Narrator: R. C. Bray
Published by Blackstone Audio Inc on 06 April 2016
Length: 8 hrs and 16 mins
Genres: Non-Fiction, True Crime
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From "America's principal chronicler of its greatest psychopathic killers" (Boston Book Review) comes the definitive account of Ed Gein, a mild-mannered Wisconsin farmhand who stunned an unsuspecting nation - and redefined the meaning of the word psycho.
The year was 1957. The place was an ordinary farmhouse in America's heartland, filled with extraordinary evidence of unthinkable depravity. The man behind the massacre was a slight, unassuming Midwesterner with a strange smile - and an even stranger attachment to his domineering mother. After her death and a failed attempt to dig up his mother's body from the local cemetery, Gein turned to other grave robberies and, ultimately, multiple murders.
Driven to commit gruesome and bizarre acts beyond all imagination, Ed Gein remains one of the most deranged minds in the annals of American homicide. This is his story, recounted in fascinating and chilling detail by Harold Schechter, one of the most acclaimed true-crime storytellers of our time.
©1989 Harold Schechter (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Who doesn’t love a true crime story? This book recounts the life and crimes of Edward Gein, the man behind the murders that inspired the cult horror film ‘Psycho’.
It’s very well organised, firstly laying out the story of his parents and their relationship with each other. It then briefly covers the known portion of his childhood and adulthood, then on to the gruesome details of his crimes.
This is where the fiction of Psycho doesn’t come close to the horror of this true story. For whatever reason; mental illness, receptiveness to outside influences, evil – Eddie Gein dug up corpses and did unspeakable things to them (well, not literally unspeakable – this is an audiobook review, after all!) and kept little souvenirs in his home. His little spree comes to an end when he finally goes the extra step and kills a popular local woman in broad daylight.
The book then covers his court case, his incarceration and other interesting aspects, such as his psychological evaluations and the impact his crimes had on his small time and the course of their future long after he’d been locked away.
All this is very interesting but I did find it a bit sensationalist, adding a bit of artistic license when it came to his motives and some of his crimes, which feels unnecessary when the bare facts are morbidly fascinating in and of themselves.
What I also found interesting is that the psychological evaluations of the experts of the time are still considered to be gospel. Seeing as his crimes were committed in the 1940-50s, psychology has come forward in leaps and bounds since then – it might have been interesting to include a new professional take on his crimes and motivation.
R.C. Bray was a little dry for my taste and didn’t really do much to hold my attention, despite this book being in my wheelhouse. While there is a fine line to tread between dispassionately telling the facts and being too enthusiastic about the mutilation of dead women… I’m not sure the balance was really reached.
As true crime novels go, this wasn’t really my favourite – I’m sure there’s a way that this could have been presented to capture my imagination without giving me nightmares for the rest of my life.