If you are looking for some great new reads on true crime, then check out this list of non-fiction Harold Schechter books. On our list of 17, you will find writings about infamous serial killers, mass shootings, and other murder related stories.
Schechter writes both fiction and non-fiction books, with most of his works in the true crime world. He's Professor Emeritus at Queens College in New York and co-wrote one episode of Law and Order for Season 8.
Known to be one of the first serial killers in the U.S.A., Albert Fish seemed like a normal and ordinary guy. However, he was indeed one of the worst. The horrors he inflicted on his victims were unbelievable in the 1920s and are still horrific, even by today's standards.
He was known to be kind and generous. However, underneath that façade was pure evil. He preyed on young girls and treated them like he owned them. He would torture them, abuse them in every way possible, and cannibal them. And again, these were all young girls. It would take years and years for them to catch him finally, but when they did, they found out he may have killed up to 16 girls during his monstrous life.
He was nicknamed "Deranged" by the police and everyone else who worked to find and prosecute him because he was the most deranged person they had ever seen at this time.
Many people try to figure out where characters in movies as Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and others get their start. Ed Gein is behind at least Psycho and maybe more. Like so many killers, he was a kind, average, and unsuspecting man who also just happened to live in the Midwest of the U.S.A.
However, Gein became the prototype for Psycho because he had a horrible, abusive mother who would tell him women are evil and sex is immoral. Being taught to believe this, he decided that killing them and then doing acts such as skinning them and making an armchair out of human bones was natural and respectable. His other crimes were even more heinous.
He would put their faces as masks against the walls to see them when he entered his house. It seems that he did this in part because he missed his mother and wanted to remake her at home. Deviant is one of the more sociable words that could be used against Gein.
Published: October 1st, 2000
Fiend: The Shocking Story America's Youngest Serial Killer by Harold Schechter is a book that tells the story of 12-year-old Jesse Pomeroy, who killed children in Boston in 1872. The book details how he was caught and what happened to him after his capture.
He was known to be violent and abusive to others as he grew up and began killing other girls until he was caught in put in prison. He may not have killed as many as some serial killers, with only 4, but they were all young girls and raped and murdered in the most horrid ways possible.
There are also chilling drawings throughout the book that show some of his victims before they were murdered, as well as gruesome illustrations of the murders themselves. If you are looking to learn more about how someone so young could do such evil deeds, you will want to read this one.
Published: July 1st, 2003
Jill and I find it intriguing how many of the female serial killers were nurses. However, it makes sense as it allows them to look as if they are kind and loving while still killing quickly. And, unlike being a doctor, you do not need years of education. Jane Toppan is precisely one of those nurses. She was indeed just as evil and insane as any man on this list.
From her early days, after her mom died, Toppan was suicidal, and her father was known to be mentally ill. Instead of growing out of this, she became genuinely evil. When she grew up, she started working at a hospital in Massachusetts to get close to her devices. And also to get up close to her soon-to-be victims.
After that, she moved on to doing her experiments on patients, usually, at night, so fewer people were around and would watch them slowly die, in utter pain, as she slowly poisoned them. By the end of her murder spree in 1901, she had killed up to 31 people and possibly more. During the trial, she stated that she “wanted to have killed more people than any other man or women who have ever lived.”
Published: December 30th, 2003
It will be easy to guess exactly what this book is about regarding murders and serial killers: EVERYTHING. Many of these personalities include famous ones such as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, the Night Stalker, and many more.
However, Schechter doesn't leave it at just the famous ones; he goes in-depth with other serial killers and murders and examines them. He tries to figure out the why, the what, and more. Some of these questions relate to their childhoods, where they lived, what kind of jobs they held, their beliefs in certain religions, and how they could justify their evil deeds.
Like everything else he writes, he tries to go as deeply into these horrible people's minds and figure out the truth. Because of this, he uses the profiles of over 100 serial killers and murderers so you can see the so varied and disturbing things concerning them. Some with obvious common traits, while others have nothing in common whatsoever.
Written by: Harold Schechter and David Everett
As you would imagine, this book is very similar to the one above, and it gave a massive amount of information on as many serial killers as possible when it was written. That means it may not have the most recent serial murderers, but it is still worth reading since you will get a very detailed look at each of them.
