Colin Wilson’s The History of Murder (nonfiction)
It has been said that man is the most violent creature on earth.
Read this book and you’ll be convinced this thought is true. Wilson writes a history of homicide, covering a couple thousand years—quite a literary achievement. And he does so in very thoughtful ways. I read this book because I am a writer of mystery fiction; murder, death, ghosts, humanity are all part of my stories and exploration. If you study murder or are curious about the psychology of violence (or like to read about the dark side of life) this is one to add to your list. At over 600 pages and two inches thick, this is like an encyclopedia, but Wilson makes it more personal and sometimes philosophical. He explores why man is a killer. Wilson begins with Ivan the Terrible, Nero, Vlad the Impaler and the spectacular sadist Tamerlane. Lots of details that were a bit disturbing for me, especially Countess Elizabeth Bathory who enjoyed soaking in bathtubs filled with the human blood of young murdered girls. Moving on to Murder Elizabethan Style with a poisoned crucifix, disembowelments, castrations, beheadings, Jack the Ripper, British murders, sex crimes and serial killers. A lot to handle. Best way to read this is in small bites. I like Wilson’s narrative style and will likely read some of his fiction titles. At the end, Wilson says “in spite of three thousand years of cruelty and slaughter, there is still hope for the human race.” Read this book and you’ll know why.
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