“Brandon Gauthier is that rare academic whose writing is both incisive and clear; even more than that, it is entertaining. Here he has chosen a subject that, on the face of it, isolates an alarming contradiction, one rarely confronted, that history’s worst butchers (he chooses Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, Mao, and Kim Il Sung, but they stand for the full rogues gallery) were once cuddly infants, playful schoolchildren, and sexed up teenagers. The result is a book that is as enlightening as it is disturbing, in part because we get a fresh view of history’s criminals, more so because in them, we can also see ourselves.”
— Todd Brewster, New York Times best-selling author of The Century (with Peter Jennings) and Lincoln's Gamble
"Before Evil isn’t your average history. Written in a colloquial language. Like listening to an old friend, not a stuffy intellectual. It tells the story of some of history's most reviled men. Dictators and despots. As though they were the dorky teens we all once were. Brandon Gauthier has done a first rate job in dispelling the myth that these tyrants were anything other than human. Same as you and I."
— Steve Anwyll, author of Welfare (Tyrant Books)
“We mustn't forget the terrifying dictators who were behind the policies foreign and domestic that made much of the 20th century such a bloody hell for so many. But Brandon Gauthier in this meticulously researched, compellingly written, highly accessible volume shows why we need to remember them less as monstrous aberrations, more as human beings who ended up demonstrating the capability of our species for evil.”
— Bradley K. Martin, author of Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty
“Before Evil opens a compelling window into the humanity of some of the most tyrannical despots of the modern era. At times poignant, powerful, erudite, and even humorous, it reminds us that those we consider truly evil are still truly human, and that the lines between good and evil are not as simple as we might like to believe.”
— Mitchell Lerner, Professor of History and Director of the East Asian Studies Center at The Ohio State University
“A lively yet rigorously researched inquiry into how and why some innocent little children grow up to become mass-murdering monsters.”
Daniel Kalder, author of The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy
“Brandon Gauthier has written a powerful investigation into the myriad influences that created six of the most evil men in modern history. Before Evil deftly explains in stunning detail how Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, and Kim slowly turned from unremarkable children into authoritarian adults whose choices affected the course of the entire world. By asking readers to grapple with the humanity of men who are widely abhorred, Gauthier provides a fresh way to understand why these six leaders were able to wield power—and how dictators could use those same tactics to rise again.”— Beth Knobel, Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University
“For the past 30 years I have worked as a psychological expert witness in murder cases and visited with children and youth in war zones around the world. I have struggled, as has Brandon Gauthier, to find a 'human' explanation for the psychological realities of violence and evil that I have encountered first-hand in prisons and refugee camps. His book is a significant contribution in that morally and emotionally challenging but necessary task.
A fascinating book!”
— James Garbarino, Professor of Humanistic Psychology, Loyola University Chicago, author of Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them