Brian Masters

Killing For Company

""...Masters’ book goes some way to try and unravel the complexities of this particular killer. ""


In February 1983, residents of Muswell Hill had been plagued by blocked drains. When a plumber was called to investigate, he discovered a large blockage of biological material. To his horror, it appeared to be formed of human flesh and bones.

The next day, local resident Dennis Nilsen was arrested. Within days he had confessed to fifteen gruesome murders over a period of four years. His victims, mostly young gay men at a time when society cared little for them, had been overlooked. Nilsen was to become one of the most infamous serial killers in the UK.

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This re-issue of the book has been released due to the TV adaptation featuring David Tennant. Masters worked closely with Nilsen back in the 80s to bring this book together. There is no judgement from the author, but you do get the sense of the complicated personas of Nilsen. He eluded capture for so long and yet he wanted 'his nightmare to end'. Was this why he 'shopped' himself by complaining about the drains he had blocked himself with human remains? Or was it due to the fact that Nilsen did not have an audience to be shocked and fascinated by his cunning at having got away with his crimes for so long? Was the craving for adulation stronger than the impulse to quietly kill? Why kill if there was nobody to appreciate it? Then you have the shy Nilsen who is reticent, a contradiction to the killer who wrote exercise book after exercise book filled with his memories, an intimate and unexpurgated story of his life and his crimes, a man revelling in his fifteen minutes of fame. Unfortunately, his crimes were allowed to continue in the 80s with Thatcher's denigration of the LGBT community and the police seeing gay men as not worth bothering with as they 'lived that sort of lifestyle'. Although some progress has been made, the police had this mindset with Stephen Port only in 2014/15, who was allowed to kill three more men under their noses. One hopes that lessons are always being learnt by the authorities with these types of cases, but there will always be a Nilsen, a Shipman or somebody of that ilk operating within our communities. Sadly, it is always the killer and never the victims who hold our attention, who gets the notoriety, which is the way of the world. I imagine it is because we are fascinated to find out how they tick? We shall never know, but Masters' book goes some way to try and unravel the complexities of this particular killer.

Reviewed By:

Chris Simmons