Forensic psychologists are in the business of studying, among many other factors, the childhoods of our most notorious criminals. How does someone’s past predict or play a role in the horrible pain they inflict upon others later in life? Volumes have been written on what Stalin and Hitler were like as kids, and the parallels between the two men are eerie and striking. Closer to home, any review of FBI interviews with serial killers will reveal lengthy discussions about parents, school friends, and formative events.
There also is a lot to be learned from the perspective of a person who knows the criminal in a different light. One such individual has just published a graphic novel to share with the world the Jeffrey Dahmer who was his high school friend.
Cartoonist John Backderf attended Revere High School in Ohio with Dahmer, noting that his group of “band nerd” friends adopted Dahmer and welcomed them into their fold. He remembers the eventual serial killer as a young man who was tortured by the voices in his head, who engaged in odd outbursts in the school halls, who drank alcohol to numb his internal suffering, but who also was funny and smart.
Backderf shares that he is releasing his novel, My Friend Dahmer, this week not to make the murderer into a sympathetic character, but instead to shed some new light on a person who both fascinates and repulses us. As he said during a recent interview with CNN, “It’s a tale of emerging evil, told by someone who was standing just a few feet away.”
Is My Friend Dahmer by John Backderf a book that you will be adding to your must-read list? I’ll admit, as someone who studies the psychology of criminals and writes from that mindset for a living, the concept is compelling.
What are your thoughts?
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