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Fatal Vision, Joe McGinniss, and Stalking the Criminal Mind

Fatal Vision, Joe McGinniss, and Stalking the Criminal Mind

David Kelley Ph.D

2 Mins
March 18, 2014

The American author Joe McGinniss died March 10. He was certainly not an Objectivist, nor a libertarian. But he was a superb writer, and I had a personal connection with him.

Joe McGinniss

The August, 1985, issue of Harper’s Magazine published my article “Stalking the Criminal Mind.” A reflection on efforts to explain crime, the article discussed a number of prominent books, but foremost among them was McGinniss’s Fatal Vision, a “true crime” account of Jeffrey MacDonald, an army doctor convicted of murdering his wife and two young children.

As I wrote to McGinniss afterward, “Of all the nonfiction crime narratives I have read, including [Truman Capote’s] In Cold Blood, I thought yours was the most exhaustive and compelling.” We corresponded for a while, and he included some of my observations in the Afterward to 2nd edition of his work, particularly the connection I drew between his characterization of MacDonald and the work of criminal psychologist Stanton Samenow.

My article focused on the philosophical conflict between free will and determinism in trying to understand criminal actions. For those who are interested, we reprint the article, with permission from Harper’s Magazine.

Read Stalking the Criminal Mind
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David Kelley


David Kelley

David Kelley is the founder of The Atlas Society. A professional philosopher, teacher, and best-selling author, he has been a leading proponent of Objectivism for more than 25 years.