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Psycho USA: Famous American Killers You Never Heard Of (edition 2012)

by Harold Schechter

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8124148,805 (3.97)9
Member:AQuilling
Title:Psycho USA: Famous American Killers You Never Heard Of
Authors:Harold Schechter
Info:Ballantine Books (2012), Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Psycho USA: Famous American Killers You Never Heard Of by Harold Schechter

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"In this book, Schechter has compiled short but gruesome accounts of several of the most shocking murderers in United States history. These men and women were, in their respective times, considered to be the perpetrators of Crimes of the Century - the most vile and atrocious fiends this country had ever seen. But they have since faded into obscurity.

Now, however, Schechter has brought them back...

...Psycho USA is a great read for anyone who is interested in things that are morbidly fascinating. It took me longer than I expected to get through it, but only because school + two jobs leaves me precious little time for leisure reading most of the time. People with less time-consuming schedules could probably get through it in a night or two...

...Another thing I had a tendency to do whilst reading Psycho USA (and another reason this took so much longer than expected to finish) was I'd open up the internet and end up doing searches for the people mentioned in this book, especially the ones brought up in passing but who did not have a chapter dedicated to them...

...There were some technical aspects about the format of the book that I didn't care for, like the way the photo captions were in the same font size as the main text, which was a little confusing until I realized I was looking at a caption, and not misplaced text. That is my only real complaint, though...It was a very interesting read - I'm a fan of any book that prompts further research on my part, so Schechter wins points for that...

...Overall, I rather enjoyed this book, and I'd recommend it. However, and this is probably obvious because of the subject matter, but a lot of the descriptions in this book are pretty detailed, especially those that are in the killers' own words, so if that sort of thing tends to bother you...this might not be the book for you."

For full review, please visit me at Here Be Bookwyrms on Blogger:

http://herebebookwyrms.blogspot.com/2013/10/pyscho-usa-famous-american-killers-y... ( )
  here.be.bookwyrms | Oct 2, 2013 |
There's nothing I love more than reading about some true crime--the more unknown the better. Sure, I like learning new things about all the cases I've already heard about but it doesn't beat learning about it for the first time. I'm not ashamed to say I hadn't heard about any cases gone into detail here. The little asides, especially the ones about "murder ballads" were also fascinating. Everything about this book is a five star for your average true crime connoisseur.

a copy was given to me by a publisher via netgalley for an honest review. ( )
  lovelylime | Sep 21, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I just couldn't finish this book. It's not particularly gory or upsetting but it was just boring to read. ( )
  lhager | Mar 27, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
What is fascinating about this book is seeing what history considered “heinous” crimes, crimes that, quite frankly, would barely receive a mention in today’s media.

Thoroughly researched, Schechter once again delivers an encyclopedia of true crime, this time of various cases stretching over two hundred years. There’s no Jack the Ripper here. Instead, Schechter focuses on crimes that were considered grisly for that particular time period, yet are cases that are often over-looked by the majority of true crime aficionados.

In addition to the researched cases, the sidebars contain tidbits of further information about the crimes, the timer period, even ballads.

True crime fans will definitely want to add this to their reference collections. ( )
  elwood_mom | Feb 21, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Some people kill and are soon forgotten, in spite of "crime of the century" label they receive. Some murderers remain infamous long after they have committed their crimes and, if possible, been held responsible. In "Psycho USA - Famous American Killers You Never Heard Of", author Harold Schechter has delved into the murderous history of some of America's least known killers. Starting in the late 18th century and continuing to the mid-20th century, these are the captivating stories of killers that have left the bodies and notoriety behind, only to have others step up to the forefront of public lore.

One of the first killers of note is William Beadle, the "Family Annihilator" who in 1782 killed his wife and four children with an ax and knife simply because he had lost his financial stability and did not want them to suffer. He then took his own life by holding two pistols against his ears and pulling the triggers. In 1935, Mary Frances Creighton, the "Black-Eyed Borgia", poisoned her mother-in-law with hot cocoa laced with arsenic and then proceeded to kill her younger brother for the insurance money. She then helped to kill the despised wife of a boarder. She was only caught when authorities learned of the previous poison murders and an autopsy showed enough arsenic to "kill at least three people". She was sentenced to die in the electric chair. The "Cape Cod Vampire" killed four young women and dismembered their bodies. He had been previously arrested for assault and battery for breaking into the home of a neighbor. When the police were notified by the parents of the missing girls, a search was made and their bodies were found in the woods outside a small town on Cape Cod. Antone Costa as arrested, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. In May 1974 he was found hanging in his cell.

