The Love of a Bad Man

Image of The Love of a Bad Man
Release Date: 
December 11, 2017
Scribe Publications
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A collection of short, fictional profiles of women who chose to “love” the most notorious monsters of our time, including such failures at the most fundamental acts of human empathy and decency as Charles Manson, Ian Brady, Charles Starkweather, and the epitome of the monster caste: Adolf Hitler.

Buck Burrow might live to reach his three score and ten years instead of dying at a young age of a bullet wound to the head if he can only resist the persuasive talk of his better known brother: Clyde Burrow.

His wife, Blanche Caldwell, might avoid being blinded in one eye and serving a six-year prison term if only she is able to counteract Clyde Burrow’s influence on Buck, but she lacks the will. “I don’t want to like him, but as usual, I can’t help it, especially with him looking so much like Buck and using Buck’s pet name on me.”

Eva Braun is unable to please her father as a young schoolgirl. “I can be good for getting a B in German. I can be bad for getting a B in German . . . It’s so hard for me to keep track of what’s good and what’s bad, I’ve given up trying.”

Eva doesn’t try to please Hitler; she manipulates him into pleasing her. A deliberately failed suicide attempt gains her an apartment near his. After another deliberately failed suicide attempt gains her a “brown-roofed villa.”

When the end comes—50 underground in the bunker—Eva’s family and the world believe she didn’t really know him. Perhaps she didn’t, or perhaps she found “there is ignorance, so bright and pure that it’s almost a virtue.” Ms. Woollett’s Eva Braun hides her knowledge behind assumed ignorance, and perhaps the real Eva did also.

Martha Seabrook Beck is under no illusions about Raymond Fernandez’s character. “Ray always had a plum way of mixing his lies up with something like truth.”

As a 30-year-old mother of two, and a veteran of one-night stands with whatever man she can pick up, she is lonely. Her husband has left her, and she’s getting more overweight and older. Men are harder to pick up at bars than in the past. Lonely and hungry for sex, she writes a letter to Ray in care of a lonely hearts club.

Like Blanche Caldwell, Martha tries to please Ray. When he abandons her because she has children, Martha abandons her children for Ray even though knows she has been bewitched rather than loved. Ray has her number:”yes, my little girl just wants to be loved.”

Martha joins him in his lonely hearts scam, then she joins him in murder, then she joins him on Death Row. Like Myra Hinley and Charles Manson’s girls and Caril Ann Fugate, many women become monsters to match the men they claim to love. Becoming a monster yourself, joining in your lover’s blood sport, seems to be a perquisite to pleasing him.

Besides the obsessive need to please, many of these women were technically still girls, easily manipulated, molded into what the monsters needed. Charles Starkweather’s girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, begins dating him when she is only 13. The Manson girls that drew life sentences with him were also young.

Myra Hindley is 18 when she meets Ian Brady, but an objective assessment of Hindley argues that she needs very help in her transformation into a monster.  Janice, Cameron Hooker’s wife is 15 when she meets him. With low self-esteem and very little will of her own she joins him in capturing a woman to use as a sex slave.

Marceline Baldwin, the wife of Jim Jones, is actually four years older than her husband, but she follows his lead at Jonestown and commits suicide after an ineffectual plea. “. . . all the times my voice has shrunk smaller in my throat, all the years of swallowing grief, why should he listen to me?”

As the world knows, Jim Jones did not listen to Marceline, and more than 900 died at Jonestown.

In a nod to jail groupies, those women who write and phone and visit the most notorious of monsters, Woollett includes a story about Veronica Lynn Compton, 23, an aspiring model and actress, who begins a passionate correspondence with Kenneth Bianchi, one of the Hillside Strangler duo. So obsessed is Veronica that she commits a copycat murder in an effort to prove Bianchi innocent.

Rather than Bianchi transforming Veronica into a monster in his image, Veronica is an obsessive drama queen playing a role. Bianchi is more her inspiration than her manipulator.

Catherine Harrison and David Birnie are both 12 when they meet. A social worker persuades Catherine to leave David after she is released from prison. She does, marries another man, gives birth to seven children, then abandons both husband and children when David tracks her down. They spend the next year in an orgy of rape and murder. Like other of the women who love or obsess or whatever over bad men, Catherine needs little persuasion to transform herself into a monster.

Woollett is skilled at giving each woman a different voice, from the dramatic correspondence of Veronica Compton, to the semi-educated whining of Blanche Burrow. What each woman has in common is their transformation. Some, like Myra Hindley or Karla Humolka, need little or no manipulation to release their inner monster. None of the women are likeable.

The Love of a Bad Man is more likely to appeal to fans of true crime books than to the average reader. Despite its title it certainly not about love unless one is speaking about how twisted a supposedly benign emotion can become.