Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster” as Want to Read:
John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  2,291 ratings  ·  221 reviews
"Sam, could you do me a favor?" Thus begins a story that has now become part of America’s true crime hall of fame. It is a gory, grotesque tale befitting a Stephen King novel. It is also a David and Goliath saga—the story of a young lawyer fresh from the Public Defender’s Office whose first client in private practice turns out to be the worst serial killer in our nation’s ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 1st 2011 by Skyhorse Publishing
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about John Wayne Gacy, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Keeli Panter No, there are no "graphic" pictures. Just of the house and the victims, as people remembered them.
No, there are no "graphic" pictures. Just of the house and the victims, as people remembered them.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,291 ratings  ·  221 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew the basics about John Wayne Gacy before starting, but no details. The case made national headlines at the time, but I was too young to take notice. This is written by his defense attorney, Sam Amirante and co author Danny Broderick. What I really wanted to know is how someone can defend a serial killer. There is no doubt that Gacy committed the horrendous act of killing 33 boys and burying most of them under his house, in fact, he would tell anyone who asked that he did it(against his att ...more
Jim Dooley
This is one of the most difficult reviews I’ve written for GoodReads. In part, this is because the organization and writing style of the book is so inconsistent … and that can’t be attributed only to being written by more than one person. I even debated deleting the book from my listing unreviewed (as I take that name “GoodReads” literally). Ultimately, I’ve decided to recommend it … conditionally.

The retelling of the murders committed by John Wayne Gacy is both compelling and revolting at the
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
Story- 4/5
Narration- 5/5

The John Wayne Gacy case from his lawyer's perspective.

Very interesting!
Listened to in audio format.

This book was fascinating and I have found myself listening whenever I had a spare minute.

This book was written by Gacy's lawyers Sam Amirante and Danny Broderick. I was worried the book would claim Gacy's innocence or defend his actions but I was wrong.

The book discussed the murder of Gacy's last victim Robert Pieste which led to his arrest. Mr Amirante also explains his horror when a drunk Gacy confessed to killing 33 young men. When Gacy is finally arrested he show
As I grow older and find myself becoming more and more like my Mom, I seem to be gravitating towards the same books that captivated her, which seems to always be spinning me back to true crime. Lately, however, I have discovered that some of those true crime books are not exactly what they purport to be; they are, instead, memoirs of the author masking themselves as true crime.

That's precisely what Judge Sam L. Amirante has done with John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster. Sure he tells us the bas
Jun 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing

As with all of the true crime books I've been reading lately, I went into this one knowing very little beyond the fact that John Gacy had killed a lot of people. But there is so much more to the story.

So many times while watching the news, I've remarked to my husband that I don't understand who in their right mind would defend some of the vicious, despicable people in this world, that there was no way in hell that I'd do it. After reading this book, I understand.

My feelings about John Gacy a
Jan 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: crime
Very transphobic when he questioned Donita. Didn't like that part. For that he loses 2 stars. Very bigoted attitude and for that he loses another. ...more
Valerity (Val)
Sep 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: True crime readers
Shelves: true-crime
Having read most of the books written about Gacy, I found this an interesting read from the defense attorney's point of view. Strangely enough, there was an article in the news about the case just a couple of days after I finished it, regarding one of the suspected young men in the ongoing effort to identify the remaining 7 bodies that haven't been ID'd yet by one means or another. This young man's remains were actually found out west, and he was ruled out as a victim of Gacy's after nearly 30 y ...more
May 23, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Precinct captains, Italian lawyers, sad little creampuff serial killers
Sam Amirante had been a practicing lawyer for several years, but he had just started his own private practice when a guy he knew from his political precinct called him asking for a favor. John Wayne Gacy, a Democratic Party precinct captain and small business owner, was being followed around and harassed by the police in their little Chicago suburb, and wanted Sam to look into it. Something about a missing teenager.

