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The Serial Killer Files: The Who, What,…

The Serial Killer Files: The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World's…

by Harold Schechter

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263443,310 (3.95)3
  1. 00
    Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-of-the-Century Chicago by Harold Schechter (schatzi)
    schatzi: H.H. Holmes, mentioned several times in The Serial Killer Files, is explored more in this book.
  2. 00
    Deranged: The Shocking True Story of America's Most Fiendish Killer by Harold Schechter (schatzi)
    schatzi: Albert Fish's story, mentioned several times in The Serial Killer Files, is explored more in depth in this book.
  3. 00
    The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers by Michael Newton (devondoyle)
  4. 00
    A Criminal History of Mankind by Colin Wilson (meggyweg)

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Showing 4 of 4
The dark side of human nature is an endless source of morbid fascination, and with this book we go right to the heart of some of the most appalling human behavior. Despite the brutality of the topic, the author's conversational writing style makes this an easy book to read.

We start at the beginning, when the term 'serial killer' was first defined. The author talks about specific traits common to serial killers, using notorious cases as examples. From there, this book covers a little bit of everything, from the types of killers, to their methods of killing and body disposal. The cases explored span from Jack the Ripper to modern-day killers.

A major flaw in this book, for me, was the repetition. The author relies on a handful of the more well-known serial killers for examples, and the same details are cited multiple times throughout. This might be due, in part, to the way the book is set up, though the information is repeated as if we hadn't read the exact details in a different section.

The other problem area, for me, was with the 'Why They Kill' section. We're lead to believe that all serial killers have mother issues, come from abusive homes, and are abnormally fixated on sex. While this is a general truth for many killers, it's an oversimplification and not true for all killers. The author also appears to support the nurture over nature theory, which is another generality that doesn't hold true. Abuse, in and of itself, does not create a serial killer. The fact is that, most often, it's a combination of nature and nurture, and occasionally simply nature. In fairness, much of the neuroscience research in this area has been published within the past decade, before this book's publication. Still, I felt this section tried too hard to simplify a complicated issue.

Overall, this is a good read, covering a vast topic and focusing on a handful of darkly intriguing cases. ( )
  Darcia | May 5, 2017 |
I have read this book over and over. ( )
  RBeene | Mar 20, 2015 |
Harold Schechter is one of the leading authorities on American serial killers, and he has a very readable writing style. I've read several of his books, and I have "enjoyed" (I am not sure if that is the correct word, considering the subject matter) each of them.

The book is incredibly in depth, covering a range of topics (starting with how the term "serial killer" entered the English language, then delving into common characteristics of serial killers, why and how they kill, how they're caught, and much more). Each section is punctuated with at least one in depth case file illustrating the points already discussed. There is a ton of information to be found here, and it's the perfect resource for those writers who want to incorporate an accurate portrayal of a serial killer in a piece of fiction. Those who want to learn more about serial killers will also find this useful.

My only complaint is that the author repeats himself quite often. There are several places where entire sentences are almost repeated verbatim. I understand that each chapter details something different, and perhaps the author didn't intend for this book to be read cover to cover, but it got rather annoying. Also, the author mentioned a few serial killers without giving much background on them, as if expecting the reader to know who they were. There were a few I didn't (for example, the only reason I've ever heard of the name Peter Kuerten was because of the movie "Copycat").

Altogether, a staggering amount of information is packed into this book, and I'd recommend it to those who are interested in the subject matter. ( )
  schatzi | Dec 16, 2012 |
This is a veritable compendium of serial killers (who they are, how they kill, why they do it) and each killer has an in depth case study, and I do mean IN DEPTH! What more can I say. It was an interesting read with loads of resources for whatever macabre murder or murder type strikes your fancy...my only complaint is that there was actually quite a bit of repeated information. I'm assuming though that the author probably doesn't intend for the book to be read cover to cover (as I did), so he repeats information in various sections one might reference, probably to ensure his ideas are conveyed thoroughly for those not reading the entire book, like say, looking up a specific killer or type of killer. I give it a solid B, this would make a handy reference for a library or for use in a personal library if one writes about serial killers! :-) ( )
1 vote the_hag | Nov 6, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345465660, Paperback)


Hollywood’s make-believe maniacs like Jason, Freddy, and Hannibal Lecter can’t hold a candle to real life monsters like John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and scores of others who have terrorized, tortured, and terminated their way across civilization throughout the ages. Now, from the much-acclaimed author of Deviant, Deranged, and Depraved, comes the ultimate resource on the serial killer phenomenon.

Rigorously researched and packed with the most terrifying, up-to-date information, this innovative and highly compelling compendium covers every aspect of multiple murderers—from psychology to cinema, fetishism to fan clubs, “trophies” to trading cards. Discover:

WHO THEY ARE: Those featured include Ed Gein, the homicidal mama’s boy who inspired fiction’s most famous Psycho, Norman Bates; Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi, sex-crazed killer cousins better known as the Hillside Stranglers; and the Beanes, a fifteenth-century cave-dwelling clan with an insatiable appetite for human flesh

HOW THEY KILL: They shoot, stab, and strangle. Butcher, bludgeon, and burn. Drown, dismember, and devour . . . and other methods of massacre too many and monstrous to mention here.

WHY THEY DO IT: For pleasure and for profit. For celebrity and for “companionship.” For the devil and for dinner. For the thrill of it, for the hell of it, and because “such men are monsters, who live . . .
beyond the frontiers of madness.”

PLUS: in-depth case studies, classic killers’ nicknames, definitions of every kind of deviance and derangement, and much, much more.

For more than one hundred profiles of lethal loners and killer couples, Bluebeards and black widows, cannibals and copycats— this is an indispensable, spine-tingling, eye-popping investigation into the dark hearts and mad minds of that twisted breed of human whose crimes are the most frightening . . . and fascinating.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:24 -0400)

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