The Book: Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, The Mad Bomber and the Invention of Criminal Profiling (Minotaur), by Michael Cannell ’82 explores the interdisciplinary approach used to capture the Mad Bomber, an American terrorist who placed lethal devices throughout New York for two decades before his capture in 1957. He struck in places like phone booths and storage lockers in Grand Central Station and Radio City Music Hall, leaving explosives — and notes for authorities. After an exasperated police captain called in a psychiatrist to aid with the investigation, a new strategy took shape — one that crossed the realms of law enforcement, science, and media and that would lay the foundation for criminal profiling. While on the surface, Incendiary is an account of the transformation of criminal investigation practices, the book also serves a window into one of the “most anxiety-ridden times” in our nation’s history.
The Author: A New York City native, Michael Cannell ’82 is the author of The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit (Twelve) and I.M. Pei: Mandarin and Modernism (Clarkson Potter). He has previously served as editor at The New York Times and has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated, among many other publications.
Opening Lines: “In these pages lives a serial bomber, a paranoid schizophrenic who, for a long, harrowing stretch of the 1950s, convulsed New York with dread. The nearly three dozen homemade explosives he set off in public places brought into being a culture of fear more than for decades before terrorism became an American fixation.”
Reviews: “Incredibly compelling…Cannell describes with intensity the Mad Bomber’s explosive twenty-year campaign of terror over New York City’s citizens and the frustration on the part of the NYPD that caused them to reach out to Dr. James Brussel for help. At the time, no one could have predicted that this would mark the beginning of what is now a respected profession that has expanded and matured as it has assisted tens of thousands of criminal investigations around the world. Incendiary is as exciting and well-written as the best crime fiction, but it’s even better … because it is real,” says Jim Clemente, writer/producer of Criminal Minds.