So began Sam Amirante's first "real" case. At first he was convinced Gacy was inn
Laura Peden
Equal parts fascinating and horrifying. This is one case where I truly feel the monster should’ve been found not guilty be reason of insanity & spent the remainder of his life in a hospital. Some of the circumstances made this a tough read for me in that homosexuality & transexuality were still perceived as perverse in the 70’s & 80’s. I looked past it but it did piss me off. I still highly recommend to true crime fans and the audiobook is fantastic. Available in Audible +
Sep 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: e-book
While this is a page turner, that has more to do with the grotesque nature of the true crime that makes Gacy fascinating than it does with the craft of writing. As a result, this reads a bit like an epistle justifying why Amirante chose to defend Gacy. Throughout the entire book, Amirante and Broderick talk of Gacy's 'homosexual tendencies' in a vernacular that is more appropriate for 1979 than today. For a self-actualized gay man in 2012, their commentary grows tiring, and often had me wonderin ...more
BAM Endlessly Booked
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quit
DNF at 65%.

The writing is weirdly clunky and formal as the author doesn't tend to use contractions very much, so it just doesn't feel like how people would actually have spoken. At the same time he occasionally writes very casually, so it's just inconsistent.

A bigger issue was that he CONSTANTLY brought up the constitution, patriotism, every person's right to a fair trial, and the vilification of those who even had a passing thought of anything otherwise. It just comes across as all the years of
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
An inconsistent book mostly about what it was like to be John Wayne Gacy's lawyer. I was immediately swept into the book by the opening, which recounts a fateful visit by Gacy to a pharmacy for a small contracting job. We get the fictionalized perspective of a boy who works at the pharmacy, Gacy, and others and I hoped it would continue like this, but unfortunately most of the book simply recounts the experiences of the lawyer and not necessarily even about his extensive interaction with Gacy th ...more
Kristy K
Jun 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: true-crime, 2015
I read 60% of this before I chose to skim the remainder, not because of the severity and gruesomeness of the crime, but because of the writing itself. First off, the small print underneath Gacy's name on the cover bears true: it has as much to do about Gacy's lawyer (also the author) himself as it does about Gacy. This does not normally bother me, but in this case, I did not like it. The writing was laxed and informal, with sentences like this- "Ok, David Cram...not a brain surgeon, and so on an ...more
PJ Clark
May 19, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not a fan of the way the author describes people's bodies (large bodies, ladies' bodies, trans bodies). He doesn't describe thin bodies at all, but feels the need to describe every lump or roll of a fat person's. A trans witness is on the stand and he calls her a he/she and aggressively deadnames her.

The part about Gacy is interesting.
Dec 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
Maybe the original story of the John Wayne Gary murders are “befitting of a Stephen King novel” as the description implies. But the way this book is written? Not even close.

The book initially attempts to grab readers by telling an imagined version of the murder of Gacy's final victim. I was interested in the case and tried to force myself through this book, but I had to give before I was even 60% through.

The book is barely about the John Gacy murders at all; it's the autobiography of his lawye
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
I had a love/hate relationship with this book. I felt it was an informative and detailed elaboration on the Gacy case, of which I knew next to nothing. Also the Audible recording I listened to was spectacular. But it was at times overly salacious to say the least. I could get past the chilling details if it weren't for the authors self righteous showboating. I feel I have been beaten over the head with high minded monologues about the nature of justice and the law in America repeatedly throughou ...more
Mar 14, 2020 rated it liked it
I found it very interesting but to me there was a lack of explanation sometimes.
The author/s referred to JWGs father at times and how he was not easy to please and that kind of made him kill everybody and hate homosexuality. From the written, it is not conclusive how big of an influence the father was, I wish ther was a little bit more in depth description. Also, and that is a big problem for me, the way the attorney is talking about the Transgender person is repulsive. You have to out someone t
Kira Gimm
It started off really good....and then it fell apart. I found it really engaging until it came to the trial. The trial just kept going, and going, and going. I felt like the same things were repeated over and over. It got to the point where I just started skimming the book, and then I read the last chapter. The language was a little obnoxious, and I felt like at times the author was bragging about how awesome he was. If it weren't for the first half of the book I probably would give this book 1 ...more
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
Interesting review of John Wayne Gary's crimes. I didn't have much empathy for his lawyer as he seems like a bit of a dick with a warped sense of humour. ...more
Bertha Ivins
Apr 21, 2019 rated it liked it
It was interesting reading about the whole case not just what you got in the news, but I didn’t agree with a lot of the authors points and I didn’t like the name calling about prospective jurors. Yes we had a lot of good men and women that fought and died for a persons right to a fair trial, but they also fought and died so we all had freedom of speech which means stating our opinion if we so choose. I am one that believes Gacy deserved to die. Those boys he killed didn’t get a trail by jury bef ...more
May 24, 2018 rated it liked it
This was an insightful look at the trial of John Wayne Gacy. Although I disagree with Amirante and his stance that Gacy is truly insane, the book brought a different perspective on Gacy. Gacy is more likely a very disturbed man with a destructive childhood who hid his secret and acted out brutally and without regard for humanity. Amirante posits that if Gacy's last victim, Rob Piest, hadn't been killed that fateful day in December, it's likely that Gacy may not have been investigated, caught, an ...more
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was a teenager in Chicago during Gacy’s reign of terror and knew people who were directly impacted by this man.

