(Review) Why They Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist by Richard Rhodes

Publisher and Publication Date: Alfred A. Knopf. 1999.
Genre: Nonfiction. Criminology.
Pages: 384.
Source: Library.
Rating: Good.
Audience: Readers of crime fiction and criminology.

Richard Rhodes has written a book about the research of criminologist, Dr. Lonnie Athens.
Dr. Athens interviewed mass murderers in California and Iowa. He didn’t ask them the reasons for committing the crimes or other similar questions. Instead, he wanted a “pure stream of consciousness.” Page 59.
He is a maverick in his field because he believes criminals are responsible for their act of crime. Whereas, there are many in his field who believe a mental illness or something else is to blame.

In Why They Kill, I learned several things of interest:
•The term “violent actors.” This is definitely not a description I’d give a mass murderer. I don’t consider what they’ve done to be acting. It is on the other hand a performance (of sorts) of violence and the taking of a life. My problem with the words “actors” and “performance” is these words create a mental picture of something that is not real, but is instead a playacting. Murder is not playacting.
•How criminals see themselves. How they perceive what someone has done to them, and how they decide to take action against the person. This also includes a reminder that many of us think horrid thoughts but we don’t not carry out the ugly thought. A small percentage of people carry out what they think. Included in this topic is the types of self- images.
•People who coach another person to commit crimes. And, the term novice. A novice is the person being taught.
•In part two of the book several people are examined. For example, Cheryl Crane. She is the only child of actress Lana Turner. Cheryl killed Johnny Stompanato in 1958. It was judged justifiable manslaughter.
•The later part of the book examines violence in history, military, and Christian discipline.

One of the points I disagree on is how schools can help with preventing violence. On one hand I agree with this reasoning. However, in working in the school system I also disagree. An example of frustration on the part of a teacher is parents who do not want their child to be tested to see if the student has a learning disability. As a result, the student falls further and further behind, often leading to repeating a grade. A teacher can teach a student to not be violent with another classmate, but if the parent at home encourages the violence then what the teacher says means nothing.




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