Book: Psycho USA: Famous American Killers You Never Heard Of
Author: Harold Schechter
Type of Book: Non-fiction, true crime
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: True crime will always have a tinge of the odd or bizarre about it for those of us who are definitely not the serial killer type.
Availability: Published by Ballantine Books in 2012, you can get a copy here:
Comments: Harold Schechter is one of my favorite true crime authors. I have several of his books covering the crimes of Ed Gein, H.H. Holmes, Jesse Pomeroy and others and one day hope to find myself with time to read some of his fiction. He writes in a manner that is both intelligent and accessible and manages to speak about the unspeakable without the bombast and disgust that I am sure would mar my writing were I ever to try to write about killers.
So given his skills, I should not have been so smug as to think this book had little to teach me. I’ve stated on this site before that up until 2000 or so, I knew about almost all serial killers, and I did know quite a bit. But I certainly knew far less than I thought I did because in this book of more obscure American killers, some of whom are serial killers or mass murderers, I only knew of three killers out of the thirty-one presented. Among poisoners, sex killers, lonely hearts murderers and family annihilators, I knew of the Smutty Nose Killer, an angry seaman who killed a house full of women for money; Carlyle Harris, a despicable seducer and poisoner; and William Edward Hickman, a kidnapper and mutilator. I had sort of heard of Andrew Kehoe, having come across his name in reference to school mass murderers, but had never read about him in any depth.
Since I am attempting to write quickly for Halloween, I’m going to write about the two murders I know best, and hope I can give justice to this compendium as I do it. A lot of the true crime encyclopedias out there are tiresome cash grabs, covering the same ground over and over and discussing intricate and fascinating murders in so little detail that the reader finds herself longing for text at least as comprehensive as Wikipedia. Not so with Schechter, and even if my discussion doesn’t resonate, you should look into him if his name is new to you. If it doesn’t resonate, it’s probably my fault.