How do we explain the lurid fascination that most people experience when confronted by real or simulated acts of violence, murder, horror, and crime? This is the subject examined in this candid assessment of our dark vicarious thrills. Based on a series of interviews with perpetrators, victims, and “consumers” of violence, including several celebrities, the author of a best-selling book on serial killers explores what there is about this subject that draws such a wide audience.
Unlike many other books that attempt to probe the murky psyches of deviant individuals, this book focuses on normal, average people who, despite themselves, enjoy getting close to the most forbidden, perverse side of destruction and evil. The persons interviewed range from homicide detectives and emergency room personnel to a heavyweight boxer and groupies of serial killers on death row. The author considers ideas from a variety of theories and research to explain our responses to violence, raises questions about the shifting line between normal and abnormal, evaluates the confusion and ambivalence that many people feel when witnessing others’ suffering, and suggests future trends in society’s attitudes toward violence.