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On July 23, 1991, Milwaukee chemist Lionel Dahmer discovered - along with the rest of the world - that his son Jeffrey was a murderer who, over a period of many years, had carried out some of the most ghastly crimes ever committed. As the trial progressed, and the crimes of his son were graphically detailed, Lionel began to place himself in the dock beside his son. In the torturous weeks following Jeff's conviction, he continued his descent towards that harrowing point at which the line of his own life inevitably intersected with his son's. This book is not the story of Jeffrey Dahmer at all, but of a father who, by slow degrees, came to realize the saddest truth any parent may ever know: that following some unknowable process, his child had somewhere crossed the line that divides the human from the monstrous. It is both a touching family memoir and a haunting memoir - the account of a man who never relented in his effort to fathom the deepest quarters of his son's afflictions, even as they pointed to his own. It is a document on the nature of fatherhood, the origins of madness, and the role of kinship in the legacy of evil.
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Lionel Dahmer, father of mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, here writes one of the most courageous, unsensational books ever written about serial murder. It does not even summarize Jeffrey's crimes. Dahmer takes upon himself much of the guilt for his son's acts by considering a genetic predisposition to murder he may have passed on to his son; various acts of his own moral blindness that may have contributed to his son's deprived emotional being; and things he did and didn't do when certain symptoms appeared that might have alerted him to Jeffrey's lust for sexual atrocity. What parts of the father, the book asks, are replicated in the son? Largely, Jeffrey is a failure whose failings were earlier those of his father, though the father overcame each failing as its pain grew. Intellectually and physically inferior as a child, Lionel was tutored by his parents from first grade on, and by dint of hard study earned a doctorate in chemistry. A puny child, he took up body-building as a teenager and turned himself into a fine physical specimen. But he also had murderous dreams from which he would awake trembling. Jeffrey's mother was also a depressive, and her excessive pill-taking during pregnancy may well have damaged Jeffrey's genes. As a child, he developed a testicular hernia that, when treated by surgery, gave him a fear of castration and seemed to lead into lasting withdrawal from his family and friendships and, by the time he was 15, into alcoholism and a liking for dead things. Lionel sees Jeffrey's main psychotic trigger lying in a need to control: his own need for intellectual and physical control resulted in a glass wall between himself and Jeffrey; Jeffrey's need for control grew into a need for drugged or dead lovers who submitted to him absolutely. Clear, modest, intelligent--and extremely disturbing. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
If readers are expecting sensational revelations from this earnest memoir by the father of mass-murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, they will be disappointed. We are instead given a glimpse into the macabre life of one of the most demented killers in the nation's history, a man who kept a full human skeleton in his closet. Jeffrey was born in Milwaukee in 1960 after his mother had endured a very difficult pregnancy (after giving birth to another son, she would spend time in a mental institution). Jeffrey seemed like any other child; it was only as he grew older that he began to withdraw. His father sees many similarities between himself and his son: both are emotionally distant, fear abandonment, like to control people and feel inadequate. The author, a chemist, writes that he was so involved with his work that he never noticed that Jeffrey, even in high school, was an alcoholic. Dahmer goes on to recite his son's litany of failure: dropping out of college after only one semester; being kicked out of the army for his alcoholism; his interest in devil worship and seances. The strongest statement in the book is Dahmer's denial of an allegation made by a former male lover of Jeffrey's that he sexually abused his son as a teenager. A book for criminologists, psychiatrists and the ghoulish. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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