Depraved by Harold Schechter
A friend lent me a bunch of real crime books by Harold Schechter, and this is the first I’ve read. It’s pretty good. As he said, it’s not good writing, not great writing. Certainly entertaining. There are a few flaws some by the author and some one account of the material.
H. H. Holmes, a pseudonym of Herman Webster Mudget, was the first real serial killer in the US. Reports vary as to exactly how many he killed, estimates range from a low undisputed number of nine, to as many as several hundred. The story starts in Chicago around the time of the Columbian Exposition (1894), when Holmes built a "castle" in suburban Chicago with a floor plan designed to facilitate murder. The book concentrates primarily on murders of Pitezel family members: Benjamin, father and accomplice in the swindels; and children Alice, Nellie, and Howard.
The book gives an idea but does not concentrate on the cruelty and viciousness of the crimes and that, I think, is a detriment. While I’m not looking for a blow by blow (so to speak) account of the crimes, the reader only gets indications of just how bad this was. There is also little to give an idea of the sheer numbers of people he killed. (Holmes is also written about in The Devil in the White City.) Schechter does, however, give a very good and clear account of the beguiling nature of Holmes and his ability to talk anybody into anything. Plus there are clear examples of just how pathologically impossible it was for Holmes to the the truth about anything.
The most annoying aspect of the author’s writing style is his penchant for trying to end every (very short) chapter with some sort of cliffhanger. Like little did they realize the monster in their midst or but the little boy never appeared or then he led her away to join her sister. But once the chase is on, the style does eventually settle down. Schechter does give a most excellent account of the manhunt by the investigators hunting for him for the original insurance fraud which eventually led to Holmes’ undoing.
The second shortcoming of a book like this is caused by the very nature of the material. People like Holmes operate in secret, consequently, not a lot is written or known about their early lives so it simply cannot be documented and is left to conjecture. The simple fact that the number of people he killed varies by hundreds is testament to that. It would be nice to know more, but it’s simply not possible. It is surprizing, though, that someone like Holmes, whos trial held the nation in thrall for months could be so completely forgotten a hundred years later, while Lizzie Borden and Jack the Ripper, who killed far fewer people, are remembered to this day.
Still, it’s a good, easy read and not really very gruesome. There are many more gruesome things on network tv and video games. But again, this is real which makes all the difference.
Last purchases before the July ride, I think.
- Kool Stop Dura-type brake holders & dual-compound pads (2 sets @ 16.95)
- Michelin Krylion Carbon tires (2 @ 28.95)
- Wipperman 9×1 Stainless 9 speed chain (1 @ 47.95)
- Park Tool chainwhip (1 @ 17.95)
- Park Took Shimano cassette tool (1 @ 6.95)
- SRAM PG970 21-11 Road cassette (1 @ 44.95)
- Shimano SPD-SL cleats (1 set @ 14.95)
All from BikeTiresDirect.com
Work is busy, busy, busy. I was authorized by $client to hire an underling (with budgetary approval). I don't think I need one as I've only given about 60% effort up to now. Besides, I don't really know anyone who does what I do, so I'd have to hire through interviews rather than my having worked with them before. Not to keen on that. (ColdFusion and MS SQL Server, anyone? Anyone? Buehler?) But I guess the sluice gates really are open now.
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