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Ratings and reviews for Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI

Ratings and reviews for Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI
based on 62 rating(s)
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Price: $8.99 $8.84 (2% off)
Trade In Value: $0.35
Author(s): Tom Shachtman, Robert K. Ressler, Thomas Schachtman
Release Date: 3/15/1993
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
Number of Pages: 304
Studio: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Manufacturer: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Dewey Decimal Number: 364
Product Group: Book
Edition: St. Martin's Paperbacks Edition
Sales Rank: 13377


Face-to-face with some of America's most terrifying killers, FBI veteran Robert K. Ressler learned how to identify the unknown monsters who walk among us -- and put them behind bars. In Whoever Fights Monsters, Ressler―the inspiration for the character Agent Bill Tench in David Fincher's hit TV show Mindhunter―shows how he was able to track down some of the country's most brutal murderers.

Ressler, the FBI Agent and ex-Army CID colonel who advised Thomas Harris on The Silence of the Lambs, used the evidence at a crime scene to put together a psychological profile of the killers. From the victims they choose to the way they kill to the often grotesque souvenirs they take with them―Ressler unlocks the identities of these vicious killers. And with his discovery that serial killers share certain violent behaviors, Ressler goes behind prison walls to hear bizarre first-hand stories from countless convicted murderers, including Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy; Edmund Kemper; and Son of Sam. Getting inside the mind of a killer to understand how and why he kills is one of the FBI's most effective ways of helping police bring in killers who are still at large.

Join Ressler as he takes you on the hunt for the world's most dangerous psychopaths in this terrifying journey you will not forget.

ISBN: 0312950446

Reviews 1 to 10 of 62
Pageof 7
amazon logo Ashamed of our serial killers? Ressler reminds us
For those of you who are not big fans of serial killers and the people who catch them (or at least won't admit it publicly), Bob Ressler is the guy who invented the term "Serial Killer" and helped usher in a new understanding of repeat criminals and why they do what they do. The citizens of the U.S. owe a lot to Bob. So does Thomas Harris, who interviewed him extensively for Manhunter and Silence of the Lambs.

Alas, truth is stranger than fiction, and the tales Ressler tells are positively awful. There' just one problem: we've heard all of this before.

Where? That'd be "Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit," by John E. Douglas, a man I can only assume was Ressler's protégé. It's a bit murky as to their relationship (the two reference each other, but not often). The parallels are unmistakable-it's interesting to read the opinions of two different people interviewing the same serial killer.

For example, Douglas has a bit of a creepy admiration for Ed Kemper. Kemper had a diabolical mind that he put to good use, such that eventually he figured out why he was killing women: because he hated his mother. So Kemper did what every good serial killer would do in such a situation...he killed her too. His murders "finished," Kemper called the police and gave himself up.

That little story is from Douglas' point of view. It almost makes Kemper out to be a sympathetic figure. A six-foot tall, 300 pound sympathetic figure, but sympathetic nonetheless.

Ressler is not so kind. Ressler interviews Kemper alone at one point. Having finished the interview, Ressler rings for the guard...but nobody comes. Sensing his discomfort, Kemper explains how he could probably screw Ressler's head off with his bare hands and nobody would be able to do anything about it. Kemper goes on to explain how he has nothing to lose and how, by killing an FBI agent, he'd get quite a bit of "prison cred." Fortunately, Ressler keeps a cool head (and keeps his head) by playing the little mind game right back at the massive serial killer until the guards escort him out.

"You know I was only kidding, right?" says Kemper, putting a hand on Ressler's shoulder.

Whoever Fights Monsters is a lot like that. It simultaneously takes on tough subjects, summarizes them from a clinical perspective, and then reminds you-sometimes quite sternly-that these people are murderers. Where Douglas tends to talk about himself and the heavy toll that dealing with serial killers took on his own personal psyche, Ressler is much more detached and observant. Douglas advocates the death penalty, Ressler does not. Douglas embraces the glory and publicity of being a trailblazer in his field, Ressler worries about the depersonalization of the victims and the celebrity-status of the killers themselves. Who's right?

There are no right answers here. Of the two books, Douglas' is more entertaining because he chooses to be more dramatic. The two books track each other very closely, such that if you've read one, you probably don't need to read the other one. Unlike Douglas' book, Ressler admits when he makes mistakes. He also goes into more detail as to the method and process of profiling, which is why I originally bought both books. But it's simply not as exciting a read.

