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The Devil's Right-Hand Man: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert Charles Browne Hardcover – October 2, 2007

3.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a chilling, if sometimes meandering, account of alleged serial killer Robert Browne, Michaud and Price paint a grisly portrait of a man with no remorse or regard for human life. (The case was also recently written about in the New York Times Magazine.) The all-volunteer cold-case squad in Colorado Springs, Colo.—headed by retired FBI agent Charlie Hess and retired police detective Lou Smit—first encountered Browne after his 1995 conviction for the abduction and murder of 13-year-old Heather Church. Convinced that the enigmatic, well-spoken Louisianan had killed before, Hess began what would become a five-year dialogue (initially through letters) with Browne at the Colorado State Penitentiary. Teasing the investigators with riddles and vague details, Browne led them on a gruesome hunt through almost 20 years of unsolved rapes, murders and dismemberments stretching from Louisiana to California. The killer proudly proclaimed the score to be police one, Browne forty-eight. Veteran true-crime author Michaud (Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer) and former Washington Post staffer Price meticulously catalogue the squad's investigation, at times inundating the reader with names, dates and case details that are difficult to keep straight. But this unsettling account of the man who may be one of the country's most prolific serial killers is a must-read for true-crime fans. (Oct. 2)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Stephen G. Michaud is the New York Times bestselling author and co-author of more than a dozen true crime books.

