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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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4 Key Reasons Why Children in Horror Are Terrifying

From The Exorcist‘s Regan to Orphan‘s Esther and literally all those kids from Children of the Corn and Village of the Damned there’s something downright disturbing about the children in horror movies.  Whether simply victims of circumstance or outright antagonists nothing makes the skin crawl like a dead-eyed child destroying everything in their path or, worse yet, a delighted one giggling as they murder.  The question is, why?  Why is it that, more than freaky monsters and cold-as-ice serial killers, do tiny tots with smiles and eyes all aglow strike us as utterly terrifying?

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The Most Dangerous Man In Westeros Did Not Deserve That Death

As many cheered and sang praises for the end of Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish on Game of Thrones, I sat in forlorn silence. Yes, I liked him. He wasn’t a hero, he wasn’t a strapping lord fighting for honor, but he was interesting. A character who always kept those around him, those watching him, on their toes. He was conniving, manipulative and ambitious. He kicked off nearly every major event on the show and triggered the War of the Five Kings around which most seasons were based. That’s someone who should have lived to win the Iron Throne, not bled out on the cold floor of the Great Hall in Winterfell.

Lord Baelish may have deserved to die, but not as he did. A man who had been scheming since before the story began deserved a far better end.

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Flipism: Of Villains & Their Love of the Coin Toss

The latest season of House of Cards had a cold open in which Frank Underwood briefly explained the concept of flipism: the belief that all decisions can, and should, be made with the simple flip of a coin. Frank discussed the birth of the ideology and suggested it be used to clear up the chaos he created in the latest presidential election. He’s not the first villain to speak in favor of flipping a coin, of using chance, as a way to make a final decision…in fact there’s a history of antagonists both promoting and using such tactics throughout pop culture.

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How We Are Classically Conditioned To Love Monsters

Certain villains are all too human. They are flawed and empathetic. They are beings we can recognize ourselves in and grow from. Other villains are just monsters — vampires, aliens, werewolves and countless strange creatures that spring from the creative mind. There’s little to empathize with; little for the audience to connect to. So why are these monstrous villains still so popular? Perhaps because we’ve been conditioned to enjoy them — not unlike Pavlov’s Dog.

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How Villains Force Us To Look At Our Inner Darkness…

From Marvel’s supervillains and Darth Vader to the (slightly) more realistic Walter White in Breaking Bad, villains are fascinating; you can’t take your eyes off them. But why? What is it about those so clearly, classically wicked that makes them so compelling to an audience? One possibility is that, in experiencing these villains on-screen, we can face our own inner dark side.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung believed everyone has a darker side, a shadow-self, within their personality. This shadow consists of everything the person considers unacceptable to express: envy, rage, selfishness, the desire for power and baser animal instincts. It’s not something that the person is consciously aware of but something they must acknowledge and face in order to grow as a person.

This is where villains come in as archetypes, representing the clearest forms of those negative aspects of one’s personality. With their bad traits on the forefront, villainous characters allow for easy access to the audience’s shadow self.

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Adorable & Deadly: 4 Reasons Why We Love Powerful Little Girls

From more recent shows like Stranger Things and the Logan film to cartoons like The Powerpuff Girls there is something hugely appealing about little girls having the power to destroy everyone and everything in their paths.  The question is, why?  What is it about these petite powerhouses that draws audiences across gender lines and generations?

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Magneto Could Be a Magnet God…Why Isn’t He?

Those are some pretty amazing powers…so why doesn’t Magento use them?  Why not control others, move at insane speeds, build a magnetic-goo army, or destroy modern society with a giant solar flare?  Using any of these additional powers would certainly make it easier for Max Eisenhardt (a.k.a. Erik Lehnsherr) to achieve his goals, but thus far he’s stuck mainly to moving metallic objects and levitation.  Is it out of the writers’ concern for the story (whether in a single storyline or the overall X-Men universe) or the character?  Do they hold Magneto back for reasons such as tension and excitement or to keep the beloved Magneto as complex a character as he ever was?

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Is ‘Westworld’ Hero, Maeve, Actually A Villain?

It would be easy to define Westworld’s wonderfully strong madame, Maeve Millay, as a hero, but could she actually be a villain? In his book, I Wear the Black Hat, Chuck Klosterman defines a villain as someone who “knows the most, but cares the least.” Makes sense. The hero often knows only a fraction of what the villain does and one already assumes the hero cares the most while the villain cares little, if at all.

As a story progresses the hero may learn more, but that usually only pushes him or her to care all the more. What if, by the end, the hero is the one that knows the most, but cares the least though? This appears to be what occurs with Maeve so, is she still a hero or has she now become a villain?

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