Monday, March 19, 2018

Trashy True Crime Is Trashy

I have a big ol' soft spot for police procedurals (any kind of procedural, really), and I saw an ad for the new series Mindhunters, so when I saw the book by John Douglas on the library shelf I picked it up.

I mostly picked it up to flip through, and this is the kind of book that rewards that kind of dipping in and out, in that it's episodic with short descriptions of crimes and then how the author/narrator brilliantly solved them.  It's very much like a bunch of less-nonsensical episodes of Criminal Minds (because they took all their terminology from this book). 

So to that extent it's working for me?  I mean, I like watching the puzzle pieces put together, and descriptions of horrible things never really sink in very  much for me. so there you go. 

But the most notable thing about the first half of this book (and half of a 400-page book is a lot of pages) is that it's about the Mindhunter himself--this is a memoir.  We learn about his youth and the hijinks he got into and how he met his wife and the trouble he gave his superiors when he was in the Air Force and and and.  Douglas is fond of his own sense of humor; though he doesn't make jokes in the book, he describes funny incidents or jokes that he made.

And because a lot of it takes place in the '70s in the boys' club of the FBI, a lot of it is INSANELY sexist. Like, he describes his courtship of his wife with only about three anecdotes, and two of them involve him making humiliating sexual jokes about her in public. After dinner with a friend in a hotel restaurant, they're riding the elevator and he and his friend start talking about how much she's going to charge them the next time they're in town and who'll bring the whipped cream.  At their first pre-Cana class, he convinces her priest that they met at a topless bar.  She laughs in both of these anecdotes; I seriously did not.

He is very respectful of victims, witnesses, and survivors when discussing cases, but he describes every woman he dated and female colleague with what a bombshell she is, how attractive and vivacious.  He talks about how working with a female coworker put one of the Mormon guys on his team in a bad spot with his wife. I could go on and on.

Now I'm in the second half, and it's much more what I was expecting: crimes and their solutions, concepts like signatures and stressors, techniques like staging interviews and setting up stings.  All great.  But the sour taste of casual sexism and the super-macho life he's told me all about made me a lot more uncomfortable than all the crime.  Because this is what the good guy looks like.