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Wicked Nerdery

Where psychology, pop culture, and true crime collide

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5 True Crime Novels For After You Binge Mindhunter

Netflix’s latest big, marathon-worthy, hit is Mindhunter.  It follows two FBI agents attempting to understand the inner workings of seemingly motiveless killers and develop a way to catch them before they kill again.  It’s a compelling show in no small part because it covers a fascinating topic – why certain people, like Ted Bundy and Ed Kemper, murder.  There have been countless true crime books written on the topic, but certain ones delve into the minds of the killers and share that uniquely personal connection between killer and investigator the show does.  Here are five must-reads from that group while you eagerly await season two…

Mindhunter

This is an obvious recommendation, I know, but it stands.  Not only is this book the basis for the show, but it’s also wonderfully written on whole.  At it’s most basic it is the autobiography of John Douglas, one of the founders of the FBI’s Criminal Profiling Program, explaining how he developed the science of profiling.  It is, however, more than that.  Fascinating and at times hilarious Douglas delves into the personal and professional lives of himself and those around him with surprising honesty.  He discusses his experiences with some of the most infamous criminals in US history and breaks down the in-depth, complicated, and impressive methods of catching them he helped create.

Whoever Fights The Monsters

Written by Robert K. Ressler, John Douglas’ fellow profiler and interviewer of criminals, it gives yet another view of the intriguing work.  Along with coining the phrase “serial killer” Ressler is a man who worked to categorize killers by their particular methods and patterns, advised Thomas Harris on The Silence of the Lambs (also with Douglas), and faced off against numerous variations of the criminal mind.  His writing is a textbook of information on those who murder and how they were caught without ever giving off that “textbook” feel.

In Cold Blood

One of Truman Capote’s most discussed novels and for good reason.  A story told with remarkable style and empathy for its investigative journalism roots, In Cold Blood is often considered one the original true crime books.  In covering the 1959 murders of four members of the Clutter family by Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, Capote (with the help of author-friend Harper Lee) researched the crime, the town, and the killers for over four years.  He went beyond just interviewing the police force and citizens of the town and into profiler territory by speaking with the killers numerous times…and even seemed to develop a bond of sorts with killer, Perry Smith.  While the veracity of certain events in the novel have come under fire over the years there is no question the book takes a deep dive into how a crime both comes together and tears everyone around it apart.

The Stranger Beside Me

Ann Rule had a friend, Ted, whom she worked with at a suicide prevention hotline.  They got on wonderfully and, to her, he was an amazing guy.  Remarkably handsome, always helpful, and very friendly.  What she didn’t realize was that her friend was also committing a series of disturbing murders in the area…the same murders she planned to write about.  Her friend was serial killer Ted Bundy.  From this bizarre twist of fate Rule was able to write a true crime novel unlike others – a mixed (hers and his) biography covering her friendship with a notorious killer during his years of murder and mayhem all the way up and through his execution.  The book explores the complexities not just of Bundy, but of Rule’s position as his friend.

Killing For Sport

Profiler Pat Brown founded The Sexual Homicide Exchange (SHE), a nonprofit criminal profiling agency that helps to solve cold case homicides and spent years training law enforcement to improve their profiling techniques.  Then she wrote a book to help the general public do the same.  Breaking down everything from victim to criminal to profiler into easily digestible pieces makes for an easy-to-follow book for anyone looking to peak behind the curtain of profiling.  Brown has no problem pointing out the cliches, explaining when and why they’re wrong, and what’s the truth instead.  It’s a highly entertaining read as she maintains a straightforward, to the point of almost amusingly blunt, approach with the audience.

mindhunter_ford_tench_profilers

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?  Have any other suggestions for the Mindhunter fans out there??

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What About Barb?

Before I knew anything else about Stranger Things, I knew that Barb deserved better…I knew it before I even knew who Barb was.  It was the first thing anyone who saw the series said – “poor Barb…Barb deserved better…Justice for Barb!” – and, after I watched the series, I absolutely agreed.  Barb totally deserved better.  That part isn’t really at question; what is, is why has everyone remained so attached to the character?  There are plenty of characters across pop culture media who deserved better than what they got, but Barb is the first I’ve seen receive an almost nationwide outcry for justice.  …Why?  What’s so special about Stranger Things’ Barb?

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Subversion Magic in Stranger Things

Over and over I saw articles discussing the wonderful manner in which Stranger Things subverted the “bad-boyfriend” stereotype with its character, Steve Harrington.  Steve starts as the typical 80s jock who’s kind of a jerk, but still cute and popular enough for sweet and brainy Nancy to turn her back on what she cares about – good grades, doing the right thing, her best friend, Barb – in order to be with him.  As the show progresses Steve seems to increasingly play into his archetype until…he doesn’t.  Until he stands up to his nasty friends and helps both Nancy and his romantic rival, Jonathan, fight off the Demogorgon at risk to his own safety.

…But “Bad-Boyfriend” Steve isn’t the only stereotype subverted.  In truth, the magic of the show lies, in no small part, in all the archetypes and tropes it sets up and then slowly tears apart across the episodes.

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Secret Psychopath: House of Cards’ Claire Underwood

In a previous post I discussed how a psychopath like the Joker can fly under the radar by playing crazy.  I also mentioned that that isn’t the only way a psychopath can go unnoticed by the rest of society; they can also play subdued.  This is how most function without notice, by appearing and behaving like the average, everyday, person.  They have jobs, families, friends, and show the appropriate emotions at the appropriate times.  Admittedly there are still moments they slip into their more cold, calculating, and ruthless nature, but those times are often dismissed as a single event (even when it’s a repeated one) or a quirk.  …This seems to be what House of Cards’ main female protagonist – or will that be antagonist now? – Claire Underwood is able to do.

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