The Books

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2 Responses to The Books

  1. Michel says:

    Here’s a factual note on the basis of the second Drew Wilson book, “The Lonely Man”: there really is an FBI Highway Serial Killer Task Force. It’s run out of the Behavioral Analysis Unit down at Quantico. Turns out there are like dozens of dead folk turning up along our hiways and biways — most of them hookers, meth addicts or both. And you’ll never guess who it is does most of the serial killing…yup, truckers. Remember all those bad horror movies like “Maximum Overdrive,” “BrakeDown” and “Joy Ride” — well, not Maximum O, that was just an awful piece of shite. But IMDB the other two and you find truckers doing Really Bad Things.

    Anyway, here’s the link to the press release on the FBI website. See, I don’t make it all up, more’s the pitty.

  2. Michel says:

    You will run across this peculiar combination of letters when you begin a serious inquiry into the criminal mind. It stands for “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition, Text Revision.” It is published by the American Psychiatric Association (

    The DSM covers the gamut of psychological conditions, from eating disorders to eating people disorders. It catalogs mental illness and can aid the diagnostician in classification and treatment options for mental disorders. It contains diagnostic criteria and decision trees to aid in eliminating conditions and focusing in on underlying problems.

    There has always been a need to classify mental disorders in medicine but traditionally little agreement on what is and what is not a mental disorder. Physical ailments are much easier to classify: a broken tibia poking through your skin is clearly a compound fracture. Not so clear is where mental illness and behavior disorders belong – in, out or somewhere else. For example, until the ’70s homosexuality was regarded as a mental disorder and treatable through psychiatric methods. Yes, in 1972 some psychiatrists believed they could talk you straight.

    Few clinicians use DSM as an on-your-desk diagnostic aid but it has widespread acceptance as a standard textbook in the field. And though it is called a manual for mental disorder, this turn of phrase reflects an anachronistic view of the mind/body duality. As most of us know today, there is much “physical” in mental disorders and many “mental” aspects of physical disorders. Being sick or hurt (physical) can make you depressed (mental) while clinical depression (mental) can often be mediated through biochemical actors (physical) such as SSRIs and even fresh air and exercise.

    The temptation to the student and layman is to pick up DSM-IV and start diagnosing friends, classmates, professors and family. While no doubt a good many of us know friends and family who could benefit from psychiatric treatment, only an experienced clinician should undertake classification and diagnosis.

    I have used the DSM-IV-TR as a reference book in some of my writing, especially when I need some reliably accurate psychological jargon for a character to spout. I also use the “Crime Classification Manual” when I need some passable cop speak. It doesn’t make me a psychiatrist or an FBI agent; it makes me resourceful enough to know where to look and modest enough to know I can’t make it all up.

    But it is a lot of fun, anyway, to quote these manuals when you point out to your brother that he has an obvious narcissistic personality disorder. Just be prepared to have it shoved right back at you when he declares you to be a damned Axis 2!

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