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Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an…

Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal

by Harold Schechter

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[b: Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal|24965089|Man-Eater The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal|Harold Schechter|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1432756849s/24965089.jpg|44628213] follows the life of Alfred Packer as best it can manage. This man lived at the tail end of the 19th century, fought in the civil war, worked as a tracker, had horrible epilepsy, and ultimately may have murdered and eaten five of his travelling companions in the Colorado mountains.

May have. But the evidence is pretty damning.

So, let's name a grill after him.

The book is extremely accessible. It's easy to read, even with the subject matter at hand, and tells the story with ample reference back to the source material. While it has no pictures, somewhat disappointing considering the number of woodcuts referenced, the author does an admirable job of describing all that he wishes to convey.

The court cases themselves were interesting. I enjoyed the high number of quotations, the rich vocabulary, and the ample history given not simply of the figures themselves, but of the towns they grew up in. The murders that took place happened at a time when the West was still being settled, and [a: Harold Schechter|51490|Harold Schechter|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1255731750p2/51490.jpg] conveys the changing America spirit well. The frontier days are done by the end, and it's amazing how quickly such a change can take place in national character.

While I would be slightly hesitant to recommend this book to just anyone by virtue of its subject matter alone, I would feel slightly better doing so knowing that the main source of reference I had for this historical event was Cannibal: The Musical.

So, if you ever want to know the true story behind that - or are simply interested in cannibalism for some reason, this is a wonderful book containing not only story of Alfred Packer but quite a bit more tales of madness from those frontier days.
( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Interesting true-life tale of Alfred Packer, a man known as the American Cannibal. The book was obviously well-researched, providing an incredible amount of detail not only about the case, but about various other cases of cannibalism in the 1800s.

The one downfall of this book is that it got really tedious about halfway through the book. ( )
  ssimon2000 | May 7, 2018 |
A slice of Western Americana, a biography of one of the more infamous characters in Western mythology, Alfred Packer. A detailed account, debunking several myths (and explaining how they came into popular parlance) and confirming a few others. The central question (Did Packer murder his unfortunate companions for food and money, or was he a victim forced by circumstance to terrible acts?) can never be answered, although Schechter makes his opinion pretty clear. Recommended for those who are interested in true crime history and Western lore. Failings of the book are a lack of photographs, and worse a lack of maps for the crime scene, which would make it easier for the reader to follow the descriptions provided. ( )
  BruceCoulson | Apr 8, 2017 |
Schechter's got a bias and he's not afraid of it, which makes reading this an odd experience if you don't totally agree with him (and it's hard to tell if you do or not, because he doesn't actually explain his bias until the afterward). But one thing I particularly liked was the similar cases presented for context - there was a lot of cannibalism going on at the time, some of it considered downright heroic, compared to Packer's trials. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Apr 12, 2016 |
Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal by Harold Schechter is a highly recommended nonfiction narrative about Alfred (Alferd) G. Packer, a prospector who was accused of cannibalism.

Six miners went into the mountains
to hunt for precious gold;
It was the middle of the winter,
the weather was dreadful cold.
Six miners went into the mountains,
they had nor food nor shack—
Six miners went into the mountains,
But only one came back.
"The Lost Miners"(or the Ballad of Alferd Packer; nineteenth century)

In 1873 Packer and a group of five other men set off through the high mountains of Colorado to seek their fortune in gold or silver. It was winter, a brutal time to be traveling through the mountains, and the men were lost and starving. Packer was the only man to make it out alive. Though he changed his story several times, it was widely believed that he killed the others and ate them in order to survive. Packer claimed, at one point, that the men were killed by another member of the group, Shannon Wilson Bell, who Packer in turned shot before Bell killed him. Then he did eat the flesh of his deceased companions to ward off starvation. It was also believed that he may have killed the other men to rob them; he did admittedly take money from the dead men.

Schechter covers Packer's two trials, along with a plethora of historical information to place the legendary crime story in context. He includes Polly Pry's efforts on Packer's behalf, and the cultural impact of Packer's story. For example, a cafeteria at the University of Colorado Boulder is named after Packer, several films and a musical based on the story have been made, and songs have been written about it. Schechter also discusses James Starr's efforts in to use modern forensic science techniques to resolve the questions surrounding Packer's case.

This is one of those books that is simply interesting to read. If you enjoy nonfiction about the late 1800s, prospectors, cases of cannibalism in US history, and sensational historical figures, this may be a good choice for you. Written in 50 short, well organized chapters, the book includes chapter notes and a bibliography.

(The spelling of the name Alfred as “Alferd” is because Packer didn’t know how to spell his name when younger and used the alternate misspelling.)

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Little A for review purposes.
( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
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Chronicles the pursuit and trial of Alfred Packer, one of a crew of prospectors who, when his group became lost in the snow of the Rockies in 1873, turned to cannibalism.

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