I first read Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI when it was released in 1992. I was 15 and entranced by the book by FBI profiler Robert K. Ressler, who was the father of what is now known as “criminal profiling”. Ressler also coined the term “serial killer”. I have a clear and very happy memory of reading this book under the covers on a rainy Saturday morning with the sounds of my parents getting food ready for a dinner party that evening. It was an odd situation because here I was safe and comfortable while reading about the worst of human behaviour.
The book, co-authored by Tom Scachtman, details Ressler’s FBI career and his personal dealings with some of America’s serial killers including John Wayne Gacy, Edmund Kemper, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. Ressler was “profiling” as far back as the early 1970s – long before films like Silence of the Lambs and shows like Criminal Minds made the public aware of what The Behavioral Analysis Unit based at Quantico, Virginia was all about. In fact, Ressler is the inspiration for charachers like Clarice Starling (Silence of the Lambs) and Jason Gideon (Criminal Minds). Ressler was the program manager of the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP).
ViCAP maintains the largest investigative database of major violent crime cases in the United States.The web-based data centre was designed to collect and analyse information about homicides, sexual assaults, missing persons, and other violent crimes involving unidentified human remains. The database compares information in an attempt to identify similar cases and help move investigations forward.
For a true crime reader, Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI is a must. Each chapter details a different case and Ressler’s insights into the criminal mind make this a book you will find hard to put down.
Update: Robert K. Ressler died in 2013.