Published June 1st 2017 by John Blake
Full title: Talking with Psychopaths and Savages: A journey into the evil mind
Author: Christopher Berry-Dee
Genre: Non-fiction, True Crime, Psychology
Star rating: ⭐️
“Welcome to ‘Christopher’s World’, with a gilt-edged invitation to take you on a journey for, dare I say that I am your ‘tour guide’ on a road trip into the deeply disturbing and darkest recesses, the abyss of the minds of psychopaths and savages, because now that you are reading this book, you are coming with me, like it or not!”
Criminologist Christopher Berry-Dee takes readers deep inside the dark minds of some of the most pitiless and dangerous people alive. Having spent years interviewing imprisoned criminals, including notorious serial killers, he discovered that the lack of remorse they showed was in many ways more terrifying than the crimes they had committed. Yet in the course of these conversations, the author also had the chance to interview his subjects’ psychiatrists and, in doing so, uncovered a terrible truth: a monster can be hidden behind a friendly face. Some of these experts, he found, proved to have more in common with their patients than he would ever have expected. This book examines horrific crimes committed by some of the most remorseless and merciless people ever to have lived. If it reveals a mindset wholly alien to most people, it also, shockingly, demonstrates that some of the people who treat these psychopaths have their own demons. Talking with Psychopaths will inevitably shift the reader’s view of psychopaths, and in doing so, reveals that horror can be much closer to us than we think. Subjects include JR Robinson, Kenneth Allen McDuff, Arthur Shawcross, Kenneth Bianchi, Michael Bruce Ross, Melanie McGuire, and more.
I didn’t like this book. By far the best thing about it is the cover, which is what attracted me to it in the first place. Then I saw it was about ‘psychopaths and savages’ and this made me want to read it. Looking back, I’d have done better to satisfy my interest in this area by watching a documentary.
I should have been able to sense how bad this book was going to be from the opening line, which is a ridiculous way to open a book of this kind (or at least the kind of book I thought it was). I found the author’s writing style distracting at first, but hoped this would wear off, or that it would alter. In fact, it got worse as the book went on.
He’s right about one thing, this is ‘Christopher’s World’ because he makes it all about himself. From the start he references the word count that the publishers have given him for this book. I don’t need to know this stuff, I’m well aware you’ve written a book and how long it is…I’m holding it in my hand! It’s as if he thinks he’s the first author ever to be given a word count and have to adhere to it. What makes this worse is that a good portion of this book could be cut because it’s meaningless and adds nothing to the book.
It also needs an edit, because there are some fundamental mistakes in here that shouldn’t exist. For one, at the top of the page, we have the title of the section we are currently on. This is typical of books, but on page 31 suddenly we have the title ‘A letter from Professor Annabel Leigh’ when actually we’re reading the chapter called ‘Psychopathy’. The letter section was right at the beginning, from pages 1-3, so how that was printed so far into the book I can only imagine.
The author puts himself too much into the writing. He refers to his previously published works, as though we are supposed to seek them out immediately and read them too. The writing style is hard to read, in fact, it’s just badly written. He overuses commas to the point where there are commas where it doesn’t even make sense to have one. Every so often, he includes an extract from his correspondence with serial killers in prison, and one of them, Keith Hunter Jesperson, had this to say:
“While I’m at it, please pay attention to your grammar. Inappropriate use of commas really annoys me.”
I’m unlikely to ever say this again but, I’m inclined to agree with the serial killer on that one. He also goes on to tell Christopher to get his facts right, asserting that he expects perfection from him. Again, when I pick up a book on this subject, I want it to at least read like it’s written by a reliable professional. This book reads more like the author is using the book as a platform to raise himself above such ‘savages’ and while he does so, promote himself.
By the way, I haven’t even scratched the surface. Phrases are repeated, facts are repeated, he puts in references to points he’s previously made, as if in the space of 5 pages we’ll have forgotten. It’s like he doesn’t think of or respect his readers. And another fatal mistake:
“After this savage monster was sent to prison for life in October 2979…”
Oh, so he can travel far into the future as well now? It’s instances like this that make me believe that nobody bothered to really edit this, or that the book was written in a rush (this becomes more evident the further you go on, and the ending is a complete confusion to me).
One of his favourite phrases to use describes how he believes psychopaths and savages “live in a world where elephants fly, lead balls bounce and fairies reign supreme”. Now, he didn’t come up with that phrase, but he takes great pride in repeating it over and over. I think this line undermines everything a book like this should stand for. Serial killers are a part of this world, people get murdered, people get raped and tortured and this is the reality. So why try to maintain that the people doing these horrific things are living in some fantasy world that doesn’t exist? As if murdering people should be as unlikely in this world as elephants flying?
Christopher almost makes a joke out of the fact these people exist, and there’s also an unhealthy focus on mental health which goes right through the entire book and at the end. It puts mental health in a negative light, and warns that if you know anyone who is an ‘overt narcissist’ then you should ‘avoid them like the plague for your life’. I don’t expect anyone to take this seriously, and I think we can all agree that Christopher Berry-Dee is a narcissist, so please avoid this book. It’s not worth it, and I’m glad I found this at a discount price.
Link to the book on Goodreads: Talking with Psychopaths and Savages