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Extreme Killing

Extreme Killing
Understanding Serial and Mass Murder

Fourth Edition

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


Student Resource Site

Student 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
November 5, 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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ISBN: 9781506349121

ISBN: 9781506349114