American Serial Killers: The Epidemic Years 1950-2000 by Peter Vronsky
Publishing: February 9, 2021 by Berkley Publishing
Reason(s) I Chose to Read this Book: True crime has always been a fascinating topic for me, and I am familiar with most of the killers who were active during this time frame.
Just a Note: If you are at all squeamish, this book is not for you. Vronsky is quite graphic.
American Serial Killers: The Epidemic Years 1950-2000 by Peter Vronsky is a true-crime book.
First, let me thank NetGalley, the publisher Berkley Publishing Group, and of course the author, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
My Synopsis and Opinions:
Well, a book whose Prologue is the arrest of Jeffrey Dahmer grabs your attention fast.
The Introduction talks about the “Golden Age of Serial Murderers”, where these serial killers between 1950 and 2000 actually became “celebrities”. The book focuses on male sexual serial killers during this period, hoping to account for the unprecedented surge during that time, as well as the reason for the recent decline in these murderers.
Vronsky then goes on to discuss early serial killers from the 1800’s to 1950, world-wide, most of whom I had never heard of, and there were many of them, although Albert Fish is rather well-known, and a few others ring bells. I sometimes got bogged down by dates, and the first segments were about killers prior to 1950….which was not why I wanted to read the book.
Vronsky does, however, finally get to the years I was interested in, and there is definitely a lot of information on the serial killers from 1950-2000. It’s just that you have to wade through all of it if you are just interested in one killer.
The information the author provides is very disjointed. For example, there is not a separate chapter on Ed Gein, or Dennis Rader (the BTK killer), or Arthur Shawcross (The Genesee River Killer). Instead Vronsky related the information by years (usually decades), so that we learned about their parents, their childhoods, their formative years. We learned what was happening with all of them during that time. Then it went on to the next decade, and we learn what was happening with those same killers during this time frame. For example, Edmund Kemper’s story starts in chapter 3 (although he is mentioned earlier in the book), continues in Chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7, but there is much information on other killers in between, that it is hard to keep track of Kemper.
So, basically, you can’t look up a particular killer and expect all the information on him to be in one chapter. His information will be grouped together with others, over many chapters.
However, a number of the biggies are here. These included Ed Gein (who preferred the skin of his victims, which he made into belts, and vests), Dennis Rader (the BTK killer), Arthur Shawcross (The Genesee River Killer), Edmund Kemper, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, as well as some lesser knowns. Some have quite extensive information, others very little.
So, overall, this book is an in-depth look at serial killers. It delves into the “hows and the whys” of the killers, as well as to the “hows and whys” they were caught. It looks at military records, psychiatric notes, FBI Profiling and interviews. It has a lot of information. Bottom line, it was good, but I just didn’t like the way it was presented.
Read: January, 2021
Favorite Quotes from American Serial Killers: The Epidemic Years 1950-2000 :
“Current Definition of Serial Killer: “… which defined serial murder as “the unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s) in separate events” for any reason, including “anger, thrill, financial gain, and attention seeking.””
About The Author: PETER VRONSKY (1956 – ) is a Canadian author, filmmaker, artist and historian. He holds a PhD in criminal justice history and espionage in international relations from the University of Toronto, and has written a series of different serial killer books. He lives in both Toronto and Venice Italy. Check out his website: https://www.petervronsky.org/cv/
I have also reviewed this book on GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3516564588
Have you read it? Do you plan to? Tell me your thoughts…do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Either way, I’d love to know.