Book Title: The Gates of Janus: Serial Killing and its Anaylsis
Author: Ian Brady, with forewords by Colin Wilson and Dr. Alan Keightley, afterword by Peter Sotos
Why I Consider This Book Odd: It was written by Ian Brady, who, along with his girlfriend Myra Hindley, kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered children in England from 1963-1965.
Type of Work: Philosophical treatise, armchair psychology
Availability: This book is still in print, published by Feral House in 2001.
Comments: Had this book been a person and it approached me outside of the supermarket, I would have crossed the street. This book is the crazy man who thinks he is sane and intelligent, raving on the traffic islands about whatever topic is in his head. It is hard to pay such people much attention and therefore, it was difficult to care about large chunks of this book.
Peter Sotos is the only person in this book who did not come off like a rube or a complete lunatic. If you are at all familiar with Sotos’s body of work, consider my statement and what it really means. He is the only one who seemed to understand that in addition to being a violent sexual predator, Ian Brady is also a master manipulator whose word on any topic should likely be taken with a grain of salt, if not completely disregarded.
I wanted to read this book because, in my typical fashion of wanting a book based on just small snippets of information, I thought in some sense that this book would be an explanation of what it was that made Ian Brady become a killer, of what it was about his personality that could have mesmerized Myra Hindley, an otherwise unremarkable woman, into a folie a deux murder streak that set the serial killing stage for similar fiends like Fred and Rosemary West and Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo. I had long heard that this book was illuminating, a rare look into the mind of a serial killer, and while it is, it also isn’t.
All I learned reading this book is that I still have a sound psychopathometer (though Brady fancies himself a psychotic rather than a psychopath because the former are interesting to him) and that the only real insight anyone would ever have into Ian Brady’s mind is that he is a liar and a manipulator. He certainly conned Colin Wilson, who seems to think that the information that Brady provides about himself and fellow psychopathic killers, somehow gives Brady cosmic brownie points.
Wilson, with a level of naivety that he should not possess given his age and the range of his career, says:
In a letter of a few days ago, he wrote to me bitterly, “My life is over so I can afford honesty of expression; those with a future cannot. If I had my time over again, I’d get a government job and live off the state… a pillar of society. As it is I am eager to die. I chose the wrong path and am finished.”
As this book shows, that, at all events, is untrue.
If you feel that sort of rush of saliva that makes you think you may puke, be aware you will feel it again and again as you read this book. Part One consists of seven interminable chapters wherein Brady discusses psychopathy, psychotics, and a really inappropriate interpretation of what boils down to Nietzchean superman theories as they apply to killers. But in doing this, he uses dense, at times overly intellectual yet specious language to give himself some sort of authority on his topic. He creates what he thinks are trenchant observations about the way the media and society handle crimes like the Moor Murders, hilariously implying that we, the law-abiding people of the world, are really to blame for being interested and appalled when such crimes occur. At no time does Brady truly apply all his analysis to himself, but doesn’t hesitate to share the love in Part Two, where he analyzes the true natures of other serial killers. Worse, what little that Brady gives away about himself is contradictory, often without, in my opinion, the man even understanding he has done so.
Before I explain why this book was a sickening, masturbatory excursion into manipulative madness, let me share the sobering, sane words of Peter Sotos. His epilogue should have been a preface, because it could have saved many a reader from entering into this exercise of the damned thinking they would, in fact, be reading honest words.
Here’s a large chunk of what Sotos had to say, and in saying it, he revealed the only truth of the book:
First off, you don’t ask a child molester to write a book on serial killing. A child rapist. A child pornographer. A child murderer.
Colin Wilson, from his introduction:
“Therefore I advised him to do the thing I would have done: to think about writing a book. Since he obviously knew about serial murder ‘from the inside’, thus this suggested itself as the obvious subject.”
You don’t ask him to do the obvious. You especially don’t ask him to do what you would do.
Because the child rapist and murderer and pornographer will obviously lie. And, because he wants to believe you need to hear more, he’ll even start to enjoy telling you he’s lying. Because it’s the easiest thing to do. It is the obvious choice. He can adopt the dime-a-dozen serial killer front of puffed up superiority, all from his tiny cell and serve the typical cold dish of chest beating mental clarity over mental introspection…
Sotos is right, and the reader should know it before they even try to read this miasma of philosophical nothings. If you want to know the impulse of true deviance, read Sotos or de Sade. If you want to read the words of a man who has plenty of clarity but absolutely no desire to apply it to his own motivations, who is, in fact, probably lying to you, read The Gates of Janus.
Rest of my analysis under the cut.
It would be a lie on my part if I said that I didn’t hate this book. Reading Brady’s tortured prose was difficult. Take, for example the following sentence:
On the other hand, it is mostly to the quiescent company of the atheist, the sceptic, the cynic, the nihilist, the existentialist, those self-absorbed who are content to propose and preach nothing, that we may sometimes escape the excessive demands of synthetic morality, and the jarring irritations of theological presumption.
