Reviews of Bill Bonin Serial Killer Bio, ‘Without Redemption,’ Highlight Best of Complex Story
February 24, 2023
Hollywood, CA—5-Star book reviews gleaned from Amazon on the latest and most detailed biography of Freeway Killer Bill Bonin highlight many parts of a detailed historical biography.
Without Redemption: Creation & Deeds of Freeway Killer Bill Bonin, His Five Accomplices & How One Who Escaped Justice, by Clinical Psychologist Vonda Pelto, Ph.D. and Michael B. Butler, has many unique aspects—for example, it solves two 40-year-old murder mysteries, chronicles multiple sessions Pelto had with three of the Freeway Killers in jail, explains how one day during the ten-month murder spree had major implications for events to follow.
Here are some of the most interesting book reviews of Without Redemption:
All the Makings of Compelling Serial Killer Movie or Mini-Series
Without Redemption sets itself apart from other serial killer bios with the sheer volume of factual detail, one which reads like historical biographies of famous leaders. Freeway Killer Bill Bonin’s whole life is laid out and this allows the authors to carefully track his 30-year journey/descent into murderous depravity. I have worked on a number of productions about serial killers and murderers, and this book has all the elements for a compelling movie, mini-series or docudrama.
First, you have Bonin’s detailed diaries/written confessions which give an inside view of everything; Second, the co-author, Vonda Pelto, Ph.D., having ersatz counseling/confession sessions with three of the six Freeway Killers in jail; Third, reams of documentary evidence about Bonin’s childhood, war service, years in mental hospitals and prisons followed by the months leading up to the murder spree. Next are Bonin’s carefully written stories of the 22 killings all over Southern California, the journalists reporting on his activities and the detectives chasing him.
Then, after his arrest the story really gets juicy, and complex, as everyone jumps in the pool together to hash out the penultimate act. Surprises await around every corner as cases are getting built, deals negotiated and more suspects pursued. Part and parcel are scenes of political backstabbing, deception, lying and coverups, which is followed by Bonin’s huge trial and the final curtain in this tragic drama.
Generous use of newspaper stories fills in the gaps and the whole book moves rapidly forward without too much lollygagging. ‘Without Redemption’ is as close to a complete serial killer historical biography that one might find.
Paints the Whole Picture
Not much of Freeway Killer Bill Bonin’s life, leading up to his first and most important conviction, is left out of this book.
An interesting section is the one after his arrest, where Bonin’s jailhouse diaries are used to tell the inside story. It is fascinating because everyone, I mean everyone, is deceiving and lying to everyone else—homicide detectives from different agencies, prosecutors, witnesses, defense attorneys, press, politicians, district attorneys and, of course, the six Freeway Killer defendants. There are also humorous jailhouse stories that serve to break up the story.
Leading up to the disaster is like descending a slow staircase, and then there is the ten-month murder spree that is chronicled from many different perspectives. Without Redemption definitely deserves the moniker ‘detailed historical biography.’
Co-Author Vonda Pelto is a Player in This Serial Killer Bio
My surprise in this book was how the co-author, Clinical Psychologist Vonda Pelto, Ph.D., actually participated in the story told about the life of Freeway Killer Bill Bonin—she dealt with Bonin and two of his accomplices while working at Los Angeles Central Jail. Pelto had numerous sessions with all three, and other horrible serial killers, and had to listen to their ghastly stories, told in some ways to see her reactions and in other ways to relive their crimes. Her disgust is evident, but she hides it during discussions with Bonin, Miley and Munro, where they all talked about murders in detail.
Aside from that Without Redemption is interesting because it is the story of one person’s slow march to becoming an unfeeling monster. It was scary how the killing took over his life, kind of like Gollum in ‘Lord of the Rings,’ it simply swallowed him up.
The authors really packed in the factual stories of Bonin’s life, from birth all the way through months and months of day-to-day events after his arrest, when the system was gearing up and he was trying to make a deal to avoid the death penalty. This part of the book is when very public events are analyzed from inside and outside, and where big surprises pop up.
A thoroughly fascinating and engaging read.
They tell full story of a serial killer, from beginning to the end!
Serial killer biographers often lack access to many important documents, but that can’t be said of Without Redemption, which reveals for the first time how and why someone got away with double murder! In fact, the Freeway Killer Bill Bonin is the one who covered for his accomplice. One also learns that Bonin was in police custody on numerous occasions during the murder rampage.
It’s obvious the authors must have had boxes and boxes of material to write from—Bonin’s childhood, adult years spent in mental hospitals and prisons, well before Bill Bonin started killing, are ably reconstructed in amazing detail. You can sense the disaster to come as story slowly unfolds.
Then the killing starts and Bonin’s own written words and many different interviews, with homicide detectives and the co-author Vonda Pelto, Ph.D., give the reader a front row seat in the mind of the man who murdered 22 teenage boys, with five accomplices, in a short period of time. Taking place in 1979-80 in Los Angeles, the book paints of picture of how Bonin’s actions created a firestorm among police, the public and the media.
Part three is a fascinating look at what happened after Bonin’s arrest and how detectives rolled up the other killers and built their case against Bonin and his friends. It was a complicated ten-months, but the authors recreate it in fascinating detail, which includes using Bonin’s jailhouse diaries and see how he was manipulating events while also being unable to control his fate.
A historical biography worthy of that term.
What a Story, Personal & Societal Failures on Display
I couldn’t believe it when I realized most of the story took place in areas near where I live and work; Long Beach, Downey, Montebello, Newport Beach, Cerritos, Hollywood, etc. Bill Bonin, in many ways, was created as a serial killer by his environment and experiences, and you get to find out when and where he could have been stopped, before and during the killings. That is heartbreaking.
Yes, it is the full story about Freeway Killer Bill Bonin, but it is also an indictment of societal institutional failures. Careful research shows how public bureaucrats, and short-sighted laws, helped allow the Bonin Freeway Killer tragedy to happen. Plenty of blame to go around, but of course it comes to the man’s inability to control himself, so keep that in mind when reading this fascinating book.
Plus, all kinds of mysteries, like two unsolved murders, get solved 40-years after the events took place, but one must pay attention to fully grasp all these newly revealed facts about the cases.