One of the nice things about universities is that they promote the exchange of ideas and learning, and that concept was on full display yesterday as Dr. Mitchel Roth discussed his new book on crime: “The Man With the Killer Smile.” Roth, a professor of Criminal Justice at SHSU, brings a learned approach to the true-crime genre, incorporating psycholo0gy, criminology, and history.
The result has won plaudits from the critics, including bestselling author Jeff Guinn, who described the work as “masterful storytelling.” Of note is that Roth is perhaps the first to combine two criminological concepts into one killer.
A serial murderer is someone who commits murder at two (or more) different times, with a cooling off period in between (some definitions require three acts of murder). While a mass murderer is someone who kills at least four people at one time. By these definitions, Hassell is a serial mass killer.
Hassell specialized in families: his own. And Roth describes him as a “husband, father, uncle, embezzler, serial mass murderer, philanderer, child moslester, convict, and military deserter.” He was as Roth continues, “many things to many people, most of them bad.” The book makes this much clear.
Roth’s presentation of his work was entertaining, showing an author with a somewhat dark sense of humor, a felicity with presentation, and a drive to research and write. Although he notes that as he’s “gotten older,” he “has trouble working on two or three books at once,” it’s clear he relishes the research, the interaction with those he comes across in his research, and the act of writing.
As a result and despite the dark subject matter, the presentation was an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. Reflecting the university mission of promoting ideas and learning, Roth expertly shone a light on history, criminology, and psychology, all captured in “The Man with the Killer Smile.”