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Extreme Killing

Extreme Killing
Understanding Serial and Mass Murder

Fourth Edition
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February 2018 | 368 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Extreme Killing offers a comprehensive overview of multiple homicide, including both serial and mass murder. Filled with classic and contemporary case studies, this fully updated Fourth Edition reflects a growing concern for specific types of multiple homicides—indiscriminate public massacres, terrorist attacks, hate crimes, and school shootings—as well as largely debated issues such as gun control and mental illness. 

Renowned experts and authors in the field, James Alan Fox, Jack Levin, and Emma Fridel bring their years of research and experience to create distinctions between serial and mass murders, address characteristics of both killers and their victims, and recognize the special concerns around multiple murder victims and their survivors. Students will examine the latest theories of criminal behavior and apply them to mass and serial murderers from around the world, such as the mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas,  the Grim Sleeper in Los Angeles, the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, the shooting of nine African Americans by a white supremacist in a Charleston church, and more.

Students: Sign in at for access to curated content contributed by the text’s authors, including links to articles and opinion pieces written by the authors.

About the Authors
CHAPTER 1. America’s Fascination With Multiple Murder
The Gein Legacy  
Multiple Murder in Popular Culture  
The Selling of Multiple Murder  
Craving Attention  
Killer Communication  
Killer Groupies  
The Impact of Celebrating Murderers  
Sensitize, Not Sanitize  
CHAPTER 2. Defining Multiple Murder
Mass, Serial, and Spree  
Mass Confusion  
Counting Victims of Serial Murder  
Typologies of Multiple Murder  
CHAPTER 3. Theories of Multiple Homicide
Sociological Theories  
Psychological Theories  
Biological Theories  
CHAPTER 4. An Anatomy of Serial Murder
Prevalence of Serial Murder  
A Profile of the Serial Killer  
Extraordinarily Ordinary  
Rehumanizing the Victims  
CHAPTER 5. With Deliberation and Purpose
When Killing Is Thrilling  
On a Deadly Mission of Terror or Revenge  
Killing for Expediency  
For Love and Loyalty  
CHAPTER 6. Partners in Murder
Insanity in the Relationship  
Partners for Profit  
Partnerships of Men and Women  
All in the Family  
CHAPTER 7. Killing for Company
Placing the Blame  
Killing for Companionship  
The Functions of Cannibalism  
Desire for Total Control and Ownership  
CHAPTER 8. Fantasyland
Keeping Souvenirs  
Normal and Abnormal Fantasies  
The Impact of Pornography  
CHAPTER 9. The Making of a Serial Killer
Childhood Suffering  
Testimony Under Hypnosis  
Child Abuse and Murder  
Inordinate Need for Power  
Animal Cruelty and Violence Against Humans  
Challenges of Predicting Serial Murder  
Blaming the Family  
CHAPTER 10. Nonsexual Control
Power Over Patients  
Female Serial Killers  
Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy  
CHAPTER 11. Killing Cult
Killing for a Cause  
The Appeal of Dangerous Cults  
Suicide or Homicide?  
Satanism and Serial Murder  
CHAPTER 12. Catching Serial Killers
Vulnerable Victims Preferred  
Catching the Serial Killer  
CHAPTER 13. For Love, Money, or Revenge
Relative Obscurity  
Trends in Mass Murder  
Profile of Mass Murderers and Their Crimes  
Characteristics of Mass Murders  
Selective and Methodical  
When Love Kills  
Sweet Revenge  
Profiting From Mass Murder  
Explaining Mass Murder  
Warning Signs of Mental Disturbance  
Contributing Factors  
CHAPTER 14. Family Annihilation
A Profile of the Family Annihilator  
Impact of Unemployment  
Murdering Moms  
The Defiant Son  
CHAPTER 15. Firing Back
Profile of the Workplace Avenger  
Mixed Motives  
Workplace Murder by Proxy  
Romantic Obsession  
Externalizing Responsibility  
Social Isolation  
Screening Out Problem Workers  
Going Postal  
CHAPTER 16. Well Schooled in Mass Murder
Disgruntled Students  
Addressing the Risk  
The Worst Laid Plans  
A Global Perspective  
On to College  
The Role of Violent Video Games  
The Copycat Effect  
CHAPTER 17. Fighting City Hall
Attacking the System  
Legal Battles  
Filing a Grievance  
Increasing Alienation  
Close Call  
CHAPTER 18. Hate Motivated Mass Murder
Choice of Victims  
The Killer as Victim  
The Growth of Defensive Hate Attacks  
Mission Hate Crimes  
Targets Not Included in Hate Crime Legislation  
Organized Hate Crimes  
Identifying Hate Crimes  
CHAPTER 19. Political Terrorism as Tactic
Hate Crime or Terrorist Act?  
Trends in Domestic Terrorism  
Trends in Global Terrorism  
Vehicular Terrorism  
Lone Wolves  
Reducing Terrorist Violence  
CHAPTER 20. Going Berserk
Paranoid Thinking  
Confused State of Mind  
Long-Standing Mental Illness  
Civilian Battlefields  
Brain Abnormalities  
Deadly Weapons  
CHAPTER 21. Weapons of Mass (Murder) Destruction
Mass Shootings and Gun Legislation  
School Shootings and Political Will/Won’t  
Expanded Background Checks  
The Assault Weapon Debate  
Concealed Carry  
Armed Faculty and School Security  
A Final Shot  
CHAPTER 22. Remembering the Victims


