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Deranged: The Shocking True Story of America's Most Fiendish Killer Mass Market Paperback – December 28, 2004

128 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Harold Schechter is a professor of American culture at Queens College (CUNY) who takes an academic interest in the history of violent folklore: "Our pop entertainments aren't necessarily more brutal than those of the past," he writes. "They are simply ... more state of the art." In this book Schechter turns his keen historian's gaze on real-life serial killer Albert Fish, who killed--and ate--as many as 15 children in New York City in the 20s. Fish resembled a meek, kindly, white-haired grandfather, but was actually an intense sadomasochist whose sexual fetishes included almost everything known to psychiatry. For example, he stuck 29 needles into his pelvic region. Apparently Schechter, while writing his book Deviant about Ed Gein, asked Robert Bloch (author of Psycho), "Why are people so fascinated by Ed Gein?" Bloch answered, "Because they haven't heard about Albert Fish."
Also recommended: Depraved, Schechter's book about Herman Mudgett a.k.a. Dr. H. H. Holmes.

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.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket (December 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671678752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671678753
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #202,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More 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. His newest book, The Mad Sculptor, (about a sensational triple murder at Beekman Place in New York City in 1937) will be published in February 2014.


"Ambitious, bold, and evocative, Schechter's storytelling grabs the reader in a similar manner to Capote's searing In Cold Blood." --Publishers Weekly

"Perfect for readers who enjoy the stories of the sensationalistic press of the 1930s and its crass exploitation of the details of horrific murders." - Kirkus

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Richard P. Mayhew on April 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Mr. Schechter seems fixated on books about mad dog killers that begin with the letter D for example Deviant, Depraved and this offering Deranged. I have read all three books and this one is the best, they are all good by the way. The research done is impresive, Mr. Schechter must have gone through volumes of microfiche to find the newspaper stories that he has added to statements made by participants he has taken from trial records and other sources. The structure of the story is well written and easy to follow. The subject Mr. Albert Fish is so...Deranged that it is hard to find a place to start when describing his evil and perverse acts. From sending dirty letters to ladies at lonely hearts clubs to murdering and cannibilizing a little girl. Trust me, this guy makes Jeffery Dahmer look sane and mellow. I have loaned this book to buddies and it has never been gone for more than 3 days, it is a quick read, hard to put down. This book will make you walk around the house checking to make sure the doors and windows are locked. Good work Prof. Schechter.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Edward Gordon Brown on March 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Mr. Schechter pens yet another true-crime story that is worthy of a reserved spot for any true-crime buff. As the late author Robert Bloch said: "People are only into Ed Gein because they haven't heard of Albert Fish."
So, here is Fish's book. It is unbelievable. One has to remind oneself that this is actually TRUE. This really did happen. I couldn't believe it. A person who indulged in a numerous variety of perversities, sexual fetishes (some way, way too bizarre to mention here!) the unspeakably ghastly aftermath of Grace Budd was reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale classic "Little Red Riding Hood". In my previous review of a Schechter novel I said had found myself sympathizing (in a very awkward way) to Gein and actually saw a motive for his madness. In Fish's case I could not sympathise with him whatsoever. He was possibly the most deranged man to ever walk on Earth (in my opinion)...but contrary to what others may think, he was aware of the fiendish nature of his crimes. He planned Grace Budd's abduction with a cool cunning, and killed her in the most outrageous way possible... This makes for possibly the sickest yet most compelling read in the genre ever.
Hats off to Mr. Schechter once more for providing impeccable research and a story with no boring moments in it whatsoever.
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55 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Meaghan on August 9, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's kind of sad that hardly anybody knows (or cares) about Albert Fish anymore. In my opinion he's much more interesting than Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, etc. I agree with the jury's verdict: Albert Fish was insane but he deserved to die anyway. Harold Schechter's descriptions of not only Fish's crimes but also the things that he did to himself -- sticking needles up his groin, whipping himself etc -- turned my stomach. It was all so incongruous, as Fish looked like everybody's grandfather. Yet another insightful, entertaining book from Harold Schechter.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on February 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is the true story of Albert Fish, who lured several children to painful deaths by torture and then cannibalized them in the early 1900's. He is one of the first truly degenerate killers in our history--a man who not only murdered the children, but was also a nut who tortured himself by inserting pins in his perineum and by self-whipping. His own family knew he was a little off, but did not suspect their father was a murderer.

The book is somewhat slow paced, focusing more on the victims and not as much on the crimes themselves and getting a little bogged down halfway through, but still is a chilling read.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Calling Albert Fish bizarre or even deranged is almost an understatement. Fish is the strangest murderer [possibly serial murderer] that I have read about in eight plus years of reading true crime exclusively. Indeed, one of my crime references describes him wonderfully as a "polymorphous pervert." One of the defense's psychiatrists listed all of Fish's perversions as a exhibit for trial; the list contained 17 items. He was also a religious fanatic, very probably delusional, and looked like everyone's favorite elderly uncle. One example of Fish's perversions was his habit of inserting sewing needles into his groin and rectal areas. There is a photo of an X-ray of Fish's pelvic region in this book that is just stunning; you can count many of the needles and even discern the eye holes!
This is not a book for the squeamish or easily upset; it was hard for me, a long-time reader of true crime, to read some of these things. Regardless, it is an excellent, thorough work of true crime. Schechter discovered that Fish's attorney was still alive, secured his cooperation, and was given access to the lawyer's documents, which, he states, "proved invaluable in my reconstruction of the case." Schechter's reconstruction of the case is full, detailed, beautifully organized, and well written.
I was struck several times during my reading of this book how contemporary this case seems, even though the kidnapping and murder Fish was tried for happened in 1928 [he wasn't caught until 1935]. The media coverage was sensational and pervasive.
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