A FATHER'S STORY by Lionel Dahmer


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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.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-688-12156-X
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1994