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True Crime Book Club - Past Titles: Nov. 2022

Trigger Warning: Take a look through our previous titles from our True Crime Book Club.

"The Killer Across the Table" by John Douglas & Mark Olshaker

  1. How is the book structured? Does the author use any narrative devices like flashbacks or multiple voices in telling the story? How did this affect your reading of the story and your appreciation of the book? Do you think the author did a good job with it?
  2. Would you recommend this work to a non-mystery/thriller fan simply on the basis of its literary merit?
  3. Is the group familiar with the author's previous works? If so, did this book live up to or exceed your expectations of the author?
  4. What kind of language does the author use? Is it objective and dispassionate? Or passionate and earnest? Is it biased, inflammatory, or sarcastic? Does the language help or undercut the author's premise?
  5. If you got the chance to ask the author of this book one question, what would it be?
  6. What do you know, and when did you know it? At what point in the book did you begin to piece together what happened?
  7. Did each killer get a fair amount of time in the book? Do you feel like you understand and know each of their stories? Are there any areas you wished the author had elaborated upon further?
  8. Did you race to the end of the book, or was it more of a slow burn? Were there certain episodes that you found more interesting? Why or why not?
  9. What surprised you most about the book? Were there facts you didn't previously know? Or something you found interesting?
  10. How does the book's title work in relation to the book's contents? If you could give the book a new title, what would it be?
  11. What did you Google while reading the book? What parts of the book intrigued you enough to do more research? If so, why? If not, why not? 
  12. What do you think motivated John Douglas to share this story 20 years after his last bestseller?
  13. Do you think John Douglas was honest in his representation of each killer? Was he a reliable narrator? Why or why not? 
    1. What resources did the author consult? Is the author an authority on this subject? Do they have credibility in this field?
  14. Were you glad you read this book? Would you recommend it to a friend? Do you want to read more work by these authors?


  • Joseph McGowan, a high school chemistry teacher who sexually assaulted and murdered a 7-year-old girl delivering cookies.

Joseph McGowan, killer of Joan D'Alessandro, 7, dies in prison

  • Joseph Kondro is a killer that raped and murdered the schoolgirl daughters of his friends.

Child killer Joseph Kondro dies at state prison

  • Donald Harvey, the Angel of Death, killed as many as 87 people in (mostly) hospital settings, believing that he was putting them out of their misery.

Donald Harvey Victims pt 2 - Newspapers.comâ„¢ *just some of his victims

  • Todd Kohlhepp killed at least 7 men and held captive women in a shipping container.

Serial killer, Todd Kohlhepp in protective custody

  • John E. Douglas
    1. Born June 18, 1945, in Brooklyn, New York
    2. A veteran of four years in the United States Air Force (1966-1970)
    3. is a retired special agent and unit chief in the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
    4. he was one of the first criminal profilers and has written numerous books on criminal psychology
      1. Douglas examined crime scenes and created profiles of the perpetrators, describing their habits and attempting to predict their next moves. In cases where his work helped to snare the criminals, he built strategies for interrogating and prosecuting them, as well. Douglas was instrumental in the capture of numerous serial killers, and for years he attempted to catch the Green River Killer in the Seattle, Washington metro area, which nearly cost him his life when his stressed and overworked body was unable to fight off viral encephalitis.
    5. he holds several degrees: B.S. (Eastern New Mexico University); M.S. (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Ed.S. Educational Specialist (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), and a doctorate in Adult Education (Nova Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida)
    6. While traveling around the country providing instruction to local police, Douglas and his colleague Robert Ressler began interviewing serial killers and other violent sex offenders at various prisons. He subsequently published a book, Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives, followed by the Crime Classification Manual (CCM). Douglas later received two Thomas Jefferson Awards for academic excellence from the University of Virginia for his work on the study.
  • Mark Olshaker
    1. Mark Olshaker is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and author of ten nonfiction books and five novels, including Einstein’s Brain and The Edge. His books with former FBI Special Agent and criminal profiling pioneer John Douglas, beginning with Mindhunter and, most recently, Law & Disorder, have sold millions of copies and have been translated into many languages. Mindhunter is now a dramatic series on Netflix, directed by David Fincher. 
  • Joseph McGowan was a high school chemistry teacher. Joseph Kondro was a family friend. Donald Harvey was a hospital orderly. Todd Kohlhepp was a real estate broker. All these men committed vicious acts against humanity. Long after their convictions, psychologist John Douglas set out to discover why by interviewing them, as he details in this nonfiction work. His hope was to glean more information about serial offenders, to apprehend others faster and more efficiently, and prevent such acts from occurring.” (New York Public Library