Or, as those of us who have nothing to hide would say, association with outsiders provides relief in a repressive, priggish world. This sentence is more or less how this entire book reads. Pomposity without saying much.
What one, after a careful translation of this book, can take from Part one is the following:
- Brady hates those of us who do not see how it is that he is a mentally and emotionally superior man because he gave into urges to do grave harm, urges that he claims we all as humans have.
- Brady thinks the salacious media handling of sex and child murders both feeds those who want to commit such crimes and feeds those who wish they could man and up commit such crimes (and here, he may have some points).
- Brady thinks that the man who lives for a lion as a day (raping and killing children is living as a lion for a day? Really?) rather than living as a lamb for a lifetime is a morally superior human being.
- Brady rails against the lack of humanity in the prison system, though one would think that a man who lived as a lion would understand brutality and not, in fact, hypocritically bitch about it when such brutality is applied to him (more on this when I get to Brady’s analysis of Carl Panzram).
- Brady has a complete lack of understanding of what institutionalized violence versus individual violence really entails, ascribing a sort of hypocrisy to the former.
- Brady thinks the reason he in in prison is because he did not channel his psychopathy in the correct way, that all politicians are psychopaths, as are captains of industry etc, and decries society as hypocrites from not seeing things in a similar manner.
Again, this book is the crazy man who thinks he is sane, yelling at you as you try to carry your groceries to the car. There may be some surface sanity to the statements (why yes, many politicians are sociopaths or psychopaths) but the rest is just weird and a little scary. There may have been more to take away from Part One, but my god, it took me two weeks to read this book. It should have taken two days. I have not slogged through a book this slowly since I was forced to read Mrs. Dalloway in college.
Part Two is superficially more interesting, wherein Brady turns his supposed powers of serial killer insight onto other killers, but after reading his first analysis, that of Henry Lee Lucas, it was hard for me to take much of what Brady had to say with any notion that he knew what he was talking about. I know a lot about Henry Lee Lucas, as a Texan and as a woman who at one point in her life knew almost every fact there was to know about American serial killers up until about 2000. Brady gets too many facts wrong for his psychological profile to mean anything.
For example, Brady says about Lucas:
An abused Charlie Chaplin, Lucas’ alcoholic father, abused him sadistically for years, unwittingly fashioning him into his mother’s nemesis.
An abused child usually does not focus hatred upon the parent who abuses but upon the parent who stood by and did nothing to stop the abuser. The hatred towards the abuser is effectively regarded as nothing compared to the betrayal of love and trust by the second parent…
Lucas was twenty-three, his mother seventy, when he stabbed, strangled and raped her. Obviously, the viciousness of this act projected that the hatred for his mother would burgeon into a deep-seated distrust/hatred of the female species as a whole.
Well, all of this sounds well and good to a point (women are not a separate species from men), except for the fact that the facts about Lucas are quite wrong, therefore Lucas does not fit the bill of a killer who turns against the gender of the parent who was complicit but not active in their abuse (and I have a hard time thinking of such a killer, to be frank).
Lucas’s mother was the instigator of most of the abuse Lucas suffered. She was the one who beat him into a coma, causing him to almost lose an eye, which he later did lose in an unrelated incident. She was the one who, upon learning Lucas’s love for a family donkey, shot the donkey to death in front of Lucas. She was the one who was a prostitute, performing sex acts openly in front of her child. In fact, her aggressive abuse drove her husband to suicide. If Brady’s bizarre interpretation of serial killer motivations is to be believed, then Lucas should have killed his father.
It is easy to say that in prison, and later a mental wing of a prison, Brady may not have had access to the correct information. But Brady himself says that he was interested in Lucas because a noted author wanted his opinion on Lucas and sent him information about the case. Unless that information was really as bad as Brady presents it, it seems as if Brady just twisted facts around to fit a pet psychological notion of his.
Only in two of the criminal profiles and analyses does one get the sense that Brady knows what he is talking about. Examining Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper who killed prostitutes, Brady’s look into the delusions that led Sutcliffe to murder (God told me to kill hookers) to his current position (I was caught because it was Satan talking to me the whole time) rings true. But also, aside from Graham Young, the poisoner with Nazi leanings, Sutcliffe was the only man he discussed with whom he spent any amount of time. One gets the impression when Brady truly understands his subject, he does not have to hide behind the verbiage of someone who wants to sound like he knows what he is talking about.
But it is, ironically, in one of his analyses of another killer that Brady utterly gives himself away. The American killer Carl Panzram is not a man many know much about today, but he was the textbook definition of a complete psychopath. He killed for pleasure. He killed for money. He killed for sex. He was a born killer. Panzram was in and out of prison all of his life, his jail tenure beginning with petty thefts.
