- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: New Harvest (February 18, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0544114310
- ISBN-13: 978-0544114319
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 213 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,167,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.00 shipping
The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder That Shook the Nation Hardcover – February 18, 2014
|New from||Used from|
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
In large part because it sold newspapers, exceptionally lurid reporting of murders often “shook the nation,” especially in post-Depression America. The tabloids sold well if they got the scoop, and if they invented much of it, few cared. So the case of the Mad Sculptor was one in a string of “read-all-about-it” crimes, this one made more newsworthy because the primary victim, Veronica Gedeon, had modeled for several true-crime pulps, so in addition to the details the newsmen and -women whipped up, they also published photos of her posing, cowering and scantily clad, “a half-naked beauty in mortal distress.” The murderer, Robert Irwin, was not only a burgeoning sculptor but also under the psychological wing of Fredric Wertham, most notorious today, perhaps, for his best-seller, Seduction of the Innocent (1954), which fingered comic books for making criminals of children. To top off the case, Irwin’s attorney was Samuel Leibowitz, who later won great renown for freeing the Scottsboro Boys. Schechter (Psycho USA: Famous American Killers You Never Heard Of, 2012) adds another page-turner to his stable of atmospheric, highly readable true-crime works. --Eloise Kinney
“The Mad Sculptor is as gripping as the cleverest Golden Age mystery….Mr. Schechter outdoes himself.” —Wall Street Journal
“Ambitious, bold, and evocative, Schechter’s storytelling grabs the reader in a similar manner to Capote’s searing In Cold Blood.” —Publishers Weekly
“Grisly…The novelist Raymond Chandler listed it as No. 3 on his compilation of the 10 greatest crimes of the century.” —New York Times
“This fascinating tale of a charismatic and savvy madman will thrill historical true crime fans.” —Library Journal
“Schechter adds another page-turner to his stable of atmospheric, highly readable true-crime works.” —Booklist
“Harold Schechter, arguably America’s foremost historian of the macabre, has unearthed one of the most fascinating—and terrifying—horrors of the Depression era. You’ve probably never heard of the artist Robert Irwin or the beautiful model Veronica Gedeon. After reading Schechter’s visceral telling of their story, you’ll never be able to forget them.” —Douglas Perry, author of Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero
“A righteously disturbing chronicle of a madman/artist and his deviant life, Schechter again produces a heavyweight. Meticulously researched and eloquently delivered, The Mad Sculptor is a wild ride into a savage crime in 1930s New York.” —Steve Miller, author of Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in America’s Loudest City
“Harold Schechter has unveiled another sensational murder with a cast of characters that might have stepped from a novel by Dostoyevsky. Schechter’s absorbing narrative will fascinate everyone with an interest in New York in the twentieth century.” —Simon Baatz, author of For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb and the Murder that Shocked Chicago
“A lurid summer read…[The Mad Sculptor] is more than a mere real-life thriller; it's a gritty glimpse at American dreams descending into nightmare.” —The Times Picayune
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $0.99 (Save 83%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.
For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now lets you buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less. (Textbooks available for $9.99 or less.)
Try the Kindle edition and experience these great reading features:
Showing 1-3 of 213 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The meat of the book follows the life of Robert Irwin--the Mad Sculptor. Raised by a religiously zealous but hypocritical father and a religious and passive mother, Bob and his two brothers spend much of their time in juvenile detention. Bob has some innate artistic ability and makes his way to NYC. He gets good jobs but he cannot keep them because of his hair-trigger temper. He is also in and out of mental institutions. He becomes the favored patient of Dr. Fredric Wertham, who proposes a new diagnosis called "catathymic crisis" to describe Bob. After one hospitalization Bob meets the Gedeon family and falls in love with their daughter Ethel. She does not return his affections. Bob slowly spirals out of control with grandiose delusions of mastering the power of "visualization" and with erratic mood swings. He believes that if he can remove all of his sexual urges he will reach the height of visualization. This is easier said than done. He tries various gruesome means and finally decides that killing Ethel is the answer. Instead, he ends up killing her mother, her sister who is a model of sorts, and a male boarder. The rest of the book focuses on the manhunt for Bob, his capture, his insanity defense by Sam Leibowitz, his trial, and his incarceration.
As I said, I love this type of book. My favorite parts by far were the later sections that dealt with psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, the use of the insanity defense, and "lunacy commissions." This provided a lot of life and context to my chosen field of study. The author also highlights the state of police investigations and of sensational journalism of that time period. And there were plenty of juicy bits in all four of these murders to keep the tabloids busy. I gave this three stars because the book was uneven. My attention wandered in places. I was not interested in some of the background detail of some of the more minor characters. I know that is a hard balance to strike with this type of book. Also, the writing and sentence structure was not always clear. While Harold Schechter has written many books about serial killers and crimes, I think that there are better examples out there. It is hard to beat anything by Erik Larson, with some honorable mentions to Lyndsay Faye (The Gods of Gotham) and Catherine Bailey (The Secret Rooms).
One thing that makes THE MAD SCULPTOR the cream of the true-crime crop is that author Schechter, a professor of American literature and culture at Queens College in New York, did extensive scholarly research to ensure that the facts of the case are accurate. But it's clear that he didn't just limit himself to researching the details of the murder alone. Schechter researched the historical context surrounding the crime, too, uncovering the bits and pieces that made up the patchwork of American culture at the time. And he also uncovered plenty of information about the secondary players in the case: Irwin's parents, defense lawyer Samuel Leibowitz, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, and newspapermen Harry Romanoff and John Dienhart, to name just a few. Thus, instead of giving readers the expanded tabloid version offered by most of today's true-crime books, Schechter offers up a riveting story with a richly detailed setting and fully three-dimensional characters. In other words, THE MAD SCULPTOR reads more like a historical novel--but one that is completely factual--instead of a stodgy history book or a stoic fact-by-fact news report.
So, by the time you've finished THE MAD SCULPTOR: THE MANIAC, THE MODEL, AND THE MURDER THAT SHOOK THE NATION, you'll feel like you've actually taken a trip back to Depression-era America. You'll feel you got to know the mad sculptor Robert Irwin and his victims, and you'll have more than an inkling of how the social and cultural environment in which they lived enabled such a crime to occur. You'll also have gotten a glimpse inside the heads of the attorneys, psychiatrists, police officers, judges, newspaper reporters, and the like, and you'll understand why some of them had sympathy for Irwin while others wanted to send him straight to the electric chair. You'll come away feeling like you were an insider in the case rather than a casual spectator, and isn't that what we fans of true crime really want--to see the crime and the players from the inside out so that we can try to make sense of it all? If you answered yes, then you'll definitely want to pick up a copy of Schechter's book.