Whoever Fights Monsters
By Robert K. Ressler and Tom Shachtman
• Published in 1992
• 256 pages
This book encompasses the 25 plus year career of Robert Ressler (Co-Author) as a criminal profiler who developed a knack for figuring out serial killers; to put it simply. Mr. Ressler became curious as a 9-year-old about crimes around his home town of Chicago; his father worked for the newspaper. He goes on to a lengthy career with the Military and the FBI; profiling and gathering information about what made serial killers tick. He and his colleges interviewed some of the scariest men you have ever heard about.
These men seemingly without much prompting told Ressler about their childhoods, their dark fantasies and their crimes. He and his colleges gathered this information and went through the process of analyzing it for details that made them helpful when Law Enforcement had trouble solving these types of crimes and in doing so they aided these agencies by helping them see what they might have been missing so that they could catch the criminal. Ressler was credited for coining the phrase “Serial Killer” along with becoming a professor at Quantico and extensively traveling the world teaching how to see into a serial killer’s mind.
When I started reading this book I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The first chapter totally sucked me in as I realized that what he describes as going on in the 1960’s, is going on now in 2017; a bit spooky actually. You may have often heard the phrase “History repeats itself” and this was evident to me in this chapter.
Ressler has made it clear that he did a lot of things and met and spoke with a lot of people and at times gets a bit high and mighty; but I urge you to try to look past some of this. He gives a lot of credit to other people that helped along the way. He gives what I am assuming is full disclosure of the crimes committed by some seriously disturbed people; so, proceed with caution.
One of the things that struck me about this book is “How did this line of work affect his family?” I have often talked with military wives that just learn to deal (or not) with their spouses being gone for extended periods of time, but to deal with that plus this gruesome stuff? Being a wife of someone who worked in a similar environment, it drove me nuts that he would not share his day or thoughts about his day with me; I get it but it also alienates your family. I also realize its for good reason which puts everyone in a tough spot and adds to the stress of it all.
On continuing to read this book I literally had to alternate this dark stuff with lighter stuff because I found myself getting pretty creeped out. At the end of the Acknowledgments there is this Quote:
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”
By Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra
I thought I understood what it was saying but when I finished it, the thought still hung around “How did this affect him?”. No wonder we are hearing more and more that our first responders are committing suicide or have succumbed to the pressure of being on the job; this environment really takes its toll on people.
The other thing that Ressler points out is teachers and school systems are not really capable or cannot adequately deal with children that come from seriously dysfunctional families. In Chapter 4 he discusses his work compiling the life histories of the serial killers, many of which are of average or above average intelligence. That means delving into the environment that they were brought up in, but he cautions that obviously not everyone that comes from a seriously dysfunctional family grows into a serial killer but it’s more about a combination of stressors, mental illness and environment.
“It is my sincere belief, however that the number and percentage of organized killers are growing. As our society grows more mobile, and as the availability of weapons of mass destruction increases, the ability of the antisocial personality to realize his rapacious and murderous fantasies grows apace.”
As I said in the beginning this book zeroed in on a lot of what’s going on now in 2017 almost prophetic:
“By the 1980’s, some 25 percent of murders were “stranger murders,” in which the killer did not really know the victim. The reason for the steady rise in the statistics, sociologists believed, could be found in the sort of society we had become: mobile, in many ways impersonal, flooded with images of violence and of heightened sexuality.”
It has always amazed me just how creative criminal get to scam people. Like the gas pump and ATM skimmers; that takes some real intelligence to figure out. To me, if these people put half their efforts into doing things the “right” way they could be very successful and become honest hardworking citizens in our society.
So, let me tell you why I wanted to read this book. I have always been interested in how criminal analysis worked and I don’t mean all this gruesome stuff. So, I am at a point in my life that if I am curious about something I am going to learn about it. Of course, Education is the key and I don’t necessarily mean getting a degree; but rather educating yourself so that you can form your own opinions about a subject or an event.