Real-Life Monsters
A Psychological Examination of the Serial Murderer
by Stephen J. Giannangelo
July 2012, 193pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-39784-4
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-0-313-39785-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Serial murders continue to both plague and fascinate our society. In 2010, it was estimated by the FBI that nearly 500 victims had died at the hands of highway serial killers alone—a fraction of the ongoing violence.

This book presents an in-depth psychological analysis of the development of the serial killer personality that will fascinate all readers, from the experienced criminology student to the casual true-crime reader.

Real-Life Monsters: A Psychological Examination of the Serial Murderer takes a different approach than most titles on a similar topic: the author develops and proposes an original psychological explanation, rather than simply repeating some of the long-held theories for these criminals’ heinous actions. The work addresses current issues, presents detailed commentary and personal observation, and contains photographs that will fascinate general readers interested in the subjects of true crime, serial killers, and psychopathology.

The first part of the book carefully examines the research past and present regarding clinical, psychological, societal, and biological bases for violent behavior, specific to the serial murderer. Part two establishes a novel theory of the pattern of violence and then explores this hypothesis through eight case studies, interviews with serial killers, and elemental analysis. The work also contains a chapter based on conversations between the author and a convicted serial murderer.


  • Includes eight case studies of fascinating serial criminals, including recently convicted media stars Rodney Alcala and Anthony Sowell
Stephen J. Giannangelo is special agent supervisor for the Illinois Department of Revenue's Bureau of Criminal Investigation. He was formerly a senior special agent with the same agency, and also served on task forces for the Illinois State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He holds a master's degree in forensic psychology from the University of Illinois at Springfield and graduated from the Illinois State Police Academy. Giannangelo is also adjunct instructor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. His published works include The Psychopathology of Serial Murder: A Theory of Violence.


"I believe that one will leave this book with a better understanding of and increased interest in gaining additional knowledge of the horrific topic of serial murderers—as well as some increased insight into one’s own attraction to and repulsion from the frightening phenomenon. The book reads as a lively case discussion with an astute colleague rather than a text or a polemic providing data from an emotional distance."—PsycCRITIQUES, December 1, 2012
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