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Healy, W. (1949). The Show of Violence: By Frederic Wertham, M.D. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1949. 279 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 18:516-518.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:516-518

The Show of Violence: By Frederic Wertham, M.D. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1949. 279 pp.

Review by:
William Healy

Accompanied by a prologue and an epilogue dealing tersely with the story of Cain which serves as a text, here are nine high-powered chapters by a psychiatrist who has been in the very center of the firing line in contested issues of murder cases he dramatically portrays. The book presents a collection of hard-boiled facts put together in virile, compelling, often ironic prose, which becomes a little shrill only in its generalized denunciations. Exhibiting sound scholarship, as in his previous book, Dark Legend, the author likens the situations in certain of his cases to the essence of some Greek tragedies—Medea, Orestes, as well as Oedipus. Then the complex of Herostratus, who followed his urge to make himself famous by a terrible crime, is enunciated and a wealth of apt quotations from great writers illuminates many a point on many a page.

The longest and most interesting chapter is devoted to the case of that art student, Irwin, who, many of us remember, made a news sensation of 1937 because he killed three people toward whom he had no grudge whatever. The accounts of his weird contract to sell his first confession to the Hearst papers in Chicago where he was staying undetected, the following investigations, the court proceedings, the length (seven months) of the lunacy commission's deliberations (its conclusions were published in a legal and a medical journal before the trial) filled columns in the press for nearly a year.

Wertham had first known the boy five years earlier when he was hospitalized after attempting to sever his penis; afterward he saw him in almost daily analytic sessions.

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