Some murderers kill for revenge, hatred, or fear. Some are certifiably insane and it's just a matter of time before they start killing. Often they kill for sexual reasons, such as Theo Durant of San Francisco who killed two women who rebuffed his advances and were killed in the church where they had met him. Perhaps what we do find so fascinating is that the reasons that people kill do not change over the decades - each story can be told without mention of time or place and the stories remain the same.

Each person in this book has committed a terrible crime and each deserves their own justice. The stories are hard to imagine and painful to consider. It's not easy to admit that this is fascinating reading, but the author has written each story in a matter-of-fact style that makes for irresistible reading. Highly recommended for those who enjoy the true crime and historical non-fiction genres. ( )
  TheFlamingoReads | Jan 25, 2013 |
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In memory of David Everitt
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DURING THE LATE SUMMER AND EARLY FALL OF 2010 -- WHILE THIS BOOK WAS still in progress -- the country was riveted by the trial of Steven J. Hayes, accused of one of the most monstrous crimes in recent memory.
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PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE THAT WE LIVE IN A UNIQUELY VIOLENT AGE CLEARLY HAVEN'T been paying much attention to the past 250,000 years or so of human history. Our species has been committing appalling acts of savagery -- rape, mutilation, torture, cannibalism, et cetera -- since the days we dwelt in caves. (p. 95)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345524470, Paperback)

AMERICA’S MOST COLD-BLOODED!
 
In the horrifying annals of American crime, the infamous names of brutal killers such as Bundy, Dahmer, Gacy, and Berkowitz are writ large in the imaginations of a public both horrified and hypnotized by their monstrous, murderous acts. But for every celebrity psychopath who’s gotten ink for spilling blood, there’s a bevy of all-but-forgotten homicidal fiends studding the bloody margins of U.S. history. The law gave them their just desserts, but now the hugely acclaimed author of The Serial Killer Files and The Whole Death Catalog gives them their dark due in this absolutely riveting true-crime treasury. Among America’s most cold-blooded you’ll meet
 
• Robert Irwin, “The Mad Sculptor”: He longed to use his carving skills on the woman he loved—but had to settle for making short work of her mother and sister instead.
 
• Peter Robinson, “The Tell-Tale Heart Killer”: It took two days and four tries for him to finish off his victim, but no time at all for keen-eyed cops to spot the fatal flaw in his floor plan.
 
• Anton Probst, “The Monster in the Shape of a Man”: The ax-murdering immigrant’s systematic slaughter of all eight members of a Pennsylvania farm family matched the savagery of the Manson murders a century later.
 
• Edward H. Ruloff, “The Man of Two Lives”: A genuine Jekyll and Hyde, his brilliant scholarship disguised his bloodthirsty brutality, and his oversized brain gave new meaning to “mastermind.”
 
Spurred by profit, passion, paranoia, or perverse pleasure, these killers—the Witch of Staten Island, the Smutty Nose Butcher, the Bluebeard of Quiet Dell, and many others—span three centuries and a host of harrowing murder methods. Dramatized in the pages of penny dreadfuls, sensationalized in tabloid headlines, and immortalized in “murder ballads” and classic fiction by Edgar Allan Poe and Theodore Dreiser, the demonic denizens of Psycho USA may be long gone to the gallows—but this insidiously irresistible slice of gothic Americana will ensure that they’ll no longer be forgotten.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:38 -0400)

Shares the stories of lesser-known serial killers including "Mad Sculptor" Robert Irwin, "Tell-Tale Heart Killer" Peter Robinson, and "Man of Two Lives" Edward H. Ruloff, in an text that evaluates their mental statuses and motivations.

(summary from another edition)

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