Killing for Sport
Pat Brown
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Buy *Killing for Sport: Inside the Minds of Serial Killers* online

Killing for Sport: Inside the Minds of Serial Killers
Pat Brown
New Millenium Press
240 pages
March 2003
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Pat Brown doesn't look like the author of a book about serial killers. She's a wife and mom with a good grin. And she's a criminal profiler.

Founder of the Sexual Homicide Exchange (SHE) , Brown clearly hopes that having presented this book in question and answer format, she can turn the reader with a basic interest in the subject and a lot of misconceptions into an educated graduate of "serial killing 101" who will "pay attention to sexual homicides and give any assistance you can to law enforcement."

But this shouldn't give the impression that the book is too breezy. It's peppered with hair-raising quotations from serial killers: "Every man to his own tastes...mine is for corpses;" "I kill the first man that bothers me;" "Big deal, death comes with the territory...see you in Disneyland." The quotes range from poignant (almost) -- like David Berkowitz's "Dad, the world is getting darker now. I can feel it more and more...the girls call me ugly and they bother me the most" -- to defiant -- Richard Ramirez: "You maggots make me sick"-- to the chilling simplicity of Jeffrey Dahmer's "I bite."

Brown explores some reasons why people might mistakenly sympathize with serial killers -- such as women who fall in love with them once they're incarcerated. The "extra-kindhearted (dumb)"....type who "believes that serial killers are just misunderstood and vulnerable men who suffered terrible abuse." But she counters this with the fact that

"during their time in prison, serial killers rarely break down even so far as the admit that they alone were responsible for their acts. They usually elaborate on some dreadful childhood happening that made them a's always somebody's else's fault, they're not really guilty, they were just acting out against the abuse they suffered at some point."
"If the serial killer were not incarcerated, " Brown asks, "would he feel this sorrow; or would he still be out there killing?"

Brown's book looks at common stereotypical notions about serial killers -- that they are usually "white, male", for one. She notes that crimes against primarily white victims often are better investigated and get more press - "they tend to focus on stories where the victim is the 'All-American' girl." But other racial groups have their share of monsters, too. And women, though less overt in their crimes, are in the lineup. They may murder children with medicines, hard to trace, poisons or smothering. There are women known as "childcare angels" who murder a helpless victim and then call 911, getting attention for their role in the excitement that ensues. Women with Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy (MSP) "find that they can receive attention for being 'a good and loyal mom' by taking their child to be treated by a doctor." The process continues until the child is medicated to death, and begins again with the next pregnancy.

We learn that the Bible and the Koran are reading favorites among serial killers, along with Salinger's Catcher in the Rye (because the hero is convinced that other people are all phonies, an adolescent scenario that the killer can identify with) and John Fowles' The Collector, a book that gets inside the head of an upper class loony who collects butterflies and seeks to "pin down" a lovely young woman.

Serial killers like their women "pretty, if they can get 'em." Small women, women who jog alone, women who frequent bars - all these are potential victims. To the feminists who "would like to yell and scream at me," Brown says succinctly, "it's better to be safe than dead." Sound advice when trying to outthink someone like Edmund Kemper, who when seeing a pretty girl walking down the street, is thinking, "I'd like to talk to her, to date her," while "the other side of me says, I wonder how her head would look on a stick?"

Serial killers are not all clever - in fact they often make stupid mistakes that lead to their capture. Sadly, as with any crime, serial killings are sometimes not recognized for what they are at first due to faulty reports by witnesses and failure to put evidence together to lead to the correct conclusion.

These monsters among us (possibly psychopathic, rarely psychotic) generally have personalities which make getting along with others a less than common ability, leading to the profiler's description of a loner who works at a menial job:

"Profiling is a logical process where each aspect of the crime is analyzed carefully and placed into a dynamic psychological picture of the killer." A good profiler isn't worried about being a good profiler. A good profiler is someone who, like Jack Webb on Dragnet, sticks to "just the facts."
Brown answers the question "How many serial homicides are actually solved?" with the discouraging "Not enough." Never enough. If this book is frightening, it is because the crimes, usually alluded to rather than laid out in exhaustive detail, are horrific. But if it serves to get one monster off the street by helping someone recognize the potential killer in a workmate or, God help us, a relative (as in the case of the Unibomber), then Brown has done her job.

© 2003 by Barbara Bamberger Scott for Curled Up With a Good Book

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