eventually becomes a bore. I’m not sure what happens to villains. Some
of them write books.
is certainly a villain, and he has written a book that is bound to cause quite
a stir: The Gates Of Janus (Feral House, 306 pages, $24.95). This exceptionally
creepy little tome is subtitled "Serial Killing and its Analysis By the
‘Moors Murderer,’ Ian Brady," and it’s a definite must-have
item for the legions of true crime buffs so enamored of the serial-killer phenomenon.
a clerk with a string of petty crimes on his record and a bad booze habit when
he met Myra Hindley, a typist, in 1961. They were just a couple of working-class
English drabs with no redeemable qualities. She was a timid little cow and he
was a braggart and a bully. They made a failed attempt to break into the s&m
porn business and an equally ineffectual stab at petty larceny before hitting
their stride as child murderers, a practice that brought them the notoriety
they felt they deserved upon their arrest in 1965.
I had a real interest in this sort of thing, the "Moors Murderers"
(as the pair came to be called) held no fascination for me at all. I was interested
in the flamboyant and the elusive: Jack the Ripper, the Texarkana Moonlight
Murderer, the incomparable Zodiac Killer of San Francisco. These were interesting
criminals. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were as mediocre and unimaginative in
their crimes as they were in all the other aspects of their insignificant little
lives. There’s no challenge in killing children, and if the purpose is
merely to inflict emotional pain and terror on society at large, there are vastly
better ways to accomplish that, as we have seen.
of Brady’s consists of two parts: the first is a seven-chapter manifesto
of sorts, in which he rambles on about the serial-killer phenomenon and how
it relates to society in general, his take on the human condition, and his own
lofty and exalted status in the general scheme of things. The second consists
of Brady’s analysis of 11 cases of serial murder, including two unsolveds.
part contains no surprises. Brady’s view of humanity is entirely bleak.
He views the species as a race of "liars, lunatics, and journalists,"
and repeatedly belabors the obvious point that psychopaths occupy positions
of power in respectable social circles as if it were some great revelation he’d
just uncovered. Here’s a good quote: "The most salient traits of the
psychopath are coldness, calculation, manipulation, lack of sensitivity, natural
deviousness, facile mendacity, amorality presented as moral flexibility, pathological
anger and envy rationalised as altruism or logic, all-encompassing greed, assumption
of personal superiority over all others, a dictatorial and bullying attitude
relying on power and authority rather than intelligence, suspicion and lack
of trust to a paranoid degree, inexorable ruthlessness, an egocentric conviction
that they are always right, sexual promiscuousness, complete lack of remorse.
traits and characteristics are most likely to surface unwittingly when the psychopath
is contradicted, frustrated, or blocked.
any combination of these salient features of the psychopathic personality remind
you of someone in your household, a relative or friend, a person at your place
of work, a politician, a bureaucrat, some minor official, a judge, a teacher,
an author or journalist, a member of the armed forces or the police, some person
with practically everything they could possibly need but who always wants more?
Or even yourself?"
the "Mail" column of this newspaper is completely dominated by psychopaths.
rantings in this first portion of the book merely retrace the ground covered
by Charles Manson decades ago, except that Brady’s without Charlie’s
wit and brevity, not to mention his lack of pretense. Brady’s prose reads
as if he’s been spending too much time reading psychiatric literature;
it’s full of run-on sentences and lofty citations. He’s a shrink wannabe,
is what he is, which is almost as perverse as being a child-killer.
half of the book is marginally more interesting. Brady offers us his analysis
of 11 cases, taken individually: Henry Lee Lucas, John Wayne Gacy, Graham Young,
Dean Corll, Peter Sutcliffe, Ricky Ramirez, the "Mad Butcher" of Cleveland,
Ted Bundy, the Green River Killer, Carl Panzram and the Hillside Stranglers.
The "Mad Butcher" case and the Green River case are particularly interesting,
as they are both unsolved. Brady has some original ideas regarding them and
actually manages to be fairly concise in his analysis. He is particularly insightful
in his examination of the Green River Killer. If the police had taken his approach
at the outset, the case might not be unsolved.
on Bundy offers nothing new at all. The best work on Ted Bundy was Stephen Michaud
and Hugh Aynesworth’s magnificent 1983 work, The Only Living Witness
(Simon & Schuster). Bundy was an interesting character, and it’s
disappointing that Brady has no original insights to offer on his case. Carl
Panzram’s own confessions to Henry Lesser lay bare the agony of Panzram’s
murderous passion, and there are no mysteries there. Brady seems to include
him only as an object of worship, and his "analysis" of the case is
more like a hymn to the sheer relentless brutality of the man and his iron will
than any kind of attempt to uncover occulted aspects of the case.
case, nothing was hidden, so what’s the point of "analyzing"
him? What you saw was what you got, usually right upside the head with a crowbar.
All in all,
a mediocre work from a mediocre man. Brady is probably of above average intelligence,
but he’s a lazy thinker, as is evidenced by his crimes and the fact that
he got caught. The introduction by Colin Wilson is typically self-serving and
not particularly inspired, and the afterword by Peter Sotos is merely appalling.
This book is a necessary addition to any collection related to the phenomenon
of serial murder, but don’t expect any great insights or original thinking
from the likes of Ian Brady.