Alistair Langston Aspects of a Psychopath Reviewed by Rick Kleffel

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Aspects of a Psychopath

Alistair Langston


UK Trade Paperback First

ISBN 1-903-88963-4

Publication Date: 12-18-2003

112 Pages; £8.00 ($9.95)

Date Reviewed: 04-14-04

Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2004



Horror, Mystery

Serial killers in written fiction trend towards the Hannibal Lecter model with good reason. These are interesting people; literate, intelligent, well-spoken and completely, irredeemably insane. An interesting character makes for an interesting read. But even the interesting can wear thin. Furthermore, reality serves up reminders as often as possible that serial killers aren't, in general, the best and brightest that the world has to offer. If you have an intellect exceeding that of the average turnip, you can generally figure out that killing people isn't the best occupation you can set yourself up with.

Unfortunately, Saul Roberts never got that message. He's the main character of 'Apects of a Psychopath', a novel apparently derived from a web-based publication of some notoriety. But then Saul is clearly not the brightest light on the Christmas tree. The author of the novel, Alistair Langston, however, should be given some points for self-promoting smarts if not good taste. He originally started publication of 'Aspects of a Psychopath' as if it were the real deal, the weblog of a rather dull serial killer. One can see how this might have caused some eyebrow-raising consternation as a web page. But we're reading it as a novel, not a web page, and it's somewhat different in this format. Somewhat, but not all that different.

Either way, the novel starts with a splat and keeps up the splatter at a steady pace until the final page. 'Aspects of a Psychopath' purports to be the diary of a particularly heartless and heinous serial killer. It starts on "Monday 1st January" and finishes up on "28th December". Whether you'll want to experience the year in-between depends on your willingness to endure graphic scenes of torture, rape and murder that begin in the first paragraph and continue throughout the novel. If this sounds appealing, by all means read on.

Assuming you make it to the end of the first paragraph and don't toss the book, you'll find a particularly dull serial killer recounting his rather dull life of torturing and murdering the occasional woman while coming off the dole and finding work as a bartender in a trendy club. Saul is not just dull, he's actively stupid. The reader will be screaming at him to notice that someone is on his trail, someone nearly as bad as he is. Or perhaps they're worse? Whatever the case may be, old Saul just noodles happily along, killing, dating, torturing, working.

What makes this novel work is Langston's willingness to describe the most heinous acts in the blandest and most uninspired prose you'll find in recent serial killer fiction. There's no literary pretense here. It really does read like the diary of your buddy who's just an average, serial killing Joe. This is meat and potatoes and sharp knives and that which even I feel uncomfortable writing about. The low-key approach gives Langston's novel a certain oily power. If you make it past paragraph one, plan on spending the night awake, and finishing up with a long shower. Or two. Or more. Soiled only begins to describe how you'll feel upon finishing this novel.

Langston's willingness to ratchet back his prose into the land of "What I did on my Serial Killing Vacation" is not exactly commendable, but it does impart an undeniable power to the proceedings. And Saul himself is something of a hoot. He's repulsive beyond belief, but he's also engagingly stupid. You know all those movies where the girl you like goes down into the basement, like a complete moron? Here, the complete moron who goes down into the basement is utterly despicable. As a reader, you're willing to line up the basements and haul out the sewer tunnels just in case the basements run dry. You can't see Saul get his comeuppance fast enough. And you won't.

If you can find it in yourself to laugh at the acts Langston describes, that's because there's certainly a very sick sense of humor at work here. If you laugh a little when you read this book, we'll understand; if you laugh a lot when you read this book, seek professional help. Those who like their literature to charge mindlessly beyond the boundaries of good taste and good sense will find 'Aspects of a Psychopath' an entertaining exercise in excess. Those who prefer their torture and murder cloaked in the veils of literate, literary expression will find themselves confronted with the ugliness of what they like to call literature unveiled. No matter how you spin it, these are unpleasant matters; but then, no matter how you spin it, these are unpleasant times. Take one shower; take another. Try to feel better about yourself. After all, you're not a serial killer. You don't actually murder and torture; you just read about murder and torture. And that makes all the difference, doesn't it?