Sunday, October 11, 2009

Review - Born or Bred?: Martin Bryant - the making of a mass murderer

authors: Robert Wainwright and Paola Totaro
Publisher: Fairfax Books, 2009
ISBN: 978 1 921486 09 8
RRP $34.99 (Aus)

All Austrailans know who Martin Bryant is. Overseas readers may find the name familiar but not be certain where they have heard it. Martin Bryant holds the dubious record for being the person to kill the most number of people as a lone gunman on a killing spree.

On the lovely sunny day of 28 April, 1996, Bryant loaded his car with a sports bag and drove to the Port Arthur historic penal settlement site in Tasmania and gave the place another reason to go down in infamy.

Bryant took his bag out of his car, pulled out a gun and began shooting. At the end of his rampage 35 people lay dead and many wounded.

Men, women, children; Bryant didn't discriminate. The question that has been asked since that day is why did he do it?

BORN OR BRED? began life as a book to tell Bryant's mother's story. However, unhappy at what the authors wanted to do, Carleen Bryant quickly pulled out of the project. By that time Wainwright and Totaro had become fascinated into trying to find if there was something in Bryant's past that would explain in inexplicable.

They spoke to neighbours, friends, family, teachers; anyone who knew Bryant and his family willing to talk, trying to shed light on the man.

All are interesting; some are revelatory. Probably the people who come closest to giving us an understanding are Bryant's defence lawyer, John Avery and forensic psychiatrist Paul Mullen.

No one really knows why Martin Bryant went on that killing spree, with the exception of Bryant, and if he knows, he's not telling. Chances are the man with an assessed IQ of a child of 10 or 11 and an emotional age of 2 doesn't know himself.

What does emerge from the book is a picture of a tragically pathetic man who, while he did the unforgiveable, just didn't have the skills to fit into society and is more to be pitied than despised.


Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks for the information about this book. I didn't know the whole story of Martin Bryant, and this sounds like an intersting perspective. The nature/nurture question is always interesting, too...

Sunnie Gill said...

They didn't have any definitive answers, but it was fascinating nonetheless.