Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Harold Schechter's The Mad Sculptor.

Murder by Gaslight is pleased to be a stop on Harold Schechter’s The Mad Sculptor (Of True Crime) Blog Tour. The works of Harold Schechter have been a part of Murder by Gaslight from the beginning, providing invaluable information on a number of historical murders. His books always deliver compelling stories based on meticulous research, and his new book, The Mad Sculptor, is no exception.
As part of The Mad Sculptor (Of True Crime) Blog Tour, Harold will answer questions about the book, his writing process, and the MADNESS in his topics of study as a preeminent true crime writer: murderers and the media!

Title: The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, The Model, and the Murder that Shook The Nation

Author: Harold Schechter

Release Date: February 18th, 2014

Order Here: Amazon

Book Synopsis

Beekman Place, once one of the most exclusive addresses in Manhattan, had a curious way of making it into the tabloids in the 1930s: “SKYSCRAPER SLAYER,” “BEAUTY SLAIN IN BATHTUB” read the headlines. On Easter Sunday in 1937, the discovery of a grisly triple homicide at Beekman Place would rock the neighborhood yet again—and enthrall the nation. The young man who committed the murders would come to be known in the annals of American crime as the Mad Sculptor.
Caught up in the Easter Sunday slayings was a bizarre and sensationalistic cast of characters, seemingly cooked up in a tabloid editor’s overheated imagination. The charismatic perpetrator, Roger Irwin, was a brilliant young sculptor who had studied with some of the masters of the era. But with his genius also came a deeply disturbed psyche; Irwin was obsessed with sexual self-mutilation and was frequently overcome by outbursts of violent rage.

Irwin’s primary victim, Veronica Gedeon, was a figure from the world of pulp fantasy—a stunning photographer's model whose scandalous seminude pinups would titillate the public for weeks after her death. Irwin’s defense attorney, Samuel Leibowitz, was a courtroom celebrity with an unmatched record of acquittals and clients ranging from Al Capone to the Scottsboro Boys. And Dr. Fredric Wertham, psychiatrist and forensic scientist, befriended Irwin years before the murders and had predicted them in a public lecture months before the crime.

Based on extensive research and archival records, The Mad Sculptor recounts the chilling story of the Easter Sunday murders—a case that sparked a nationwide manhunt and endures as one of the most engrossing American crime dramas of the twentieth century. Harold Schechter’s masterful prose evokes the faded glory of post-depression New York and the singular madness of a brilliant mind turned against itself. It will keep you riveted until the very last page.
About the Author

Harold Schechter is an American true crime writer who specializes in serial killers. He attended the State University of New York in Buffalo where his PhD director was Leslie Fiedler. He is professor of American literature and popular culture at Queens College of the City University of New York .Schechter is married to poet Kimiko Hahn. He has two daughters from a previous marriage: the writer Lauren Oliver and professor of philosophy Elizabeth Schechter.

QUESTION: Describe your process of writing and/or research.
Answer from Harold: Researching a full-length criminal biography like THE MAD SCULPTOR takes about a year.  I spend weeks and weeks at the New York Public Library, reading and copying newspaper clippings on microfilm and digging up legal documents at the New York City Municipal Archives.  I made several visits to the Library of Congress to go through Fredric Wertham's papers.  I used the services of genealogical records researcher to locate descendants of key figures, then interviewed them when possible.  Generally speaking, as in this case, I end up with thousands of pages of documents.  The challenge for me as a writer is to transform that mass of material into a compelling, page-turning narrative without resorting to novelistic embellishment.  A lot of that has to do with structure.  A lot has to do with the fundamental writing principle of converting telling into showing.  For example, a newspaper story might report, "When Officer Holden got out of the elevator and approached the woman, she suddenly asked how the man was.  Holden inquired whom she meant.  In response, the woman indicated the 'man upstairs' and repeated her question. When Holden said he didn't know and asked her why she was curious, the woman calmly replied that she had 'shot him."  Without inventing anything, I can make the scene more dramatic simply by present it this way:

As Holden stepped out and approached her, she suddenly said: “How is he?”
“Who do you mean,” said Holden.
“The man upstairs,” said the woman. “Is he all right?”
"I don’t know,” said Holden. “Why?”
“I shot him,” the woman said calmly.

Harold Schechter's upcoming events:

The Mad Sculptor (Of True Crime) Blog Tour Itinerary:

February 18th - My Life of Crime Blog
February 19th - Murder by Gaslight Blog
February 20th - True Crime Diary Blog
February 21st - All Things Crime Blog
February 24th - Historical Crime Detective Blog
February 25th - True Crime Reader Blog
February 26th - CLEWS Blog



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