The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry– my first introduction to the weird and wonderful world of Jon Ronson– is a character study on psychopathy, which sees a Gonzo Journalist travelling the world in search of those whose lives have been touched by insanity.
In the course of his journey, Ronson makes the acquaintance of not only alleged psychopaths but also the Psychologists/ Psychiatrists who have sought to define them. On one end of the spectrum, there’s Robert D. Hare– A Canadian Psychologist and Author of a controversial checklist designed to detect psychopaths; on the receiving end, Toto Constant, former leader of barbaric death squad, FRAPH. Later on in the book we meet Corporate Psychopath, Al Dunlop– ruthless downsizer of failing companies across America. We also learn of Paul Britton- an NHS Clinical Psychologist whose efforts to bring down murderers and serial killers took the form of controversial criminal profiling.
Using Hare’s framework’s to classify and categorise, Ronson passes from Broadmoor to Wall Street, Oak Ridge to Gothenburg, and asks such questions as: at what stage in time did ordinary behaviours become labelled mental disorders?, or, where do we draw the line between sanity, insanity and eccentricity? In doing so, he focuses not only on the immediate issue of psychopathy, but also the wider mental health industry.
Controversial, but successful, The Psychopath Test was a national hit upon release, spending all of 2012 in the UK charts, while across waters it remained for 10 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller’s list. Very much a cult classic, it gives voice to those on the fringes of society in an attempt to define the true meaning of psychopathy.
On my list other Ronson book’s to get through are Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries, Them: Adventures With Extremists , and The Men Who Stare at Goats. Lovers of all stories conspiracy and corruption led should definitely give Ronson a read!