The Misbegotten Son ~ by Jack Olsen

This is an old one (1993) but it was on sale at Audible and it looked pretty good. I’m a fan of good True Crime and Jack Olsen used to be among the best of crime reporters. By the time the book wound up I understood why he got called the Dean of True Crime Authors.

The Misbegotten Son:
A Serial Killer and His Victims:
The True Story of Arthur J. Shawcross
By Jack Olsen
1993 (493 pages)
Read by Kevin Pierce 18h 11m
Rating – 8 / true crime

I used to pass on serial killers so I simply would not have read this. Now? I just finished Maxine Paetro’s 21st Birthday (with James Patterson) which was terrific for a novel so I can do this. Years ago, shortly after my divorce, a friend recommended Silence of the Lambs. I got to Chapter 2, closed the book and took it outside to the trash. I just couldn’t stand the horror. And the next time I picked books I checked out the True Crime genre because, “Who cares what a person can make up?” I was disgusted with fiction. That was in about 1994 and I didn’t read mysteries for quite a long time, maybe 15 years, but more recently I’ve seen a few come out I just couldn’t resist.

The subtitle,”A Serial Killer and His Victims,” pretty much says what it is more directly and the final line, “The True Story of Arthur J. Shawcross” let’s you know the specifics.

A lot of this book is very interesting but there’s more graphic violence against women than I’ve read before. This is pretty sick stuff. But it’s not in any way titillating so that keeps it in the crime genre for me. .

Per Amazon, this is “an account of the crimes of Arthur Shawcross and describes how the paroled child killer shot, stabbed, suffocated, and strangled sixteen Rochester, New York, prostitutes and examines how the legal system failed his victims.”  

The narrative consists almost entirely of dozens and dozens of interviews the author had with as many of the people involved as he could get.  The parts told by Shawcross are from interviews as well as written reports, but there are the tales of his girlfriends, the police, the street prostitutes (his usual victims), doctors and others. They organized pretty much along chronological lines with an occasional well done foreshadowing.  The psychologist’s perspective is presented in the last chapters of the book and to me proved to be particularly interesting. It was definitely different from what I’ve read in either True Crime or mystery novels. There’s a feeling of “real” to it. 

Because “real” covers a lot of territory.  Shawcress doesn’t fit the mold of serial killers before or after his deeds and arrest. He’s anti-social for sure, but is he legally insane?  “He’s legally odd,” says the psychologist.

There are places where it’s repetitive, but sometimes details or contradictions are added onto the repetition. It seems that most of Arthur’s troubles stem from his mother and his military service in Vietnam. 

 The guy was such a sad case. He wasn’t like the serial killer in 21st Birthday.  The stories are not totally dissimilar. Patterson’s guy wasn’t really believable but who knows? Arthur Shawcross, as presented by Olsen, was totally believable but then it’s True Crime and it felt like it.  

Jack Olsen has written a lot of books,  some True Crime, some nature books, some military action. Many have been huge sellers. I’d just never heard of him before.  I’ve got another one my wish list now. Being older doesn’t seem to affect the quality.

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