Jack Olsen once said that a true crime book that doesn't seek to answer the question of "what created this monster?" is "pure pornography." It's fitting, then, that his final book was I, The Creation of Serial Killer. There isn't a Jack Olsen book that isn't worth the time of any serious true crime fan. He was a true great and if anyone else had written this book I doubt I'd have read it. You see, I'm basically a wimp and the gore that is inherent in any serial killer story is more than I can take. While the gore factor on this book is low for a serial killer story, this is still one of the most profoundly disturbing books I've ever read. It is the first book that I have deleted from my Kindle - I literally didn't want it around.
Olsen gets into the mind of serial killer Keith Jesperson, literally channeling his voice. This was enlightening. Who knew that the mind of a serial killer was so boring? Vile, horrific, loathsome thoughts and fantasies - these I expected and got. The boring factor was a revelation. Step inside the mind of a serial killer and you're in for the endless self-justifications of a whiny loser. Everybody done him wrong. Whether Jesperson is more self-aware than the average serial killer or, in other words, is less of a whiny loser than most serial killers is a bit like asking if the concentration camp guard was nice. It's all relative, yes, but consider the scale.
There are moments of twisted Is-this-guy-for-real black humor, like when Jesperson refers to "special moments shared with my victims" that elicit a combination gasp-laugh-choke. The Serial Killers Pen Pal Club that Jesperson starts, on the other hand, may just be proof that sometimes illiteracy isn't such a bad thing. Then again, it's hard not to walk away from this book passionately pro death penalty even if you start it passionately on the other side of the debate. This crew is pretty much the filled with poster children for euthanasia with their mercenary insistence on being paid for every word and getting jealous when one of them gets more press.
This is a tough book to critique. Olsen so effectively channels Jesperson for half the book that I missed Olsen's familiar, sane voice. Judged on its own terms, probably the only fair ones, it succeeds in what it sets out to achieve. But would I recommend it? Well, if you think serial killers are fascinating or interesting, then step right up and get yourself disabused of those notions. Ditto if you think they can be rehabilitated - these guys just like killing. If you're wondering if press coverage encourages serial killers to up the ante, Jesperson is an example of someone who wants "credit" for his "kills." But, again, would I recommend it? This isn't an enjoyable book. I didn't enjoy Plato's Republic though I'm glad I read it. The best I can offer is that if you're deeply interested in serial killers, this book is essential reading. But be prepared for loss of appetite and nightmares.