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Bestial: The Savage Trail of a True American Monster Paperback – 1 Sep 1999

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Bestial: The Savage Trail of a True American Monster + Deranged: The Shocking True Story of America's Most Fiendish Killer! + Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-Of-The-Century Chicago (Pocket Star Books True Crime)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; New edition edition (1 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671732188
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671732189
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 968,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Journal Star" (Peoria, IL) [A] deftly written, unflinching account....A fascinating police procedural....Schechter's macabre stories unfold like finely-tuned crime novels...well-documented nightmares for anyone who dares to look.

About the Author

Harold Schechter is a professor of American literature and culture. Renowned for his true-crime writing, he is the author of the nonfiction books Fatal, Fiend, Bestial, Deviant, Deranged, Depraved, and, with David Everitt, The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. He is also the author of Nevermore and The Hum Bug, the acclaimed historical novels featuring Edgar Allan Poe. He lives in New York State.

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To all outward appearances, Theodore Durrant ("Theo" to his friends) was a fine, upstanding specimen of young American manhood. Read the first page
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By on 4 Feb 2001
Format: Paperback
this book has to be highly recommended to any lover of the true crime genre. earle leonard nelsons life is covered in great detail by the author who has done a sterling job separatimg fact from fiction. nelson became known to the public as the "gorilla murderer" because of an offchance remark heard by a reporter from a crowd of people not because he looked like a simian.the book begins with nelsons early life and the death of his parents, his strange religious fervour, his habit of wandering off un announced and his returning without saying where he had been. his murders are well covered as is his capture and conviction. i do not want to spoil your enjoyment of this book so i will say no more about it. the book itself is available in paperback and is securely bound and set. recommended!!!!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Paula Lees on 19 Jun 2001
Format: Paperback
The year was 1926 and a 16 month frenzy of rape, murder and defilement of ordinary women began. Women that were strangled in their own homes, their bodies hidden underneath beds and stuffed crudely into trunks. And so begins the story of Earle Leonard Nelson. Harold Schechter (author) has painstakingly revealed in depth Nelson's whole life, from his earliest childhood right through to his wander lust killings. The pages of the story flow, and you never feel that "you've missed something in the story." Today, Nelson would be known universally as a serial killer (though that term was about 50 years away), and you come to realise that there is nothing necessarily new about the m.o. of todays modern serial killers after reading this book. Full praise for the author, and for the detailed account of Nelson's life, murders and eventual capture. Highly recommended reading.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is another good book by Harold Schechter, a fantastic true crime writer. This book is a slow-burner - very interesting but with little in the way of "gore", owing to the sheer number of victims involved. However, it was still a well-written and well-rounded account - incredibly well researched! If you haven't read his books yet, Deviant is particularly good :)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 46 reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
"Bestial" is a gripping story; sad, unsettling, entertaining 19 Oct 1998
By M. Mueller ( - Published on
Format: Paperback
Harold Schechter's "Bestial" is first and foremost an entertaining journey. Through the lives of the victims, the killer, and the authorities who investigate the crimes, Schechter unfolds a drama as facinating as a Poe tale. The book not only informs the reader about a forgotten serial killer, but relates the difficulty police had in connecting crimes and coordinating forces two catch a nomadic criminal. Highly recomended for anyone who enjoys a trip to the unsettling outskirts of human existence.
49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Relentlessly terrifying 9 Mar 2000
By Rory Coker - Published on
Format: Paperback
In his early days, the subject of this true-crime history was so weird and insane-acting that no one in their right mind would allow him near them. But when he was sent to an insane asylum, over the years he learned a skill that made him one of the most dangerous predators in serial killer history: he learned to be perfectly, completely charming! Landladies had no hesitation showing this handsome, polite and obviously highly religious man their upstairs room to let... and they never left that room alive, as Ferral induced them to look up--- "what caused that stain?"--- broke their necks, and then raped their cooling corpses! As harrowing a true-crime account as I have ever read.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
More than muder and rape... in that order 23 Oct 2000
By Khraaven - Published on
Format: Paperback
Schechter's book is a great read. It is a well written account of an American serial killer from a time before the term serial killer had been invented. The pleasant surprize of "Beastial" is the excellent treatment he gives the Social environment of America during the 1920s. The result is a greater understanding of the mind set of a country that was terrified by the sick twisted, corpse raping, body concealing "Gorilla" of a man known as Earle Leonard Nelson. I absolutely could not put this one down!
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Another Good One from Schechter 12 Jan 2007
By Nick - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A very well documented account of the "Dark Strangler's" life. This book brings together everything that makes a typical great Schechter book: a very well documented research, an excellent work of putting things into perspective (history, popular culture, etc), a gripping writing style, etc.

It's true that this killer may not be the most astounding killer in history (but still... he strangled women to death and then raped their dead bodies, and afterwards he concealed them under beds, in closets, behind furnaces, etc) but this isn't a good parametre to judge by, at any rate. Sure, his modus operandi is consistently the same, but I don't think this changes anything really. Moreover, that is the killer's deeds, not the author, so it would be slightly ridiculous (perhaps even immoral) to blame Schechter for the killer's "unoriginal" acts; also, it's a bit strange a complaint to make: "I wish that killer did more gruesome things for my personal pleasure as a reader." But anyway...

Harold Schechter's work is impressive because of his documentation and the manner with which he leads the whole thing. As usual, I appreciate it very much when the author quotes newspapers and gives the reader some insight in those times. It's truly a work of History that Schechter offers us here. And that's something I really like about this author: you never fall into the merely morbid curiosity and always benefit from the historical perspective on violence in popular culture, as well as other matters worthy of one's interest.

Excellent book.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Gorilla Man 2 Feb 2008
By JMack - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Harold Schechter has produced several highly acclaimed works of true crime including "Depraved" and "Deviant". In "Bestial", Schechter takes on the lesser known Earle Leonard Nelson. On a cross-continental spree that is documented to have taken the lives of 22 landladies and other women, it makes for an interesting chapter in the history of true crime.

Schechter is comendable in his attention to detail in telling the story. While telling the story, the author must be credited for stepping back and allowing the reader to wonder guilty or guilty and insane. Yet at times I found his digressions frustrating. Taking entire chapters to explore facets of the time period or give superficial facts regarding other murders of the era, massively sidetracks the pace of the story. The profile that is painted of the "Gorilla Man" seems clear for a man that has been deceased for more than 80 years and is largely forgotten in American history because of his arrest and execution in Canada.

Those that are fans of Schechter's other books are likely to enjoy the detail of the Nelson's modus operandi. A graphic crime scene picture included in the book is certain to thrill fans of the genre. Still, I can not help but think the book would have been better with certain chapter full of digressions on the editting room floor.
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