THE VIOLENCE OF OUR LIVES: Interviews with American Murderers by Tony Parker

THE VIOLENCE OF OUR LIVES: Interviews with American Murderers

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KIRKUS REVIEW

What do murderers want to talk about? Certainly not their murders, as British writer Parker discovers. Parker (May the Lord in His Mercy Be Kind to Belfast, 1994, etc.) sits down with 17 killers, male and female, imprisoned or out on parole. He sets the scene for each interview, then stays quiet as the pseudonymous subjects recount their childhoods and various defining moments of their lives. In discussing the actual crimes, the felons are brief and anxious to frame their violent acts within the larger context of a once normal existence. Aside from the accidental knife through the heart, the moment of rage with a blunt object, the unexplainable loss of conscious reasoning that allows for emptying a gun into the body of a loved one, what we have for the most part are confessions from criminals who led rather tame lives. There are a couple of exceptions, most notably a Vietnam vet who argues convincingly about who's really at fault for his ability to kill in cold blood: ""I'm what's known as a very bad and violent and dangerous man...I was also a different kind of very bad and violent and dangerous man, and for that I was a hero...so you can take your pick."" Primarily, this is a collection of monologues that speak to the effects of life in prison. One is that these convicts are incredibly well read (one formerly average student turned to philosophy). Another is that many have developed cool hearts and stoic dispositions. As contrast, Parker ends his book with five short interviews of victims, those who have suffered murdered relatives or whose relative is a murderer. What the reader takes away is not a comprehension of killing, but rather an understanding of redemption and the ability to either conjure up hope or live without it.

Pub Date: July 11th, 1995
Page count: 258pp
Publisher: Henry Holt