Saturday, June 9, 2007

Five best: books on the criminal mind

Theodore Dalrymple is a former prison doctor. His most recent book is Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy.

He selected a list of "favorite books on the criminal mind" for Opinion Journal.

Number One:

On Murder by Thomas De Quincey

Everyone loves a good murder, so long as it happens at a distance. The English essayist and critic Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) was most likely the first person to express the thought in print. "On Murder" collects this and many other of De Quincey's observations about the subject. The book includes one of the most famous essays in the English language: "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts." It was inspired by the notorious John Williams, who claimed seven victims, from two families, in London's East End in 1811. As De Quincey puts it: "People begin to see that something more goes to the composition of a fine murder than two blockheads to kill and be killed.... Design, gentlemen, grouping, light and shade, poetry, sentiment, are now deemed indispensable." If there were not something in what he says, why would we all dote on murder mysteries?

Read Dalrymple's entire list.

--Marshal Zeringue