Murky depths of the criminal mind

Jul 2 2012
Murky depths of the criminal mind

Can we exactly determine what goes on in the mind of a person who commits outrageous crime? What makes him or her capable of performing an act or a series of acts that leaves the rest of us shocked, horrified or breathless with revulsion? Rochelle Jackson, Liam Houlihan, Liz Porter and P. D. Martin certainly took us right to the edge of comprehension, based on their books examining the motives and actions of characters as various as the psychopath, the professional killer, the thrill-a-minute armed robber, the infatuated lover and the revenge-seeker blinded by passion.
A brutal childhood was one common theme, the violent background making the person angry against the world. Then there is the “warrior gene”, where pure aggression is the only response to even the slightest of provocation. And of course, the much-discussed question of the impact caused by “nurture versus nature”. It was also pointed out that there is often a different mindset between that of the one-off perpetrator of a heinous act and the approach of the serious, professional criminal who sees it as a power trip and an enriching way of life. As do some people in politics and business.
How about the “barbecue declaration” when someone gets so heated over an event they vow to secure violent revenge? After all, is there not a major crime potentially lurking inside all of us? That “we all have one murder in us?” This concept, combined with the “inability to put the brakes on”, interested me as co-author of the novel “Lover, Husband, Father, Monster”. Told in two voices, it is about the dissolution of a marriage as the husband slowly descends to a point where he commits the incomprehensible.
The worrying thing for the rest of us innocently going about our daily lives is that while all this is going on, “we can’t pick a criminal mind”, occasionally making us quite vulnerable in situations when we don’t even realise it.
Some excellent work by the ‘chair’ for the night, Vikki Petraitis (pictured), herself an accomplished writer of true crime, ensured this session was well-paced, well-structured and overall, simply fascinating.