Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Research Book Review: Malicious Intent

Book: MALICIOUS INTENT: A Writer’s Guide to How Murderers, Robbers, Rapists and Other Criminals Think [link]
Author: Sean P. Mactire
ISBN: 0-89879-648-2
Number of pages: 240

I knew this book was going to be a challenge when I came across the word “dieing” instead of dying. “Hoodlems” was another word that caught my attention, and there were a few more amusing typos, which at the very least denounce a rather careless editor. Let’s first cover its contents before going on what I thought about it.

Table of contents:

  • Introduction – the face of evil
  • The history and hallmarks off violent crimes – a review of criminal history to eliminate misconceptions
  • Understanding human behaviour – some basic principles on how the human mind works
  • Profiling the criminal – developing a criminal portrait by evaluating behavioural characteristics
  • Crime fact, crime fiction – examining the relationships between crime and the entertainment of popular culture (Crime fact. Crime fiction)
  • Serial murder – The new source of gothic horror
  • Cult-related murder – exploring the crimes attributed to the spiritual and paranormal realms
  • Sexual predators – Dealing with the complex and sensitive issues of sex crimes
  • Child molesters and child murderers – Dispelling the myth that these offenders are “non-violent” criminals
  • Victims – portraying victims of violent crimes objectively
  • The career criminal – examining the different types of criminal vocations
  • Wise guys and hitmen – The multifaceted world of organized crime
  • Drug abuse – Understanding the most pervasive influence on criminal behaviour
  • Terrorists – The ultimate predator, the great white shark of criminals
  • Women who kill – profiling a recently increasing group of killers
  • Psychology in the Courtroom – Dealing with the relationship of mental health and crime

I was tempted of actually putting up the whole complete index because as I was typing this, I felt ‘uh? I read this?’ more than a couple of times, but it cluttered the blog entry and was unnecessary information. Let’s start by clarifying that this book was published in 1995 and the world has changed a lot since then. I was reminded of that when the author made a remark about oral sex being aberrant sexual behaviour. It is also that the book was written that long ago that gives some perspective. The author makes a few predictions about the evolution of the world as he knows – one related to terrorism, one related to paedophiles and computers that have not really been fulfilled. Although maybe nobody could predict the boom of paedophilia on the internet and 9/11 back in 1995, the tone in which the predictions are made hold the same security as other claims along the book, and makes one… doubt about the accuracy of many of his statements.

Then again, the book can be flagged for a few other blaring holes, or poor choice of examples. The author lists the common characteristics of a type of criminal and then chooses a real life example that completely disagrees with what he has just explained in several occasions. In more than one page he contradicts himself in just a paragraph or two! The author also abuses the name of historical serial killers without giving any explanation about them, somehow thinking that all of them have the same “celebrity-status” as Jack the Ripper and are cited just as casually without any background. He also seems to harbour a bit of animosity against Christianity and a dislike for homosexuality

Furthermore, while the theory of crime as social disease (medical ecology issues) might be supported by a number of psychiatrist as well as the author, he seems to both claim that the criminal is sick and at the same time that he is not. The criminal is unable to resist the criminal sickness but at the same time he or she is responsible for his or her actions. This viewpoint confuses me. The author seems to have a very set opinion though, even if he does not really transmit it.

It has greatly amused me how he is completely USA-centric. It is not an USA focus like I have found in other Howdunit before, it is an USA-Is-The-Centre-Of-The-World way that goes as far as to even claim the invention of Organized Crime. In that chapter in particular, I was close to yell “Godwin’s Law!! [link]” when he compared J. Edgar Hoover [link] to Hitler. Sometimes he extends the States’ view to the rest of the world without any qualm about it (Let me hear again about Europe having Satanism hysteria or not having any terrorism problem during the 90s).

The chapter on victims is an advocacy for the innocence of most victims with which I totally agree, but then the only thing the author offers is a retelling of the stages of grief. At times I was reminded of Criminal Minds cast [link] repeating facts for the clueless viewer, and I even think that CM was more informative (and remember that I am highly sceptical about the truthfulness of CBS shows XD).

All in all I don’t think this is a too well-written book, too many typos and unfriendly grammatical structures that at times make you misunderstand sentences. As a writer’s reference or guide… I don’t think it does too good of a job of that either, but it is an interesting read for a starting point to do some real research and consider getting an actual Criminology book (Eyeing this [link] at the moment and hoping the second-hand drops price when the new edition comes out).

All in all a fun read that might have some research application, but with lots of caution. Lots, lots of caution.

P.S. I pointed out two typos by someone lese, by the Laws of the Internet, this post should have at least six of them. I apologise for them. You can’t fight destiny XD

Webcomic attribution: xkcd [link]


10 responses to “Research Book Review: Malicious Intent

  1. Denise February 26, 2012 at 09:18

    I did not know Godwin’s Law so thanks for the link. You’re actually eyeing a uni book next??