Born Evil: A True Story of Cannibalism and Serial Murder – Book Review

BornEvilby: Adrian Havill

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Copyright: 2001, ISBN: [0312978901]

Cover: Montgomery County Sheriff’s Dept

Type Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, September 3, 2002

Summary: Not much effort seems to have been put into this book.

According to a blurb on an inside page of BORN EVIL, Adrian Havill has written six books. Not having read any of the other six, this reviewer can only conclude that he wrote BORN EVIL on his way to writing something else worth greater effort. There certainly does not appear to be an effort here.

In June 1993, Hadden Clark plead guilty to the killing of twenty-three year-old Laura Houghteling in October,1992. While serving a 30 year sentence for that crime, he was tried in 1999 for property theft. This resulted in a conviction for which he was sentenced to 10 years. Finally, he was convicted of the 1986 murder of six-year old Michele Dorr.

There are certain basic characteristics of serial killers–as opposed to mass-murder killers–that law enforcement has come to recognize as markers for the species. Hadden Clark definitely exhibited the markers. He was a drifter, had no really permanent interpersonal relationships and was unable to handle stress or conflict in anything resembling a constructive manner. He survived a non-attentive father, a mother with whom he was in constant conflict throughout his life–all elements of the mark. What was unusual about Clark was that these basic characteristics were suffused with opportunities and events which were the exact opposite in nature. From his roots in a dysfunctional family, he had money and an opportunity for a better than average education, yet nothing positive stuck to his being. From an early age, he was on the road to becoming a serial killer. Born evil?

The disappointment in Havill’s book is that it is such a superficial treatment of a really horrible human being. In fact, the shortcomings of the author are so glaring that the chosen subject–Hadden Clark–becomes secondary. This is really unfortunate. Two instances stand out.

Early on Havill introduces us to John Patrick Truitt, a fellow prisoner of Clark’s in the Western Correctional Institution of Maryland. Hadden Clark “believes Truitt is really Jesus Christ”. For the remainder of the book, Havill refers to Truitt as Jesus. It is very annoying even if you are a non-Christian, non-sectarian, die-heart agnostic. Are we to “get into the head” of Hadden Clark and go along with the Jesus delusion? Okay, fine. But why? From the author’s work, there does not appear to be too much going on in Hadden’s head except the usual I’m-smarter-than-you mental gymnastics. And then there is the whole subterranean multiple personality motif running throughout Havill’s treatment of Clark. Whether one accepts the existence of multiple personalities or not–it is a rather passe concept in psychology–Havill’s cavalier use of the serial killer’s Kristen Bluefin “personality” comes very close to being propaganda on the behalf of Hadden Clark. Propaganda is obviously not the intent, but it is the effect.

If there is any redeeming element in this book as a social document, it is in the exposition of the abuse of Hadden Clark’s constitutional rights by the Montgomery County police. Clark was questioned for nearly seven and a half hours during which time he asked to speak with his attorney more than 100 times. But that’s it. Even this bit of documentary exposition is handled with little appreciation of its significance.

This book is not recommended.