Absolute Madness

Absolute Madness

A True Story of a Serial Killer, Race, and a City Divided

“A gripping account of a complex and controversial case.”
—John Douglas, former unit chief of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime

Absolute Madness tells the disturbing true story of Joseph Christopher, a white serial killer who targeted black males and struck fear throughout New York in the 1980s. Dubbed both the “22-Caliber Killer” and “The Midtown Slasher,” Christopher allegedly claimed 18 victims during a savage four-month spree across the state.

The investigation, aided by famed FBI profiler John Douglas, drew national attention and biting criticism from Jesse Jackson and other civil rights leaders. The killer, when at last he was unmasked, seemed an unlikely candidate to have held New York in a grip of terror. His capture was neither the end of the story nor the end of the racial strife, which flared anew during circuitous prosecutions and judicial rulings that prompted cries of a double standard in the justice system.

Both a wrenching true crime story and an incisive portrait of dangerously discordant race relations in America, Absolute Madness also chronicles a lonely, vulnerable man’s tragic descent into madness and the failure of the American mental health system that refused his pleas for help.

An authentic and remarkable approach to a captivating, complex, and compelling investigation…A superior work of investigative journalism.
—Detective Garry McFadden, I Am Homicide
A fascinating, meticulously researched account of a white assassin targeting New York state’s black communities. A real-life police procedural and a distinguished addition to modern case studies of serial killers.
—Larry Harnisch, LA Daily Mirror
Pelonero’s insightful presentation and vivid storytelling navigates his crimes and his torturous mental health, unearthing the realities of insanity and the struggles of an insufficient criminal justice system…
—Fiona Guy, Crime Traveller
Pelonero’s meticulously researched account of a mentally ill man’s descent into the criminal justice system will take you on a page-turning ride through a disturbing and perilous process that is still with us today.
—Pamela Everett, JD, coauthor of Introduction to Criminal Justice and author of Little Shoes
Absolute Madness is a fascinating and detailed look at a horrifying series of crimes by a truly excellent true-crime author.
—Lisa Black, forensic scientist and New York Times bestselling author
A gripping account of a complex and controversial case.
—John Douglas, former unit chief of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime


Absolute Madness

This serial killer left a trail of dead black men from Buffalo to New York City

He didn’t immediately realize that he was bleeding. Several moments passed from when the man struck 25-year-old John Adams in the chest until Adams fell to the ground. His attacker, a white man wearing wire-rimmed glasses, hopped on a 2 train. It was almost noon on Monday, Dec. 22, at the IRT…

Absolute Madness

The night the .22-Caliber Killer was born

In the 1980s, a white serial killer terrorized New York, targeting black men. Monday, September 22, 1980. The gunshots were so loud, one of the witnesses said later, and so fast, the four cracking pops coming rapidly one after the other, it sounded as if someone were setting off firecrackers on her front lawn.

Absolute Madness

A new look at the .22-Caliber Killer

He heard orders to kill, and, as a soldier, he always followed orders. During a late-1980 killing rampage from one end of New York State to the other, he killed at least 10 black and Hispanic males, and wounded four others. The attacks started and ended in Western New York, creating a climate of terror for African-Americans across the region.

For more on Absolute Madness and the Joseph Christopher case, visit Media to view print articles, podcasts, and video.