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HELL'S PRINCESS

THE MYSTERY OF BELLE GUNNESS, BUTCHER OF MEN

A fascinating and dramatic page-turner that will be a new favorite among true-crime fans.

In this depraved story of sex, deception, greed, and murder, a veteran true-crime writer offers the first definitive history of Belle Gunness (circa 1859-1908), the most prolific female serial killer in American history.

In previous books, Schechter (American Literature and Culture/Queens Coll.; Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal, 2015, etc.) trained his shrewd eye for detail and predilection for horror on familiar serial killers like H.H. Holmes (Depraved, 1994) and Albert Fish (Deranged, 1998). Here, the author focuses his expert attention on Gunness, the notorious “Lady Bluebeard” who butchered at least 28 victims at her “murder farm” in La Porte, Indiana, at the beginning of the 20th century. An imposing, severe Norwegian who weighed more than 200 pounds, Gunness immigrated to America in search of a new life far away from the poverty of her youth. Driven by greed and an insatiable hunger for wealth, she used matrimonial ads in immigrant newspapers to lure suitors to her farm, where she would con them out of their money before poisoning them, brutally butchering their remains, and burying them in her hog pen. Ray Lamphere, a hired farmhand who had an affair with Gunness, was one of the only men to leave the farm alive when he was fired in 1908. Lamphere was charged with arson and quadruple murder when the Gunness home was burned down with its owner and her children inside, but the investigation of the fire revealed the true horror: the mass graveyard of Lady Bluebeard’s victims. Schechter interweaves the stories of Gunness and Lamphere with a suspenseful narrative that explores the motives and psychology of murder, the sensational portrayal of gruesome crime in the media, and the terrifying legacy they leave behind. Featuring previously undiscovered details and rich historical context, this authoritative account firmly establishes Schechter as one of America’s leading crime chroniclers.

A fascinating and dramatic page-turner that will be a new favorite among true-crime fans.

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4778-0895-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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