Recommended Reading: Snakes in Suits without Consciences

kinnon —  August 20, 2007 — 4 Comments

GohomelakebillsphonecamImbi and I meandered around Lake Simcoe on Saturday on our way up to visit Bill and Cindy, great friends of ours who have a cottage on Go Home Lake in Muskoka. (This song particularly describes this location. I was the editor on this project where that song is featured…just in case you were asking.) Of course, only a small part of this information is pertinent to the post I’m prognosticating* upon here.

I met Bill when I was a stammering Grade Niner. He was a year older. (UPDATE: Apparently he still is a year older.) My home room teacher had urged me into a play (to help me overcome my stammer) and Bill had the lead role. (He was the villain in Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.) I always thought Bill would be one of Canada’s great actors – he owned the stage whenever he was on it. Instead, he’s had a very successful career in upper management. (Perhaps his acting skills have come in handy.)

SnakeswoconscienceWhilst enjoying the gorgeous scenery of Go Home Lake, we talked about leadership. Both Bill and Cindy have done a lot of reading on leadership issues (for many reasons) and they highly recommended Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, by Robert Hare. I’d already read about the book Hare had co-authored, Snakes in Suits in the comment section of Bob Sutton’s blog – where Sutton had heartily agreed that Snakes in Suits "is a very well-crafted and useful book."

An Amazon reviewer has this to say about Snakes in Suits (and I think a number of us will find his description of psychopaths rather chilling),

Psychopaths are ruthless, cunning, and conscienceless egotists. They will sell out their own mother in their quest for power. And yet they are loved and admired by many. How can we reconcile this contradiction?

Babiak and Hare demonstrate that psychopaths are masters of adopting a "mask of sanity" (a term coined by Hervey Cleckley in his masterpiece, "The Mask of Sanity"); that is they are extremely effective at impression management. They are con artists who can fool even the experts, donning whatever persona is needed to manipulate their victims.

If you can be of value to the social striving of a subclinical psychopath, you can bet that he will convince you of his good intentions, his honour, his kind nature, etc. But it is a lie. He is simply using you.

The same reviewer says this about Hare’s Without Conscience,

Hare’s book, along with Martha Stout’s (The Sociopath Next Door), are probably the most accessible, easy-to-read introductions to the reality of psychopathy. Without Conscience is loaded with entertaining and disturbing accounts of researchers’ experiences with psychopaths. You can see almost first-hand the psychopath’s strange use of language, his total disregard for the truth, his absolute lack of guilt or conscience.

Hare debunks some of the myths of psychopathy, like the idea that it is the result of poor child rearing, and that it is the same as ‘antisocial personality disorder’.

Amazon tells me that both books have been shipped. They should arrive in the next few days (at our soon-to-be lived-in Toronto location) and I look forward to sharing some of the insights with you.

UPDATE: This post of mine from the end of July fits this topic rather well.

*I realize "prognosticating" was used incorrectly in the fourth sentence of this post – but I was going more for alliteration than clarity of understanding. Snakes freak me out, eh!



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

4 responses to Recommended Reading: Snakes in Suits without Consciences

  1. I look forward to reading your insights.

  2. Bill, I’m reading Snakes right now, recommended I think by Wendy McAlpine. Did it come up when you were here? Suddenly it’s everywhere. Very insightful, but I’m reading too slow – I think my library copy is due today… but I can renew online ;^)

  3. Hi everyone.

    I just literally received my books, been wanting them for a while now but seem to always forget to buy them.
    Anyway, they are here now. But I was wondering, which one do you recommend I read first??? snakes or without a conscience?


  4. I start with Snakes.


What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.