Nevertheless, Ressler's tale is an important one: serial killers are mistakes. They're the results of terrible human failings and something to be ashamed off, not celebrated. In that respect, Ressler's story is a more socially responsible (if not as thrilling) examination of the worst humanity has to offer.
61 of 63 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo "...for whose cause this evil is upon us"
Robert K. Ressler left the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit twelve years ago to venture into private practice as a criminologist. He retired with thirty years of investigative experience (ten with the U.S. Army's CID and twenty with the FBI, many of them as director of the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP)). This book is one of his many attempts to speak from the belly of the monster that has devoured him...in fact the book that follows this one is actually called "I Have Lived in the Monster."

"Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice." (Jonah 2:2)

So what does our modern-day prophet, Robert K. Ressler cry out of the belly of the beast?

Credit for coining the phrase "serial killer" is commonly (and mistakenly) given to Ressler, one of the founding members of the FBI's elite Behavioral Science Unit. Along with his colleague John Douglas, Ressler also served as a model for the character 'Jack Crawford' in Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter trilogy.

"Whoever Fights Monsters" is subtitled "My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI" and if you read true crime books, you will recognize many of the monsters that Ressler describes and interviews. A miscellaneous look at the photo captions will give you an idea of whose minds he attempted to probe:

* "One of two blenders used by the Sacramento 'Vampire Killer'... to prepare human blood and organs for ingesting to 'stop his blood from turning to powder'"

* "Tattoos on the arm of Richard Speck, which led to his arrest in the murders of eight women in Chicago in 1966"

* "Photograph taken of the leg of a Brudos victim. This captures the essence of his bizarre fetish fantasies--women's feet in high-heeled shoes"

A well-known review service complains that "as deeply as Ressler gets into killers' heads...he refused to reveal much of his own here, offering no explanation ... for why he's devoted his life to a calling so dire and soul-wearing..."

Actually, I believe Ressler reveals quite a bit of himself in his books. I read him as a man who is easy to admire, but hard to like. I'm sure some of the other law enforcement officers who had to work with him found his techniques and pronouncements a bit grating. They might have also gotten the notion that he was hogging the limelight. Ressler does not keep quiet about crime scenes where he thinks the cops screwed up, and uses the 'fiasco' of Henry Lucas's murder confessions as an example of bad police work. Two reporters working for the "Dallas Times" finally did the spadework on Lucas's stories and determined that he couldn't possibly have killed the hundreds of the victims he claimed to have done in. Sometimes he wasn't even physically in the state, e.g. Florida, when the victim was murdered. By the time the dust had settled, and Ressler interviewed Lucas, the con admitted that he had killed "fewer than ten, perhaps five."

One of the services that I wouldn't trust anyone but Ressler (and maybe a few others) to perform is to interview serial killers and determine the 'how' and 'why' of what they did. Ressler describes a few cases where his testimony tipped the balance as to whether a former killer who has served his time, should be paroled. It seems as though the psychopathic personality is good at fooling parole boards and psychologists by the depth of his remorse, and by his long stretch of sterling behavior in prison (during his first incarceration, John Wayne Gacy started up a prison branch of the JayCees)---but the psychopath doesn't fool Ressler at all. He's gotten into the hearts and minds of too many of them.

One of the definitions of 'prophet' is "a person gifted with profound moral insight and exceptional powers of expression...a predictor; a soothsayer."

We may not want to listen to this prickly prophet Ressler, who speaks of demons in our midst, and who predicts their behavior if they are sent back out into society. But for the sake of our loved ones and friends, we really should listen.

