“… a national phenomenon…”
Women Who Love Men Who Kill
Interview By Sabine Pirolt, May 23, 2013
[L'Hebdo is a weekly French language magazine published from the city of Lausanne, Switzerland.]
Women Who Love Men Who Kill is a national sensation, the book referred to by everyone from the FBI to television reporters. It’s been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America,20/20, Anderson Cooper, CNN News, MSNBC, E!Entertainment, Women’s Entertainment Network and countless of other news magazines, documentaries, and news shows, shows as well as in newspapers and magazines across the country and all over the world.
From The Book Jacket
They may be teachers, reporters, nurses, social workers, waitresses, office workers or housewives. They may have advanced college degrees or have never gotten past the sixth grade. They may live in a bustling big city or a quiet small town. On the surface, these women seem like ordinary people. They aren’t. They are the women who marry men who have killed — and their numbers are growing.
For the first time, author Sheila Isenberg examines this national phenomenon. Through extensive research and interviews with the women themselves, as well as psychiatrists, social workers, and prison officials, she sheds light on why these women are drawn into relationships with men who are the outcasts of society, men with whom they can never enjoy a normal relationship. Although some have been victims of abuse and violence, many of the women vulnerable to these relationships know exactly what they are getting into, but their capacity for denial and their need for a safe, idealized, romantic fantasy of love transcends judgment. These women are willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of a love without hope or promise, or consummation, and they welcome the sacrifice because it means that they and their feelings are worthy. At once both disturbing and fascinating, Women Who Love Men Who Kill is an extraordinary, compelling look at relationships as we’ve never seen them before.
“[Sheila] Isenberg provides a fascinating look at women ‘compelled to dance with the masters of death’ women so obsessed with convicted murderers that they marry them, giving up all else in their lives, including their children, to fulfill their deepest fantasies. To find out about these women, Isenberg interviewed dozens of them, plus prison officials, police, psychiatrists, and psychologists.”
“The profile that emerges is a sad one ‘little girls lost, reared in dysfunctional families where they were the victims of abuse at the hands of harsh dictatorial fathers aided by passive mothers.’ Damaged by their painful childhoods, they live in a fantasy world, in love not with a real man but with an illusion based on denial. Marrying a convicted killer is a way of having a relationship without ever having to get too close, Isenberg says and its a way of being in control of a powerful man as well.”
“Serial killers and mass murderers, such as David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Hillside Stranglers Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, offer a special bonus the thrill of fame. Since many of these women have low self-esteem, the killer’s notoriety provides a sense of worth: The bigger his crime, the more important she feels.”
“Isenberg’s skills in getting these women to reveal themselves, her ability to present them as sympathetic and understandable, and her synthesis of the material they provided make for an engrossing report.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“[Sheila] Isenberg writes about the little-known and unexplored phenomenon of women who seek and fall in love with one of society’s most abusive elements: murderers. Assembling information from interviews, magazine and newspaper articles, television appearances, etc., Isenberg attempts to explain how these women (who are themselves often victims of abuse) feel compassion and a sense of power over the killer as long as he is safely locked behind bars … [a] highly readable investigation …”
– Library Journal
“Fascinating psychological study Although this book was written some time ago, its perceptive analysis of the phenomenon of women who fall in love with men behind bars is still fresh and fascinating today. In-depth interviews, sharp analysis, and incredible true crime stories make this a classic.”
– A Reviewer, a psychology professor, June 22, 2005