Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I held off writing about I Have Lived In The Monster by Robert K. Ressler and Tom Shachtman until I finished The Evil That Men Do by Stephen G. Michaud with Roy Hazelwood because they cover similar topics, namely serial killers and the involvement of profiling in assisting the investigations. Ressler's book includes large chunks of detailed interviews he conducted with both Gacy and Dahmer and his interpretation of their answers, which are the most interesting segments of the book. The rest of it mostly covered serial killers in other countries, particularly the UK and South Africa, with a last chapter about the sarin gas attack in Tokyo in 1995. This last chapter felt tacked on and didn't fit in with the rest of the book thematically and I wondered why it was even there until I realized the book was published in 1997, so at the time it was written it was all new and probably even would have been a selling point. Throughout the whole thing Ressler comes off as arrogant, certainly, but also defensive, which was actually kind of unintentionally funny after a while. Ressler is a competent writer, but not an artful one, sticking mostly to the bare facts of the cases and his involvement. The Hazelwood book is the better written of the two, and I think noticing the order the authors are listed for the two books goes a long way toward explaining why this is. Michaud's book becomes almost a biography of Hazelwood through the history of cases he worked on. I enjoyed this approach much more and found their exclusive focus on sexual predators made for a more cohesive work. I appreciated the moments of humor (such as describing the profiling unit as "a football team with eleven quarterbacks"), and Hazelwood comes off as extremely dedicated to his work, but still able to appreciate a joke. Some of this is due, no doubt, to Michaud's respect and awe for Hazelwood, which is obvious, but doesn't seem to get in the way of the reporting. Of the two, it's definitely the better book, and I'm looking forward to reading another of their collaborations.

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