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Book Review - In Pursuit of Satan

This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1991, Volume 8, Number 1, pages 84. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.

Book Review - In Pursuit of Satan: The Police and the Occult. 

R. D. Hicks. Prometheus, Buffalo, NY, 1991, 420 pages.

This is a formidable seven-chapter book, with a 4-page, 2-column index and a staggering 1166 reference notes. Though he denies being a "cult expert," Hicks is well qualified: he is a law-enforcement specialist in Virginia's Criminal Justice Services and a former Tucson police officer with two degrees in anthropology.

Hicks questions "what Satanism (whatever it is) has to do with crime" and states that "the road is paved with invective, calumny, and rumor but also with insight, temperance, and skeptical thinking." He "skeptically examines the myriad claims" of "cult cops" and does so meticulously. His style and content are the stuff the best police investigations are made of.

The author applies anthropological and sociological data and well-chosen research studies to contrast fact with fantasy, hard data with hysteria; and all of this is exceptionally well-referenced. At times there seem to be too many data and some redundancy of ideas, but this may in fact add to the effectiveness of his scrutiny. The book is a floodlight into a dark subject.

Chapter 5 is especially helpful in shedding light on unconvincing case law on ritual abuse and the great need for more careful data gathering and investigation. Despite his firm confrontation to error and bias, Hicks ends with an appeal to "remove the `cult' from cult crime" and get on with the basic mission of law enforcement to bring to justice anyone who commits crime regardless of ascribed motive or belief.

This book contains much useful information and has the potential of becoming a standard reference, not only in law enforcement and effective investigation but also for anyone interested in applying the scientific method, objectivity, and critical judgment to a subject that has received far too little research attention. Highly recommended.

Frank J. MacHovec, Ph.D., Director

Center for the Study of the Self

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1, 1991