Debbie M. Price is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous publications.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Hardcover (October 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425217272
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425217276
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,036,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Stephen G. Michaud's very first reporting assignment was a 1971 interview with Rudolph Wanderone, the legendary pool shark better known as Minnesota Fats.
The story was not a success.
"Fats was neither fat nor very interesting," Michaud recalls. "I could not pry a worthwhile sentence out of him. As interview subjects go, he made a good pool player."
Michaud has since confronted significantly tougher subjects -- among them the infamous sexual sadist Mike DeBardeleben -- and under far more stressful circumstances -- he spent a hundred hours interviewing serial killer Ted Bundy on Death Row. Yet though Michaud's best known for his detailed explorations of the criminal mind, he never expected his career path to lead in that direction.
A Vermont native, raised in the Pacific Northwest, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in history from Stanford in 1970, assuming at the time he would go on to law school. Instead, Michaud migrated from Palo Alto to New York City, where he took what he believed was a temporary job as a research assistant in the Newsweek magazine library.
Three years later, while on assignment to the magazine's Houston bureau, he reported his first major crime story, the so-called "Candy Man" serial murders of 30 young men and boys.
From then until he left Newsweek Michaud covered everything from the U.S. space program to underwater archeology, including a number of strange and sensational crime stories. Among them: The August, 1975, kidnap in New York City of Seagram's heir, Samuel Bronfman II and, later that year, the brutal stabbing murder in Philadelphia of Jack Knight, the 30-year-old heir to the Knight-Ridder newspaper fortune.
In 1977, Michaud joined Business Week, also in New York City, as Research Editor, in charge of the magazine's science and technology coverage. He produced a series of cover stories for the magazine on topics various as industrial innovation, solar energy and weather forecasting, and was about to make another major career move -- to Tokyo, for McGraw-Hill World News -- when Ted Bundy fell into his lap, figuratively.
"I received a call from my agent," he remembers, "who told me that Bundy was interested in cooperating on a book. Ted, who lawmen suspected in as many as 150 murders from Seattle to Miami, adamantly insisted he was innocent on all counts, which seemed a dubious proposition. Nevertheless, I was intrigued at the possibility he could be telling the truth, and that a thorough re-investigation of his case might prove that.
"Without giving the project much more thought, I canceled Japan and quit Business Week. I also induced my onetime mentor at Newsweek, Hugh Aynesworth, to join me in the project. I would interview Bundy on Death Row while Hugh, one of the very best investigative reporters around, would undertake a complete review of the evidence against Bundy."
Michaud and Aynesworth quickly came to two realizations: Bundy was guilty as hell and he had no intention of admitting it, at least not openly. However, they did see a possible way to finesse the situation.
Although Bundy was not ready to say, "I did it," he clearly wanted to discuss himself and what he'd done. So Michaud offered him a way to do that, to "speculate" about the murders, and the person who committed them, in the third-person.
"Ted jumped at the suggestion," Michaud recalls. "It wasn't long before we were deep into his macabre world, exploring regions of the criminal psyche I hadn't guessed existed."
The Only Living Witness, Michaud and Aynesworth's portrait of the killer, was published in 1983 to widespread critical praise. The New York Daily News called it one of the ten best true-crime books ever written. Criminology professors made it required reading.
Gratifying as the response was, reporting and writing The Only Living Witness was a grueling four-year experience, a daily diet of death and deranged desire. Michaud wanted a respite from such projects, so he turned his attention writing freelance pieces for The New York Times Magazine and other periodicals, as well as ghost writing.
His first ghosting effort was Witness to War, a memoir of Dr. Charles Clements' year spent treating civilian victims of El Salvador's brutal civil war. His second book, entitled Insider, was an account of life among Cuba's revolutionary elite as recalled by Jose-Luis Llovio-Menendez, a former high official in Fidel Castro's communist government.
Michaud and Aynesworth later wrote two book-length collections of true-crime stories, Wanted for Murder and Murderers Among Us, before embarking on their second major project together, "If You Love Me You Will Do My Will."
The story of a fabulously wealthy, and devout, South Texas widow and the charismatic Trappist monk who for a time captured her heart, and her money, "If You Love Me You Will Do My Will" was called "a masterful job," in Barron's; "Intricate, well-written," in Legal Times ; and "a fascinating tale of chicanery," by the Dallas Observer.
In 1989, Michaud became an editorial consultant to the famed Media Lab at MIT. That same year, Ted Bundy was executed and Michaud and Aynesworth published an edited transcript of their interviews with Ted, called Conversations With A Killer. The book was a New York Times ubest-seller.
In 1994, Michaud published Lethal Shadow, an account of uber criminal Mike DeBardeleben's extraordinary life of crime, from counterfeiting to rape and murder, including flam-flam jobs, kidnappings and bank heists.
There ensued two collaborations with profiler Roy Hazelwood, a former member of the FBI's "Hannibal Lecter Squad": The Evil That Men Do, published in 1999, and Dark Dreams, issued in the summer of 2001. Kirkus Reviews called Evil, "a gritty, gut-wrenching trip into the world of sexual crimes ... not recommended for reading at bedtime, or when one is at home alone in the house."
Dark Dreams was an Edgar Award finalist.
The Vengeful Heart, a collection of shorter pieces Michaud wrote with Aynesworth, also was issued in 2001.
