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.