Instructor Resource Site

Password-protected Instructor Resources include the following:

  • EXCLUSIVE! Access to curated content contributed by the text’s authors provide instructors with additional resources to use during their lectures.

This is the best single volume text for the coverage of both mass murder and serial homicide at the undergraduate level and as an introductory text on the subject matter.”

Mitchel P. Roth
Sam Houston State University

“Fox and Levin are the best in the business at interpreting these rare, but tragic, multiple murder events. Accessibly written, yet analytically rich, Extreme Killing provides critical insight into subject matter that typically elicits a response between fear and fascination and is sensationalized and politicized in equal measure. For the cold hard facts on murder in cold blood (or otherwise), look no further.”

James A. Densley
Metropolitan State University

“Excellent overall—engaging cases and yet stays on making important analytic points or generalizations without getting overly bogged down by case details (although many often horrific facts related to crimes are noted in a very matter-of-fact way)  The authors manage to make their points while citing grisly case details in a very professional way without appealing to any sensationalism for its own sake. They navigate this fine line and manage a balancing act between sharing case details while also keeping a theoretical and conceptual focus. Superb job and the best of the three editions by far.”

Kenneth Colburn Jr.
Butler University

Extreme Killing offers a succinct  and fascinating  overview  of historical and contemporary serial and mass murder addressing known prevalence, demographic characteristics, motives, and etiological factors associated with the perpetrators of the crimes. Additionally, the role of the victims and their families are discussed in relation to the high profile nature of these types of multiple murders especially in relation to role of the media, fascination by the public, and the seemingly motiveless nature of these types of crimes. James Allen Fox and Jack Levin use engaging case studies, illustrations, photos and commentary in their book, which no doubt students will find extremely interesting.”

William E. Thornton
Loyola University New Orleans

“The writing style of all of the chapters is excellent and will truly capture the interest and imagination of students. The book could easily be used in either an upper level undergraduate or a graduate level course (as a supplemental text). It is versatile. The photos are quite interesting and will keep the student engaged.”

Robert Worley
Lamar University

“This is a well-written organized text on serial killing and mass murder. Content is appropriate and presented in a way that would be understandable to the average college student…”

Shelly Grant
Jacksonville University

“This text will provide your students with a comprehensive overview of serial and mass murder. This is a student-friendly text that is well-written and organized.”

Mark Winton
University of Central Florida

“It is a well thought out, put together book for this type of class because it touches on all aspects of both the organized and disorganized SK as well as delving into the mind of the mass murderer.”

Bert Ouderkirk
Mesa Community College

recommended-too detailed for my class

Dr Deborah Stone
Nursing Dept, Fitchburg State University
February 14, 2018
Key features


  • A new chapter on sociological, psychological, and biological theories (Chapter 3) provides students with an overall explanation of each theory and shows how they can be applied to serial and mass murderers. 
  • A new chapter on global and domestic terrorism (Chapter 19) explores trends such as vehicular terrorism, the lone-wolf model, and the differences and similarities between terrorism and hate crimes. 
  • Expanded coverage of multiple homicides outside of the United States offers students insights into the many different factors that should be considered when examining serial and mass murder across the globe. 
  • Current empirical data helps students gain a better understanding of the latest patterns and trends in serial murder and massacres. 
  • New cases connect key concepts to current events by presenting students with compelling examples of multiple homicides both inside and outside of the United States.


  • World-renowned experts and authors in the field, James Alan Fox, Jack Levin, and Emma Fridel provide students with in-depth, accessible analysis of critical topics. 
  • An engaging writing style and a multitude of interesting case studies immerse students in the book’s content. 
  • Photos of offenders and crime scenes bring concepts to life.  
  • A Study Site provides instructors and students with access to curated content contributed by the text’s authors, including links to articles and opinion pieces written by the authors. 

For instructors

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