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The Subject of MurderGender, Exceptionality, and the Modern Killer$
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Lisa Downing

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226003405

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226003689.001.0001

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“Monochrome Man”

“Monochrome Man”

Dennis Nilsen

(p.126) Chapter Five “Monochrome Man”
The Subject of Murder

Lisa Downing

University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on Dennis Nilsen, a civil servant who strangled to death at least 15 young men between 1978 and 1983 in North London, and kept their bodies around his flat for long periods of time. Contemporary British culture has always been fascinated with the figure of the murderer, and Nilsen is one of the most prominent faces of serial killing in this culture. As well as spawning the usual tabloid-esque true-crime volumes, Nilsen's case and persona have been the basis for an avant-garde physical theatre piece, an award-winning feature-length “docudrama,” an oil painting, and a postmodern Gothic novel. He is therefore notable among twentieth-century murderers for being associated with alternative and high art. Added to this, Nilsen is unusual, though by no means unique, among convicted murderers in terms of the amount of self-representation and creative production, in the form of both confessional and fiction writing, classical music, and images, which he himself has produced.

Keywords:   civil servant, Dennis Nilsen, north london, british culture, serial killing, high art, self-representation, creative production

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