We put it below The Serial Killer Files since it is not as highly ranked, and we preferred that book to this one. Even so, it is still worth the read if you have time to read both or can't find The Serial Killer Files’ book.
Published: October 16th, 2007
One of the more confounding murders comes from Roland Burnham Molineux. A well-to-do, very high society man who was a chemist sent Harry Seymour Cornish, who secretly had poison. These two used to be friends, but they both fell in love with Blanche Chesebrough, which ended quickly. There were other issues between them, but that was the final straw.
So, Molineux sent that bottle to Cornish, and that I when it all went wrong. Then he took it home where he was living with his cousin, Katherine Adams, and his daughter Florence. Adams complained of feeling ill, and Florence gave her the medicine, which was poisoned. She died pretty quickly and painfully. Molineux was easily found as the killer since it was his handwriting, and the trial started as expected.
He was quickly found guilty, but it was later overturned as the prosecution had entered evidence that Molineux had killed another. The judges stated that was biased for the jury. His being freed became a landmark case, and he was released from prison and married Wallace D. Scott. He died in November 1913 from syphilis.
America was not prepared for the first serial killer, H.H. Holmes. He was a charming man who executed his crimes in Chicago during the 1893 World's Fair. Being born in a very wealthy family, no one even suspected him even though he had committed many other crimes before becoming a doctor. As the fair began, and the city welcomed visitors with open arms. Many of them would die of strangulation, incineration, or poisoning in what became known as "torture castle."
He once confessed to killing 27 people, but it is without a question that he killed many more people throughout his life. This book recreates this true story that has been shrouded by misinformation for more than 100 years with harrowing detail and vivid prose.
There is also a book, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, that goes into H.H. Holmes that is very much worth reading.
NOTE: This was previously released as Depraved: The Shocking True Story of America's First Serial Killer.
Sometimes known as "The Gorilla Killer," Earle Leonard Nelson was born in San Francisco in 1897 and raised in a very evangelical religious family. Even at a very young age, everyone in his family noticed that something was very off about him but not sure what. He even was institutionalized at a mental hospital for a short time.
After being released, his reign of terror started in the Bay Area, then went north, then through the Mid-West, to the East Coast, and finally ended in Canada, where he was arrested for two murders. However, that isn't even close to the end of the story, as he would usually find middle-aged women renting out rooms and getting one, and he'd then strangle them and rape them after they were dead.
He has become known to have killed at least 24 people on this trip across the U.S.A. and Canada, but there are indeed many more. Alfred Hitchcock made a movie inspired by him named Shadow of a Doubt which is also excellent.
Published: September 28th, 2010
Most people have heard of the Colt gun company started in the U.S.A. many years ago. However, almost no one knows about the murder committed by John Colt, whose brother made it. He was an intelligent man, with some ethnicities, but respected all the same. At one point, he wrote a book, and it was published. However, he didn’t pay the printer on time. So, the printer came to ask for his payment and was killed when Colt hit him with a hammer five or more times.
To hide his crime, Colt put the body in a crate, packed it with salt, and sent it to New Orleans without any information or a return address. However, a neighbor reported hearing noises in the house the next day when a search party was sent out to find Mr. Adams. The crate was then found and opened, and they found Adams in it.
Published: August 7th, 2012
We recommend this book to anyone interested in serial killers or murderers. However, it is also a great compendium even if you think you know them from other books. You may have heard of the killer's Ed Gein, Charles Starkweather, or Richard Speck. These are all famous American serial killers that have been studied extensively by psychologists and criminologists. But what about the many other lesser-known murderers who have killed in America throughout history?
Harold Schechter answers this question in his book Psycho U.S.A.: Famous American Killers You Never Heard Of. He profiles over 100 criminally insane murderers from John List to David Berkowitz.
Along with personal anecdotes, interviews with mental health specialists, and photos of murder scenes, he demonstrates how these people were just as twisted as their well-known counterparts. This includes a foreword by Dr. Michael Stone--the psychiatrist who treated Jeffrey Dahmer for two years.
