Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Fred West Side Story
It might make me terribly unpopular to say it, but I have a lot of time and sympathy for Fred West. Fred was a kid once, just as we all were. He was a blank tablet upon which a life would be written. The upbringing he got ended up becoming the upbringing he gave to his own offspring. My sympathy goes out to the boy who was never given a roadmap to becoming a man. His parents (his first teachers) were abusers. He became, naively, a good student.
I always find childhood photographs of murderers and rapists awfully sad. You look at them and you see potential destined to be crushed. You stare into their eyes and you see that there was light once, a light that was gradually extinguished.
British publishing has a lot of time for Fred, too.
In fact, where would it be without him?
These are the best of close to a dozen books recounting the Fredster's lifestyle. Even Colin Wilson got in on the act with his luridly titled 'The Corpse Garden' -- and that's no metaphor, either. Fred's garden was chocka with corpses of his kids, ex-tenants, ex-wives, and unwanted visitors. The guy didn't suffer fools, that's for sure.
Although Howard Sounes was the journo who broke the story of Gloucester's royal couple of perversion, his 'Fred and Rose' was beaten to the punch by 'An Evil Love', the equal best of the books alongside 'Happy Like Murderers'. It's not that Sounes doesn't describe Fred's shocking life of abuse with passion and a little relish -- he certainly does. It's just that 'An Evil Love' is a better read. It's a "cracker", as they say, with more suspense, expert characterization, and surprise plot turns than the best Jack Ketchum novel.
Richard Ferguson, QC, had this to say about Gloucester's favorite son: "He was a man devoid of compassion, consumed with sexual lust, a sadistic killer and someone who had opted out of the human race...the very epitome of evil."
You've got to work damn hard to earn praise like that.
As monsters go, Fred wins. He's the real life Freddie Kruger without the metal fingers.
Not that Fred didn't go in for utensils and interesting contraptions to assist him in his reign of terror. He abused a litany of women with a devious contraption he'd constructed called The C*** Buster. Rose, his partner in crime, developed a very cosy relationship with this ferocious sex aid; it was so cosy, in fact, that Fred had to fight her for it when he had an itch to scratch. Fred also built metal frames, harnesses, and various restraining devices for his parade of unwilling "lovers" (inside and outside the family). He was relentless in his pursuit of perversion. If the guy had channeled all this energy and creativity into a lawful, legitimate enterprise, he could have given Virgin's Richard Branson a run for his money.
The most fascinating aspect of Fred West is that he got away with murder and other atrocities time and time again. He was seemingly bulletproof.
Gordon Burn's 'Happy Like Murderers' covers similar ground to the other books, but it is more detailed and more psychologically penetrating. A fiction writer by trade, Burns he recounts the Fred and Rose story as if creating highly credible fiction. The book is fascinating reading, and is the most explicit of the bunch.
Efforts have been made to bring Fred West's Sadean adventures to the big screen. None have succeeded so far. Although there have been brief TV recreations of his crimes in series such as "Crimes That Shook The World", the hands-down most chilling is the documentary 'Fred West Child Abuser Child Killer', which has been posted in 13 parts to youtube.
The first part is here: h***://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eSZ3-xwZZE&feature=related (replace ***'s with ttp, of course)
West even inspired a twisted musical parody called "Fred West Side Story" (also available on youtube).
Although the guy took his own life in a jail cell, it is more than his ghost that still lingers.