27 of 27 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo whoever fight monsters
5 of 25 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo I save almost every book, this one I threw away.
We all like hearing scary stories about monsters. This book provides a few of them. Because of its pulp horror novel quality it has some redeaming value. The negatives make it not only a bad read, but make me wish that I had not read it. 1) The author spends a lot of time tooting his own horn. This is fine, but you grow weary of it after a few chapters. It wouldn't be so annoying but because of the way he writes comes off as if he is trying too hard to make it sound like NOT bragging. Because of this I grew very aware of it, like when your tounge won't stop worrying at a new tooth-filling. 2) It grows very predictable. We get it! Serial killers are psychos who fit into patterns and act out fantasies. It isn't a surprise anymore once we learned this early in the book. 3) Ressler brags about his profile helping to send 4-5 Chicago teenagers to prison for a a grusome murder/rape. A decade after this book went to press DNA evidence and discovery of the real killers proved that these kids had been railroaded--unequivocally innocent. Ooops! This incredibly gross injustice wouldn't seem so terrible if Ressler didn't come off as such a judgemental, I-told-you-so-ing, J. Edgar Hoover loving cop's cop.
16 of 22 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo For the True Student of Crime,Invaluble
This is the only book that a student of serial killers will ever need-the others are only case studies.Ressler gives the basic tools and terminology used to classify serial murderers and real life examples of the categories given.This book is a nice mix of an overview of the subject and an explanation of the science used to catch the killers.I found myself analyzing other killers using the same method Ressler teaches.Sadly,it is now hard for me to read books about serial murderers as I usually have them categorized within a chapter or two.This book avoids the sensationalism inherent to the subject,and is by far the best one of its kind that I have found.
20 of 20 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Ego often accompanies greatness
Many people seem to be put-off by Ressler's "horn-tooting" in this book. Big deal! You're getting an insight into his psychology as well as those he hunts. Ego often accompanies greatness.

The read was fascinating. Ressler offers a dispassionate survey into the psychological make-up of serial killers and other disturbed individuals. Perhaps "dispassionate" is off the mark. He clearly has feelings and opinions, but offers them seperate from his analysis. Ressler doesn't like his subjects, nor approve of them, but he does understand them. His insights just make sense, as opposed to the odd ramblings of other authors on the subject.

Especially illuminating was his explanation of "Organized" and "Disorganized" killers. They have very different make-up and motivation. In addition, his side-by-side analysis of a couple dozen serial killers exposed patterns unavailable in a book solely about one killer, the majority of true crime books.

The resistance to the creation of a Behavioral Sciences Unit was unsurprising, given that the increased incidence of serial killers is a recent phenomena, growing since World War II.

I normally avoid True Crime books, but this one caught my eye, and kept my interest.
17 of 19 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Highly Recommended
Very informative, well written book. So much better than Douglas's Mindhunter. This book sticks to the subject matter unlike Douglas who is too busy patting himself on the back. Not only does Ressler give us a look into the minds of serial killers but he also takes us through the history of serial murder and the development of profiling and VICAP as well as taking us through the progression of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit. This is a very educational and worthwhile read.
15 of 18 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Doesn't measure up
After having read Mindhunter my interest was whetted on the topic of serial murder and what compels one to commit acts that are so heinous. Whoever Fights Monsters was a severe letdown. It didn't even scratch the surface of what was hoping to get out of reading it. This book was reminiscent of a two bit detective novel that was hastily put together. The substance of the book meanders from crime to crime. Very broad, but absolutely no depth. Very few specifics pertaining to the perpetrators themselves are discussed. Rather, Ressler seems content to mention a few specifics about the crimes just enough to quantify how revolting the acts committed by these monsters are. To sum up, I expected far more from this book than what was delivered. Ressler should have spent more time honing his writing skills while at Michigan State University. This book wouldn't be worthy of a 2.0!
8 of 15 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Monsters Among Us
I read this book after reading Douglas' Mindhunter therefore I had great expectations for this book. WFM is a good book but one problem I had with it is that Ressler seemed too rushed to cover as many cases as possible. This book isn't even 300 pages and for subject matter like this it should have been over 400.

I take it that Ressler and Douglas aren't exactly golf or fishing buddies. I was annoyed that Ressler had to keep pointing out that he was there first. Ressler made comments like "having to break Douglas in" and he (Douglas) accompanied Ressler to an assignment "as backup". Who cares. It seems to me that Ressler was a cornerstone of the FBI's criminal profiling unit but then Douglas came in and took things over. Maybe some envy on Ressler's part, who knows!?!

There is cases in WFM that are not in Mindhunter but I found for the most part that MindHunter stole WFM's thunder. In conclusion, WFM is a good book. I would recommend it to people who can't find a copy of Mindhunter and to people who want a quick read on a fascinating subject. Not bad but could have been much better. I'll try one of Ressler's other books now.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Don't waste your time
This was one of the few books I couldn't even finish reading. All Mr Ressler does throughout his book is pat himself on the back. Everything that helped to solve a crime was 100% his idea, and everything that went wrong he gladly names the guilty party. He even adds irrelevant facts which have nothing to do with the storyline just to brag about something he wants credit for. This book is just one big ego trip for him.
6 of 12 people found this review helpful.

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