  • "He {John Douglas} has written text books on profiling as well as co-authored several non-fiction books, including “Crime Classification Manual: A Standard System for Investigating and Classifying Violent Crimes.” He has teamed with Mark Olshaker on a number of non-fiction books, including the international bestselling “Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit.” (The State Journal Register)

  • “By the time we had completed our initial round of interviews, we knew what type of person could do such a thing, and three words seemed to characterize the motivations of every one of our offenders: Manipulation. Domination. Control.” - John E. Douglas, The Killer Across the Table

John Douglas on Serial Killers in TV/Movies vs. Real Life

"Isn’t that one of the big misconceptions about serial killers that Hollywood has created? That they are of superhuman intelligence?

Yeah, definitely. Ted Bundy had like a 120 IQ and Ed Kemper had about a 140. But then there are others, like Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer, which stands for Bind, Torture, Kill. He had about a 100 IQ and wasn’t any genius. He was able to elude the police by just being lucky. Now, twenty years later he starts communicating with law enforcement again. Look at what the dumbass did: he sends a floppy disk to the police. First he asks them if it can be traced or not. Of course the police say it can’t. So he sends the disk and out pops all this information leading to the Lutheran Church where he was president.

It’s not how smart the killers are. What makes it difficult to solve those cases in this big, vast country is that we have so many different law enforcement agencies, unlike in your country or any other European country. Or even Canada! We have over 1700 different law enforcement agencies! We have morgues with thousands of unidentified people. In some states police will just go up and down the highways looking for bodies or skeletonized remains. You take for example a truck driver, hauling whatever, and he starts out in Washington DC and drives to Los Angeles. He passes through thousands of police jurisdictions. If he decides along the way to pick up a prostitute at a truck stop, where these women hang out, and he kills her and dumps her body across state lines, it is very difficult for law enforcement to even determine who she is and where she’s from, even when the body is still intact. And if the victim is a high risk victim, like a prostitute or drug addict or a runaway, it’s extremely difficult.

Plus: not all police are trained the same. We have some really good departments, but others are not so good. And some departments aren’t even motivated to investigate a crime against a high risk victim. When I was in Vancouver, a reporter told me about all these missing prostitutes and I told him they probably had at least one serial killer running around. The police wouldn’t admit to it, but two years later they arrested this guy Pickton, a pig farmer who was charged with abducting these women and feeding them to his pigs. It was well over a dozen women." (Flash Back Files)

"If the biggest misconception about serial killers is that they are of superhuman intelligence, what then is the biggest misconception about profiling that Hollywood has created?

Well, I’m not permitted to talk about MINDHUNTER, but that will probably be as close to the real job as you can get. There have been a lot of these shows since I retired, from MILLENNIUM to PROFILER. The big show now is CRIMINAL MINDS. What’s wrong with them, is that these guys do everything: they make arrests, they do the interrogations, they go around knocking on doors. They take over the whole investigation. Homicide is a local investigation. You have to be asked in. You can’t just show up and take over. These profilers on these shows are pulling guns. I pulled a gun, but only when I was a street agent in Detroit, working kidnappings and extortions. But when I came to Quantico and developed profiling I considered myself a coach, a tool in a toolbox for police departments to use. But I’m not going to take over their work. Sometimes they would ask if I could do the interrogation. Obviously I could, but I never did. It’s your case. I’ll coach you. At one time we were helping on a thousand cases a year. If you get involved in the case, other than as a consultant or coach, you’ll be in court all year and wouldn’t get anything done. If I do the interrogation I’m suddenly part of the investigation. Can’t do that. I can come up with a criminal profile, or help the investigator to determine the best way to approach a certain type of suspect during interrogation, or help the prosecutor establish probable cause, or help the prosecutor on cross examination strategy or try to come up with a way to get the unknown subject to inject himself in the police investigation – our research showed that certain types of subjects will do that. So as a profiler you can do all that, but you’re not doing the ground work. Oh, and the other thing about it is: just because you got invited, doesn’t mean they want you there." (Flash Back Files)


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