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Panzram A Journal of Murder Paperback – November 1, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thomas E. Gaddis was most noted for his book about convicted murderer Robert Stroud, who was known as the "Birdman of Alcatraz."

James O. Long is an award-winning newspaperman and Pulitzer Prize nominee noted for his investigative and feature articles in the Portland Oregonian.

Harold Schechter is a professor of American literature and culture. Renowned for his true-crime writing, he is the author of the nonfiction books "Fatal, Fiend, Bestial, Deviant, Deranged, Depraved, " and, with David Everitt, "The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers". He is also the author of "Nevermore" and "The Hum Bug", the acclaimed historical novels featuring Edgar Allan Poe. He lives in New York State.
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Product Details

  • Series: Journal of Murder
  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Amok Books (November 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1878923145
  • ISBN-13: 978-1878923141
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Written in 1928, and first published in 1970, the autobiography of Carl Panzram by himself is quite a read. In this book, you will have the whole Panzram text (including many letters from him, later in the book), but you will also have a lot of text by the authors, who give you a context, explanations that Panzram doesn't provide, and overall, clarifications on the whole thing, which are most welcome. Just know that perhaps over a half of this book is not written by Panzram himself.

Carla Panzram spent most of his life in institutions, reform schools or prisons, and he developed a philosophy of hate that would justify, to him, a life devoted to robbing, raping, killing, burning, and destroying everyone and everything. His ideal plan was to kill the whole human race, no less.

The book is undoubtedly an important item from a historical perspective, and sociological and psychological ones, but make sure not to easily fall into recycling this text for this or that ideology. Panzram clearly excuses himself, albeit in a vague and incoherent way, all of he does, because he has been hurt himself. He says it explicitly when he explains that he wants to take revenge on everyone, for things done to him, and it doesn't matter if those he takes revenge on never did anything to him; it was enough that they were the same kind of person who mistreated him.

From a literary perspective, Panzram wrote in a prose style that Hemingway would give world-wide fame. The very first Panzram words in this book are quite excellent.

If you expect extremely gruesome details of murders and rapes, you won't have them.
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Format: Paperback
PANZRAM: A Journal of Murder by Thomas E. Gaddis and James O. Long

In his time Carl Panzram murdered twenty-one human beings and committed just about every kind of impulsive psychopathic crime imaginable. Others have killed more - doubtless done as much damage - but because he wrote with such lucid unrepentance about his life and acts, Panzram stands out, leaving behind as eloquent a testimony as any criminal who put pen to paper.

I am 36 years old and have been a criminal all my life. I have 11 felony convictions against me. I have served 20 years of my life in jails, reform schools and prisons. I know why I am a criminal. Others may have different theories as to my life but I have no theory about it. I know the facts. If any man was a habitual criminal, I was one. In my life I have broken every law that was ever made by both man and God.

Sadistically punished at the reform schools he attended after his family broke up around 1899, he hit the road at fourteen, riding boxcars, robbing and setting fire to churches, and escaping whenever he could from jail. His descriptions of the tortures he experienced in prison at the hands of the warders are like something out of the Inquisition's annals. Travelling on steamers to Mexico, the Belgian Congo, and Europe, he became a proficient and remorseless murderer, despatching boys and young men (often his lovers) with rocks and pistols. Later on in captivity Panzram was to be very clear about who and why he became so wild.

If someone had a young tiger cub in a cage and then mistreated it until it got savage and bloodthirsty and then turned it loose to prey on the rest of the world, to go anywhere and kill anyone it wanted to, then there would be a hell of a roar from those in danger of the mad tiger.
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I've always wondered what made people like this do such awful and disgusting things as described in this book. I now have a better understanding after reading it. Not all criminals are made by bad parenting skills or savage prison systems but in this case it can't be mistaken what lead this man into what he would eventually become. Everything about Carl Panzram's story is a tragedy. His days as a child, adulthood, his confessed murders,the sickening natures of these murders and even his own death (which he gladly welcomed with open arms) will make anyone thankful they were not subject to these conditions.
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This is a very interesting book, as much for what it tells us about the conditions and pratices of American prisons in the first half of the 20th century as it does about Panzram himself. One thing worth noting, though, is that some reviews of the book mention that it includes the complete text of Panzram's autiobiography along with the editors' supplemental material. However, I don't believe that to be the case... what we get are only excerpts from what is likely a much longer autobiographical work. The web description of Panzram at the University of San Diego (where his original papers are stored) mention that only "parts of Panzram's manuscript" were used in the book. It's a shame we don't get the whole text (and USD hasn't put it online).

I do think it's unfortunate that the book is subtitled "A Journal of Murder", because Panzram's actual acts of murder are only minor elements of the book. It's much more about his life, his time in prisons, and the prisons themselves.
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