Harold Schechter is an American true crime writer who specializes in serial killers. He is a professor of American literature and popular culture at Queens College, City University of New York. Schechter's essays have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and the International Herald Tribune. He is the editor of the Library of America volume, True Crime: An American Anthology. His newest book, The Mad Sculptor (about a sensational triple murder at Beekman Place in New York City in 1937), was published in February 2014.
|Born||June 28, 1948|
|Occupation||True Crime Writer/Author, Professor of Literature at Queens College, CUNY.|
|Alma mater||City College of New York, State University of New York|
|Genre||True crime, fiction|
|Subject||Serial killers, popular culture|
Schechter is an Associate Professor of English at Queens College, and specializes in American true crime, specifically serial murders of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Using primary sources such as newspaper clippings and court records, he supplies thorough documentation of every case he profiles, while still managing to create compelling narratives and fully fleshed-out characters. In addition to his work as a crime historian, Schechter is the author of an acclaimed series of detective novels based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe.
In addition to his historical crime books and mystery fiction, Schechter has written extensively on American popular culture. In The Bosom Serpent: Folklore and Popular Art, he explores the relationship between contemporary commercial entertainment and the narrative archetypes of traditional folklore. Savage Pastimes: A Cultural History of Violent Entertainment places the current controversy over media violence in a broad historical context. Examining everything from Victorian murder ballads to the productions of the nineteenth-century Grand Guignol, the book makes the somewhat contrarian argument that today's popular entertainment is actually less violent than the gruesome diversions of the supposedly halcyon past.
Publishers Weekly has called Schechter a "serial killer expert", a "deft writer", praising his ability to recreate "from documentation the thoughts and perspectives of long-dead figures." PW called Schechter's book The Devil's Gentleman "a riveting tale of murder, seduction and tabloid journalism run rampant in New York not so different from today".
Booklist called his book Depraved a "first-rate true crime and first-rate popular history." Writing in the New York Times reviewer James Polk praised Nevermore, the first in Schechter's Poe mystery series, for its "entertaining premise . . . supported by rich period atmospherics."
- The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men , the story of Belle Gunness a Norwegian immigrant who murdered at least 14 people primarily bachelors, most noticeably on a farm in La Porte, Indiana between 1902 and 1908 (Published in 2018).
- The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder That Shook the Nation, the story of Roger Irwin's obsession with the sister of model Veronica Gedeon and his subsequent descent into madness. (Published in February 2014)
- Depraved: The Shocking True Story of America's First Serial Killer, retitled in later releases as Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H. H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-of-the-Century Chicago, the story of Chicago serial murderer Herman Mudgett, alias Dr. H. H. Holmes
- Deranged: The Shocking True Story of America's Most Fiendish Killer!, the story of New York serial murderer Albert Fish
- Fiend: The Shocking True Story of America's Youngest Serial Killer, the story of Jesse Pomeroy, child murderer.
- Bestial: The Savage Trail of a True American Monster, serial murderer Earle Leonard Nelson, who killed in Canada and the United States.
- Deviant: The Shocking True Story of the Original "Psycho", the story of Ed Gein, the killer who inspired Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Silence of the Lambs
- Fatal: The Poisonous Life of a Female Serial Killer, the story of 19th century murderess Jane Toppan
- A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers (co-written with David Everitt)
- The Serial Killer Files: The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World's Most Terrifying Murderers
- Panzram: A Journal of Murder (Introduction)
- The Devil's Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial that Ushered in the Twentieth Century, New York: Random House/Ballantine Books, 2007.
- Killer Colt: Murder, Disgrace, and the Making of an American Legend (2010), the story of 19th century murderer John C. Colt, brother of arms maker Samuel Colt, and the trial
- Psycho USA: Famous American Killers You Never Heard Of (2012)
- Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal (2015)
- Nevermore (1999) – Edgar Allan Poe joins Davy Crockett to solve a series of shocking murders in Baltimore in 1835.
- The Hum Bug (2001) – Poe teams with Showman PT Barnum to solve a series of murders in New York.
- Mask of the Red Death (2004) – Poe joins forces with Kit Carson to track down a liver-eating murderer. Like the previous book, this one also takes place in New York.
- The Tell-Tale Corpse (2006) – Poe groups with author Louisa May Alcott to put down yet another murderer. This time, he takes his mystery to Massachusetts.
- Outcry – A Novel based on the fictional son of Ed Gein, and his path of destruction
- The Manly Movie Guide
- Savage Pastimes: A Cultural History of Violent Entertainment
- Real to Reel
- Patterns in Popular Culture: A Sourcebook for Writers
- Film Tricks: Special Effects in the Movies
- The Manly Handbook
- Kidvid: A Parents' Guide to Children's Videos
- American Voices: A Thematic/Rhetorical Reader
- Start Collecting Comic Books
- The Whole Death Catalog: A Lively Guide to the Bitter End
- Discoveries: Fifty Stories of the Quest
- Bosom Serpent: Folklore and Popular Art
- New Gods: Psyche and Symbol in Popular Art
- Original Sin: The Visionary Art of Joe Coleman
- Conversation Pieces: Poems that Talk to Other Poems, editor with Kurt Brown, New York: Knopf/Everyman, 2007.
- Killer Verse: Poems of Murder and Mayhem, editor with Kurt Brown, New York: Knopf/Everyman, 2011.
- Schechter, Harold (2014). The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder That Shook the Nation. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-544-11431-9.
- Mahdi, Louise Carus; Foster, Steven; Little, Meredith (1 January 1987). Betwixt & Between: Patterns of Masculine and Feminine Initiation. Open Court Publishing. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-8126-9048-4.
- Gilbert, Nathaniel (2006). Democracide: America on the Road to Fascism and Bankruptcy. AuthorHouse. p. 153. ISBN 978-1-4259-5922-7.
- "Nonfiction Book Review: The Devil's Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial That Ushered in the Twentieth Century". Publisher's Weekly.
- Official website
- "Harold Schechter's Dangerous Pastime, " by Gary Shapiro, http://www.nysun.com/on-the-town/harold-schechters-dangerous-pastime/13904/
- "Murder by Mail:in gilded Age New York" book review by William Grimes, https://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/24/books/24grim.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
- Poison Served His Purpose: a murder in New York gives us a landmark case and one gripping story," book review by Nathan Ward, http://www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110010807
- Harold Schechter's "Five Best Killer Stories: sensational murder trials…," http://www.opinionjournal.com/weekend/fivebest/?id=110010848
- Review of Savage Pastimes: A Cultural History of Violent Entertainment at Reason magazine