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Book review: 'The Good Psychopath's Guide to Success' by Dr. Kevin Dutton and Andy McNab

The authors, an Oxford researcher and a psychopath, argue that psychopaths have much to teach us about succeeding in life and business. It’s a premise this reviewer can’t accept.
by Ken Raymond Published: August 10, 2014

“The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success: How to Use Your Inner Psychopath to Get the Most Out of Life” by Dr. Kevin Dutton and Andy McNab (Apostrophe Books, 332 pages, in stores)

It takes some serious chutzpah to write a self-help book encouraging readers to behave like psychopaths. It requires even more guts to publish it as a new work when it's largely a rehash of a previous book.

Two years ago, Kevin Dutton published “The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success.” The book enjoyed generally favorable reviews, in part because of the audacity of its premise.

Now Dutton has partnered with Andy McNab, a renowned British Special Air Service hero and author who is himself psychotic. The opening pages of “The Good Psychopath's Guide to Success” describe in expletive-laced language how Dutton tested McNab’s humanity on a machine straight out of “Blade Runner” — and how, to Dutton’s delight and McNab’s blank acceptance, McNab was confirmed to be a psychopath.

Most mental health professionals would view such a diagnosis with less excitement. But Dutton argues that some qualities in psychopaths are admirable. He even goes so far as to suggest that psychopaths may represent the next step in human evolution. There may be a genetic advantage to being unemotional, uncaring and free of empathy, fear and remorse.

To make this argument, Dutton must divide psychopaths into a variety of categories. At the most basic level, he writes, there are “good” and “bad” psychopaths. Both flavors can be defined as “functional” and “dysfunctional,” with some additional parameters thrown in for taste. A tendency toward violence pushes one to the dysfunctional side of the equation, while innate intelligence and a normal upbringing are more closely linked with functional psychopathy.

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by Ken Raymond
Book Editor
Ken Raymond is the book editor. He joined The Oklahoman in 1999. He has won dozens of state, regional and national writing awards. Three times he has been named the state's "overall best" writer by the Society of Professional Journalists. In...
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