THE DIE SONG: A Journey into the Mind of a Mass Murderer by Donald T. & Jefferson Morgan Lunde

THE DIE SONG: A Journey into the Mind of a Mass Murderer

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Lunde, Stanford psychiatry professor and frequent courtroom expert witness, recounts (with writer Morgan's help) the grisly story of paranoid schizophrenic Herbert William Mullin who in 1972 in and around Santa Cruz, beat, stabbed, or shot to death 13 people. Like Mailer's Executioner's Song, but in much less detail, the coincidentally named Die Song presents Mullin's background (apparently ""happy"" family with authoritarian father), his sex life (toying uncomfortably with homosexuality), and his murderous career. Lunde's 100 hours of interviewing Mullin reveal the murderer's elaborate justification: his 13 murders, in a kind of cosmic zero-sum game, preclude natural disaster on the San Andreas fault. Much less convincing are the authors' whole-cloth fabrications of the victims' last moments (""She sensed the same awkward tension she had detected before. . .""). In the final account of his own courtroom testimony, Lunde has an ironic axe to grind: at age 25 Mullin had already been pronounced dangerous, but California's mental health system, suffering massive Reagan cutbacks, had no facility for treating him. The jury, apparently unimpressed by the psychiatric testimony and doubly nervous because a second mass murderer had been loose in town, sent Mullin up for murder. The explanation of Mullin's crimes is so bizarre that it seems, finally, no explanation at all: but the disposition of the case raises again the troubling issues of insanity and responsibility, the madman and the state. More ambitious than the average true-crime book, this makes for provocative, if not always persuasive, reading.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1980
Publisher: Norton