Some books begin with an idea, others with an event. This book is of the latter kind. The event that triggered the book took place in a quiet corner of rural England, with a name that conjures shaded streams, gently running with rainwater: Rainsbrook. That place was a prison. The event was the death of a child.
A small boy – he is 4 foot 10, weighs 6½ stone – pads along a corridor in silence. My view is from a high CCTV camera on a metal stanchion on a smoothed brick wall, black-and-white footage (it may not be, but that’s how I remember it), no sound, and the boy walks slowly with his back to me towards a room, which is his cell. He turns left, enters. I never see his face. Can you be haunted by a face you never see? He disappears, shuts the door. Minutes later, two prison officers walk, faster, along the same corridor. They walk in silence, but their sheer size compared to the boy seems to fill the frame with noise, with chaos. They also turn left, enter the room, shut the door. A third prison officer comes along, enters, shuts the door. Within minutes, the boy is dead. His name was Gareth Myatt.
What happened in that room?
It was my professional duty – it became my quest – to find out. At the inquest into his death, during which I represented their family, his mother Pam asked me a question: ‘Why did they do it – why did they do that to my son?’
I didn’t have an answer, or a good enough one for her. Truth in a courtroom is only part of human truth. She didn’t mean to affect me like that. She is a quietly courageous person who bears so much, wants to burden no one. What she really wanted was her son back. I couldn’t make that happen, but I could try to find a better answer.
You do the case. Finish it. Move on. But the case isn’t always finished with you. My ensuing investigation, for investigation it was – and mystery, and secret story – was in pursuit of an elusive fugitive: a culprit and quarry which was at the same time the hero of the piece – us. Or more precisely the hidden parts of us. I was lured on by those few frames: a corridor, a boy disappearing, a door shutting, a question: what happened in that room?
In my mind, over time, Pam’s question slowly began to change. Not why did they do that, but why do we? A larger truth loomed behind what she asked. Why do we hurt the most fragile things? What are we? Who are we?
The quest in part was to save a boy it was impossible to save. Over the next ten years that journey took me to four of the six humanly habitable continents and ranged from ancient Greece and imperial Rome, to modern southern Siberia and the ice mountains of Pluto. The more I researched the science and the far-flung frontiers of the human experience – the unguessable edges of what we know and what we are, of life and human longing – the more I realised that I was not just researching what happened in that room, that corridor, but in many. There are many such rooms and corridors in our mind. What is more, they are populated by a number of regularly recurring kinds of people. Types. In this book you will also meet them.
In a way, you already know them. Only you don’t – not really. You carry them around inside you. But you probably don’t know it. In a sense, they are you. Only they’re not – not entirely. They inform and shape the most important decisions in your life. But you’re almost certainly unaware of their intervention. They are the essence and instinct of the people you meet. They are the Ten Types of Human.
Who are they? What are they for? How did they get into our head?