I found the book refreshing as the focus was on the legal battle and not just the murder and mayhem.
Interesting to see how the lawyers try to have you perceive Gacy's mind and how the jury found him guilty but not insane as many Dr's even confirmed. ...more
Patrick O'Neil
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lauren Hannough-Bergmans
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this! I loved Amirante's perspective as Gacy's defense attorney and was thrilled to recognize some substantive law I learned in 1L. Plus, who doesn't want to know more about the killer clown? ...more
Dave McDonald
Dec 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book of its kind i have read. Well, actually I listened to it. I will say the narrator Robin Bloodworth was excellent. I listen to a lot of audio books due to the nature of my job and commute and the narrator can make or break a good book. I think the other benefit of listening is that I didn't have to worry about those "graphic images."

I thought the writing style was very good and I learned far more about Gacy than I ever thought I would. The attorney who represented him and a
Amy Reader
May 04, 2021 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
Outright transphobic and sexist. The detailed recount of outing, dead naming, and berating a trans witness on the stand and questioning her identity is appalling. The lawyer claims she is “living a lie” and then compares how she lives her life to how the confessed serial killer he defends lives his life. Utterly disgusting. Prior to this there was a moment of blatant sexism during the jury selection.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this audiobook from Audible during a Two-for-One deal (the other is on Charles Manson). Yes, I've been in the mood for stories about cult leaders and serial killers (I've been watching documentaries on TV about Waco, Jim Jones and Warren Jeffs too). I'm really glad I picked this book up. It was very interesting.

So, this book is written by Gacy's lawyer. He opens the book talking about the Constitution and the Sixth Amendment.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right t
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Meeting Manson An Uneasy Journey into an All-American Nightmare
  • Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original "Psycho"
  • Blood in the Snow: The True Story of a Stay-at-Home Dad, His High-Powered Wife, and the Jealousy that Drove Him to Murder
  • To Kill and Kill Again: The Terrifying True Story of Montana's Baby-Faced Serial Sex Murderer
  • Masters of True Crime: Chilling Stories of Murder and the Macabre
  • The Best New True Crime Stories: Serial Killers
  • Too Pretty To Live: The Catfishing Murders of East Tennessee
  • A Dark Night in Aurora: Inside James Holmes and the Colorado Mass Shootings
  • The Killing Season
  • A Killer in the Family
  • The Trials of Walter Ogrod: The Shocking Murder, So-Called Confessions, and Notorious Snitch That Sent a Man to Death Row
  • Unsolved Child Murders: Eighteen American Cases, 1956-1998
  • The Cases That Haunt Us
  • Sleep, My Child, Forever: The Riveting True Story of a Mother Who Murdered Her Own Children
  • Angel of Darkness: The True Story of Randy Kraft and the Most Heinous Murder Spree
  • Victim: The Other Side of Murder
  • Killer Clown: The John Wayne Gacy Murders
  • Greentown: Murder and Mystery in Greenwich, America's Wealthiest Community
See similar books…
See top shelves…

News & Interviews

  Here at Goodreads, we've noticed that a funny thing tends to happen when we start talking about audiobooks: The same few titles get...
55 likes · 14 comments
“It’s always the most patriotic asshole in the room that has absolutely no concept of what patriotism actually means.” 4 likes
“If the Constitution says one thing and our emotions say another, the Constitution should be followed rather than the emotion, every single time. It is that very Constitution that protects those rights that we like to call inalienable.” 2 likes
More quotes…