Taking a break from the crime beat, Michaud helped Dr. Beck Weathers write Left For Dead (2000), the Dallas pathologist's stirring memoir of his battles with depression, a decades-long struggle that culminated near the top of Mt. Everest in early May of 1996 in a calamitous blizzard that killed eight climbers.
Straying even further from crime and criminals, Michaud in 2000 published his first children's book, The Miracle of Island Girl, the first in a projected series of true-life animal tales for children, aged 4 to 8. Volume two, Percy the Pelican Finds a Home, will be the second volume in the series.
In 2003, he teamed again with Hugh Aynesworth to write Breaking the News: A Reporter's Eyewitness Account of the Kennedy Assassination and its Aftermath.
Next came Patriarch with Frank Yturria, then The Devil's Right Hand Man with Debbie M. Price. During the same period Michaud worked as an editorial consultant to One Laptop per Child (OLPC) which aspires to put a rugged kid-sized connected laptop in the hands of every poor child on earth.
In the mid 1980s he was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters.
Michaud's most recent project, Whisper of Fear with Rhonda Saunders, was published in November, 2008. He currently is at work on several assignments.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By jdub61 on November 24, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
This true-crime tale has it all -- a scary sexual serial killer, body parts left by the expressway, a sweet little girl kidnapped from her home and heroic detectives who have the patience and dogged stubbornness to burrow into an investigation that is going nowhere. And on top of this, the detectives are senior-citizen volunteers. Maybe because these guys had plenty of time on their hands or maybe because for some of us geezers, patience and wisdom really do come with age, they didn't give up until they got their man. Michaud (of Ted Bundy fame) and Price, a veteran journalist, are pros and the book is a well-written, quick read.
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Format: Hardcover
Robert Charles Browne was already imprisoned for the heinous crime of kidnapping and murder of a young girl, Heather Church, from her parents home in rural and isolated part of Colorado. Browne's past reveals the possibilities that he was responsible for other crimes. A team including Lou Smit who investigated and believed the Ramseys were innocent of killing their own daughter, JonBenet, is among them as well as other mostly retired cops who decide to play cold case detectives. One of them befriends Browne through letters and meetings but Browne is a frustrating character. We don't know enough about him and I have read the book twice and haven't even finished it. I just wished Browne would fess up about the unsolved murders and disappearances of so many women that their families can finally have closure or knowledge. As one distraught mother, Mrs. Billig wrote "It's better to know than not know." She's right because the uncertainty can kill you if you don't know. Not knowing the truth is worse than not having an answer to the question of a missing person or an unsolved crime which can destroy families and relationships with suspicions but Browne wouldn't care who it would hurt if he got something in return.
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I don't know if I would recommend this for reading. It was written in a rather abstract / random format. There is some worthwhile information as it relates to Robert Browne. It was just a little difficult to follow, as it hop - scotched through the life of Browne. Some of the information lacked clarity. The time line at the end of the book helped.
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The book got boring in the middle, but the detectives was giving up themselves at this point, than the book let up, My children Are required to read this book to be alert of there surroundings. they Should turn this into a school book, The world is pretty frightening, I'm sure the victims did not expect this to happen to them.
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Great true crime book covers murders in Louisiana, Colorado, California, Washington and Texas, all committed by one sick man. The story gets a little muddled going back and forth between incidents but the timeline at the end really helps. Shows endurance and hard work from detectives can really pay off.
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I dont think this browne guy killed more than 2 people. The book is written in a confusing manner.
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By Kirk Alex on September 17, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
When will writers of true crime realize that most cops usually are not very interesting people to read about?
I said it. It's the psycho, the crook, the killer, bank robber, who makes for interesting reading. Just the way
it is.
Cops in these books very often come across as incompetent and not very bright, or just plain disinterested in solving anything. Why? Jaded. Bored. Figure it wouldn't make much difference anyway, etc.

To be fair, the cops (most of them retired) do give a damn and simply wish to solve the murders covered here (about half a dozen) in order to bring peace of mind to the loved ones left behind. Understandable. Commendable, even.

Problem here is the killer, Browne, is miserly with his information and keeps the task force stringing along, stretching the thing out (just like the writers of this book) that before long, you just might be willing to give up on this tome in sheer frustration.

The real, entire, and complete story of this killer is not told here (who, by the way, claims to have killed fifty or more). What the reader gets is what the cops got: enough info to solve three or four of the murders Browne
committed--and he gave those up in exchange for a favor or two from said task force.

Did Browne kill as many as he claimed? Who the hell knows? Bottom line: don't expect a serial killer to tell you the truth about anything.

It seems to me, these guys (serial killing losers) have one thing in common (besides murder) a craving for infamy, attention--and then, for some inexplicable reason (some of them, like Browne, once incarcerated)
clam up.

You figure it out. Better yet, why bother?
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Having experienced this situation in the book it brought back memories, I actually bought this as a gift for a person who participated in the investigation
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