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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Man's double brain shapes his history, 3 Nov 2001
This review is from: A Criminal History of Mankind (Hardcover)
There aren't many world histories written by SF authors, but this gets 5 stars. Colin Wilson is best knownn as a novelist (Lifeforce, The Mind Parasites)and writer on subjects like the occult and the paranormal. However, this book is much more than a criminal history of mankind. It is a psychologist's explanation of the growth of the human brain from the primeval to the present, and how this has shaped our history.
Wilson's basic theme is that of the double brain, or split brain, the brain of the left and right hemispheres. The left is the conscious, the right the unconcious. Wilson explains how the two interact, but without attacking the reader with medical terms. The interactions are one cause of crime. The other cause is his second theme, that of overcrowding and the "King Rat" syndrome. In every society there is a "dominant five percent" with leadership qualities. Of that five percent there is a further five percent with a willingness to use violence...put these people in an overcrowded society and you have todays' violent killers and most notorious criminals - the King Rats.
But it cannot be stressed too strongly that this is not a sociology textbook, it is a book about individuals. Among those discussed in detail are Genghis Khan, Hitler, Vlad the Impaler (Dracula), Stalin, Tamurlane, Al Capone,the Krays...and too many others to list.
There are fascinating chapters on De Sade and the history of pornography, and there is a serious but amusing chapter on the history of the Mafia. Its development is explained from the 19th century to our more familiar Hollywood image (how many people know that pressure from the Italian lobby prevented the word MAFIA from being used in THE GODFATHER ?)
The book does not focus just on history's most famous criminals but explains the motivation of the petty thieves and burglars who plague Britain today.
The publishers of this 2nd edition are fully justified in describing it as "the most detailed description of the criminal mind that has ever been attempted".
Fans of the late SF author A E Van Vogt will want to know that Wilson discusses some of Vogt's unpublished works (they were friends).
Although a long book it has no appendices or footnotes to distract the general reader. If you are interested in crime, psychology or history buy this book.
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