Panzram was not an easy prisoner. He did not submit to rules, period. When he would disobey guards, they would lash out at him, often with punishments so bad that they almost killed him. Nothing could break Panzram though, not even treatment that 80 years later would be considered torture worse than anything that happened at Guantanamo. Panzram escaped from prison twice and was a near unstoppable crime machine during both escapes. When Panzram returned to prison in 1928, he swore he would kill the first man who gave him grief, and he did, the prison laundry foreman.
For this, Panzram received the death penalty and went to his death taunting the hangman. His final words were, “Hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could hang ten men while you’re fooling around!”
I am not trying to glorify Panzram when I say he was a complete badass. He was a violent psychopath with no moral compass aside from an almost childlike need to be loyal to those who were loyal to him. When a warden gave him leaves and he failed to return on time, he decided to stay out and escape rather than face the censure of the man who had believed in him. In almost all other respects, he was a nihilistic monster.
But Brady recognizes Panzram’s status as a badass, and in this recognition, one can see a longing in Brady’s prose, almost a desire that he could have been like Panzram. Using Brady’s own definitions, Panzram was a man who did live as a lion, but instead of living like a lion for a day, he lived as a lion his entire life. Going to prison did not reduce him to a lamb, with all sorts of rules inflicted on him, obeyed out of fear of punishment. Brady’s imprisonment has been much different, swaying to rules and behaving in bizarre, coy manners, like writing to a victim’s mother and telling her he knows where her son’s body is buried but that the authorities will not let him reveal this information.
Panzram, in his nihilistic rage, would never have resorted to such passive-aggressive methods of revenge. For him it was the gun, the knife or the fist, and while both approaches are reprehensible, one can see how much Brady idolizes Panzram because Panzram was not a passive-aggressive whiner. Panzram never bitched about the poor prison standards when he was being hanged by his arms until his shoulders dislocated. He swore revenge and got it. Panzram’s very life makes Brady’s pseudo-intellectual and moralistic railings against the modern treatment of prisoners seem weak, and Brady feels it acutely. His entire ideology of living as a lion for a day versus as a lamb for a lifetime was foiled by the prison system he is too weak to fight. Panzram walked what Brady talks.
Brady gives away his hero worship throughout the chapter on Panzram, but here are some examples:
Panzram is another prime example of multi-motivational, multi-attributional reprisal. When dealing with authorities of any description, individually petty-minded tyrants, you must never wait for anyone to accept responsibility, for it is against their cowardly nature to do so. You must without hesitation or pointless consultation, confer responsibility on the obvious culprits, and decide the price you will make them pay, one way or another.
In short, you must act as tyrannically as they do, but solely on your own authority.
Bear in mind, these are the words of a man who preyed on innocent children, who would routinely enter into the prison psych ward, and tried to starve himself to death as a form of suicide. He has made no one pay, simply exercising his will against the weak until caught. Not his hero Panzram, whose actions he makes a small attempt to disavow but his words praise regardless.
In Nietzsche’s Also Spake Zarathustra, the pivotal factor is, in my opinion, the Great Contempt, or more precisely, the Great Self-Contempt. Once a man has achieved, in a praise-worthy sense, contempt for himself, he simultaneously achieves contempt for all man-made laws and moralities and becomes truly free to do as he wills. Plunging into the very depths, he consequently rises above all.
Do you again feel that sort of nausea that presages sick? What is worse? Assigning such a philosophical identity to a psychopath like Panzram, or the slavering, Igor-like “yes master” admiration of and longing to be such a man. As I read the chapter on Panzram, my sole thought was that Brady loved him or wanted to be him, all the while recognizing that there was a far better example of his own words than himself.
This book was trying, to say the least. I planned next to review Peter Sotos’s Selfish, Little, but I need to step away from anything to do with the Moors Murders for a bit. I don’t want to read about the torture and killing of little children for a long while. I think my next foray into odd books will be bizarro fiction, or maybe some loony new age. Because this sort of thing wears on your soul if you engage in it without a break.
But let me leave you with the primary reason why I hated this book and find great contempt in anyone who could find redemption in Ian Brady for writing it (yes, I mean you, Colin Wilson):
It is rather significant to note that those members of the lower classes who assiduously adhere to law and prevailing morality usually display a smug self-righteousness, which appears to be based on the patent delusion that their virtuous qualities are inborn, rather than evidence of a servile constitution predisposed to the influence of social engineering.
That’s right, dear reader. The only reason you have not kidnapped a little girl, recorded and filmed her torture and rape, killed her and dumped her body into a place where it might never be discovered is because you have a servile constitution and are overly influenced by social law, not because most human beings have a moral core that makes such actions despicable. This idea is is a running theme in this book and one of the reasons I found it so mentally tiresome. Your mileage may vary, but you have been warned.