Published: February 18th, 2014
Born in 1907, Robert Irwin grew to be a master sculpturer who trained with some of the top artists in the country. However, it also became apparent he was incredibly mentally unstable. He would become violent, would cut himself with a razor, and was eventually hospitalized on a few occasions. Then came the Easter weekend of 1937.
This Easter weekend seemed like every other normal one until the bodies of three people were found in the upscale neighborhood of Beekman Hill. He had fallen in love with Ethel Gedeon, who rejected him and married another man. He was infatuated with her and went to her house and killed both her and her younger daughter. Irwin had strangled both, and Ethel had also been stabbed. They also found the butler as they searched the house; Frank Byrnes had been stabbed numerous times.
Because Irwin was mentally ill, one of the reasons he was caught was that he made a sculpture out of soap and left it at the crime scene. The trial became a tabloid spectacle as his lawyer, Samuel Leibowitz, was famous throughout the land as he had defended criminals such as Al Capone and others.
Published: August 4th, 2015
It is 1873, and a group of six prospectors is stuck in the freezing cold and snow of the state of Colorado in the U.S.A. They sadly lose their way and get stuck until the winter ends. At that time, Alfred G. Packer walks out and into freedom. However, that doesn't last long as a search finds the other five have been butchered and eaten by Packer. And that is why Parker was given the nickname of "Man-Eater."
He then became one of the most wanted men in the country, and a years-long search went on until they finally found him. The trial, and the stories that were finally told, were horrific, disgusting and became one of the most infamous serial killings, including cannibalistic behavior in history.
Published: April 1st, 2018
As you’ve noticed, the list of serial killers and mass murderers are primarily men. That being stated, Belle Gunness stands out because of her actions. In the last 1800s and early 1900s, she was known to bring men back to her "murder farm" in the Midwest state of Indiana.
The way she accomplished her murders was to put ads in the newspapers, either for renters or for proposals for men to marry her. However, once they arrived, they were rarely seen again. After all these disappearances, police started investigating more. They found over 15 bodies, including her children, were found after the house burned down. They had all been tortured and abused before being killed. There were still questions about whether the fire was faked so she could escape or not, and you'll have to read it to find out!
Published: July 7th, 2020
Every movie has a script, and every script must start from somewhere. In the case of these movies, everyone begins with murders or serial killers. This book delves into the psyches, the methods, and the locations of where these killings happened.
Find out the truth behind Psycho, the Night Stalker, Bonnie and Clyde, Richard Speck, who killed nurses, and many more. Trust us, after reading this book; you'll never take vacations the same way again. We know it because we often take it with us or plan some of our trips, to see the areas and methods these grisly murders occurred. Even if you don't travel, you can know more about the stories than the movies will tell you whenever you watch one.
Published: March 9th, 2021
The Bath School Disaster is one of the most infamous mass killings in American history, and it's also one of the first to happen on school grounds, which makes it all the more tragic. Andrew Kehoe was a respected community member, intelligent, and always known as someone you could rely upon when needed.
However, on May 18th, 1927, Andrew Kehoe detonated dynamite in his car outside a rural elementary school while students were at recess; he then set off two bombs inside the building before committing suicide.
The death toll was 38 children and six adults, making this event stand out among other mass murders for its high number of casualties. However, what sets it apart from many different mass murders is how well documented it is due to its proximity to a rural area with a large community that took part in investigating what happened.
Written by: Harold Schechter and Eric Powell
Published: July 27th, 2021
Trust us; this will be unlike any other serial killer book you see anywhere else on the web. Why? Because this is a graphic novel penned by five-time Eisner Award-winning artist Eric Powell. So, when you read about the truly evil Eddie Gein, you'll see how he killed others and made their body parts into furniture, wastebaskets, human skin into "paper" bags, and even a lampshade made out of the skin of a woman's face, you will see it with your own eyes.
This book truly brings to light the exploits of the killer and necrophiliac, the mind of Ed Gein, who has inspired so many of the worst horror film characters throughout time. It may be a graphic novel, but it is still non-fiction, and it is definitely not a kid’s book.