includes a list of 16 different reasons why a woman might resort to murder. These reasons range from self-defense and psychopathy to monetary gain and revenge. While I would agree with these all being possible reasons a woman might commit murder, I would also say that each/any of these reasons could be applied to a man, a child or even a couple or group. Although it does make the distinction that for women, more common reasons are revenge or profit while men are more likely to be "sexually driven" to murder. Looking through the case studies it appears as though the majority of these women killers are killers of children, often their own children. This section was particularly hard to read as a mother of a small child. I can not even imagine the amount of depravity someone would have to possess to commit such an act. The only really well known female killer included in this text was Lizzie Borden. Interestingly enough, she was technically found not guilty even though her reputation never recovered.
Finally the last section is about Couples who Kill. This section is the smallest with only five case histories. These mostly included couples who killed for money or convenience. Most of these cases involved a male/female team with many of them having a sexual component. One was a pair of sisters who mysteriously out of nowhere killed their employers in a very bizarre case. Another seemed like it could have been the inspiration for the movie Natural Born Killers.
Overall this book provided me with hours of entertaining, WTF reading. I would recommend this book to anyone who gets absorbed in serial killer biopics and has to catch the newest episode of Killer Next Door on ID. I will say this book is not expertly written and it seemed like there was a typo on every single page. For a Grammar Nazi, this irked me like nails on a chalkboard every time I saw it (my favorite was when a mom called her daughter her "little angle" , but eventually I just got over it. The book seems to be well organized and well researched despite the lack of grammar proof-reading.