The Gates of Janus, by Ho-Hum Serial-Killer Ian Brady
Every hero eventually becomes a bore. I'm not sure what happens to villains. Some of them write books.
Ian Brady is certainly a villain, and he has written a book that is bound to cause quite a stir: The Gates Of Janus (Feral House, 306 pages, $24.95). This exceptionally creepy little tome is subtitled "Serial Killing and its Analysis By the 'Moors Murderer,' Ian Brady," and it's a definite must-have item for the legions of true crime buffs so enamored of the serial-killer phenomenon.
Brady was a clerk with a string of petty crimes on his record and a bad booze habit when he met Myra Hindley, a typist, in 1961. They were just a couple of working-class English drabs with no redeemable qualities. She was a timid little cow and he was a braggart and a bully. They made a failed attempt to break into the s&m porn business and an equally ineffectual stab at petty larceny before hitting their stride as child murderers, a practice that brought them the notoriety they felt they deserved upon their arrest in 1965.
Back when I had a real interest in this sort of thing, the "Moors Murderers" (as the pair came to be called) held no fascination for me at all. I was interested in the flamboyant and the elusive: Jack the Ripper, the Texarkana Moonlight Murderer, the incomparable Zodiac Killer of San Francisco. These were interesting criminals. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were as mediocre and unimaginative in their crimes as they were in all the other aspects of their insignificant little lives. There's no challenge in killing children, and if the purpose is merely to inflict emotional pain and terror on society at large, there are vastly better ways to accomplish that, as we have seen.
This book of Brady's consists of two parts: the first is a seven-chapter manifesto of sorts, in which he rambles on about the serial-killer phenomenon and how it relates to society in general, his take on the human condition, and his own lofty and exalted status in the general scheme of things. The second consists of Brady's analysis of 11 cases of serial murder, including two unsolveds.
The first part contains no surprises. Brady's view of humanity is entirely bleak. He views the species as a race of "liars, lunatics, and journalists," and repeatedly belabors the obvious point that psychopaths occupy positions of power in respectable social circles as if it were some great revelation he'd just uncovered. Here's a good quote: "The most salient traits of the psychopath are coldness, calculation, manipulation, lack of sensitivity, natural deviousness, facile mendacity, amorality presented as moral flexibility, pathological anger and envy rationalised as altruism or logic, all-encompassing greed, assumption of personal superiority over all others, a dictatorial and bullying attitude relying on power and authority rather than intelligence, suspicion and lack of trust to a paranoid degree, inexorable ruthlessness, an egocentric conviction that they are always right, sexual promiscuousness, complete lack of remorse.
"These traits and characteristics are most likely to surface unwittingly when the psychopath is contradicted, frustrated, or blocked.
"Does any combination of these salient features of the psychopathic personality remind you of someone in your household, a relative or friend, a person at your place of work, a politician, a bureaucrat, some minor official, a judge, a teacher, an author or journalist, a member of the armed forces or the police, some person with practically everything they could possibly need but who always wants more? Or even yourself?"
Clearly, the "Mail" column of this newspaper is completely dominated by psychopaths.
Brady's rantings in this first portion of the book merely retrace the ground covered by Charles Manson decades ago, except that Brady's without Charlie's wit and brevity, not to mention his lack of pretense. Brady's prose reads as if he's been spending too much time reading psychiatric literature; it's full of run-on sentences and lofty citations. He's a shrink wannabe, is what he is, which is almost as perverse as being a child-killer.
The second half of the book is marginally more interesting. Brady offers us his analysis of 11 cases, taken individually: Henry Lee Lucas, John Wayne Gacy, Graham Young, Dean Corll, Peter Sutcliffe, Ricky Ramirez, the "Mad Butcher" of Cleveland, Ted Bundy, the Green River Killer, Carl Panzram and the Hillside Stranglers. The "Mad Butcher" case and the Green River case are particularly interesting, as they are both unsolved. Brady has some original ideas regarding them and actually manages to be fairly concise in his analysis. He is particularly insightful in his examination of the Green River Killer. If the police had taken his approach at the outset, the case might not be unsolved.
His take on Bundy offers nothing new at all. The best work on Ted Bundy was Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth's magnificent 1983 work, The Only Living Witness (Simon & Schuster). Bundy was an interesting character, and it's disappointing that Brady has no original insights to offer on his case. Carl Panzram's own confessions to Henry Lesser lay bare the agony of Panzram's murderous passion, and there are no mysteries there. Brady seems to include him only as an object of worship, and his "analysis" of the case is more like a hymn to the sheer relentless brutality of the man and his iron will than any kind of attempt to uncover occulted aspects of the case.
In Panzram's case, nothing was hidden, so what's the point of "analyzing" him? What you saw was what you got, usually right upside the head with a crowbar.
All in all, a mediocre work from a mediocre man. Brady is probably of above average intelligence, but he's a lazy thinker, as is evidenced by his crimes and the fact that he got caught. The introduction by Colin Wilson is typically self-serving and not particularly inspired, and the afterword by Peter Sotos is merely appalling. This book is a necessary addition to any collection related to the phenomenon of serial murder, but don't expect any great insights or original thinking from the likes of Ian Brady.
Sign up to get our newsletter emailed to you every week!
- Enter your email address in the box below.
- Select the newsletters you would like to subscribe to.
- Click the 'SUBSCRIBE' button.
A love-hate relationship with height
A love-hate relationship with height
Ground Zero then and now