"Old Sparky", the electric chair used at Sing Sing prison. Image © Public Domain

Blood and Volts: Edison, Tesla and the Electric Chair

Th. Metzger

“An ax murderer, two of the most brilliant scientific minds of the century, billions of dollars in profit, precedent-setting legal battles, secrets of life and death—all of these come together in the story of the first electric chair… At the dawn of the 20th century, electricity was thought to be a highly ambiguous force: at once a godlike, creative power and demonic destroyer of life… In the popular imagination, Tesla and Edison were seen as nearly superhuman beings, and their struggle was not only for wealth and power, but to reshape the face of America.”

Publisher: Autonomedia
Paperback: 191 pages


Holy Killers: True Stories of Murderous Clerics, Priests and Religious Leaders

Brian McConnell

Nine commandments are all they can remember. “Delves into the archives to tell the extraordinary and gripping stories of over 20 clerics, priests and cult leaders who resorted to murder to resolve their personal or collective obsessions. Father Matthew Peiris, Anglican faith-healer from Letchworth, untruthfully diagnosed diabetes in his wife and his lover’s husband and gave them both fatal doses of insulin. Rev. George Dyson, Methodist minister from Westminster, gave comfort to a lovelorn grocer’s wife and liquid chloroform to put in her husband’s final brandy nightcap.” And Anglican Michael Taylor, who killed “the devil” in his wife: “With his bare hands, he tore her eyes out. He tore her tongue out. He tore her face almost from the bones and she died choking on her own blood.” GR

Publisher: Trafalgar Square
Paperback: 378 pages

Homicidal Insanity, 1800-1985

Janet Colaizzi

A somewhat dry history of medical and legal thinking about homicidal maniacs, examining such topics as “The Alienist as Medico-Legal Expert” and “From Static to Dynamic Neurophysiology.” The actual murder cases are described only sketchily to provide enough of a hook on which to hang each era’s theories. So, instead of bestiary of lunatics, we run the gamut of 185 years of medico-legal psychobabble. Of interest only to the most hardcore student of homicidal mania. JM

Publisher: University of Alabama
Paperback: 182 pages

Hot Blood: The Millionairess, the Money and the Horse Murders

Ken Englade

The 1977 disappearance of Helen Brach, the widow of multimillionaire candy maker Frank Brach, is one of the most fascinating crimes of the last 20 years. Her fate remained a mystery until a few years ago when her death was linked to her unwitting involvement with an elaborate scam involving the killing of heavily insured show horses. Apparently, Brach got wind of what was really going on and was rewarded with a professional hit when she threatened to go to the police.
Unfortunately, Englade proves that for every interesting crime, there’s a mediocre crime book. Hot Blood is pedestrian enough to try the patience of all but the most devoted Brach fans, with its pages and pages of bad trial coverage and the novelistic, sycophantic stuff all too common in the crime genre these days. Yawn. JM

Publisher: St. Martin's
Hardback: 309 pages

Human Monsters: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the World’s Most Vicious Murderers

David Everitt

One hundred crazed executioners, presented chronologically in time, starting with 15th-century Scottish cannibal killer Sawney Beane, and ending up with the Russian “mad beast” Andrei Chikatilo. All the favorites are here: de Rais, the Ripper, Panzram, Fish, Gein, DeSalvo, Manson, Zodiac, Bundy, Gacy and Dahmer. Plus dozens of others, not so notorious but equally monstrous. GR

Publisher: Contemporary
Paperback: 272 pages

Humans Eating Humans: The Dark Shadow of Cannibalism

Richard L. Sartore

“Contrary to common belief, cannibalism is a very complex cultural practice. Reducing it to simplistic terms robs it of its cultural content. A number of practices are involved including the acting out of myths, metaphors, physical development, sexuality revenge, nourishment, religion, mourning and overall lifestyle.” Chapters include “Societies That Allegedly Ate Human Flesh,” “Rationale for Consuming Humans,” “Mythological Links to Flesh Eating,” “Mortuary Cannibalism,” “Cannibalism and Children’s Literature” and “Modern-Day Cannibalism.”

Publisher: CrossRoads
Paperback: 139 pages

Hunting Humans: An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers

Michael Newton

Compendium of 20th-century serial killers, from Atlanta to Zodiac. “We are caught up in the midst of what one expert calls an ‘epidemic of homicidal mania,’ victimized by a new breed of ‘recreational killers’ who slaughter their victims at random, for the sheer sport of killing.” Statistics: 13 victims each day are dispatched by motiveless murderers throughout in the world. The United States boasts 74 percent of the world’s total serial killers. They are grouped in three general categories: territorial (the Night Stalker, the Hillside Stranglers), who stake out a town or county; nomads (Ted Bundy and Henry Lee Lucas), who travel in stalk of their prey; and stationary (Ed Gein, John Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer), who attend to their killing from one central location. Brief case histories, some photos. GR

Publisher: Loompanics
Hardback: 353 pages

Hypnosis, Memory and Behavior in Criminal Investigation

Kevin M. McConkey and Peter W. Sheehan

“A comprehensive overview of the use of hypnosis in the forensic setting, enriched by clinical case material. Illuminating the full complexity of the ethical, legal and professional issues involved, the book offers detailed guidelines to help clinicians cope with the demands of criminal and legal investigations and to ensure the welfare and well-being of subjects. Among the many issues addressed are recovered memories, faking and the rights of subjects.”

Publisher: Guilford
Hardback: 239 pages

In Broad Daylight: A Murder in Skidmore, Missouri

Harry N. MacLean

“Ken McElroy terrorized Skidmore, Missouri, for years—robbing, raping, shooting and maiming the citizens into submission until they had finally had enough. While 45 townspeople looked on, McElroy was shot and killed… but the police could find no witnesses.”

Publisher: Doubleday
Paperback: 390 pages

Industrial Inferno: The Story of the Thai Toy Factory Fire

Peter Symonds

“The worst industrial fire in history broke out on May 10, 1993, at the Kader Industrial Toy Company, just outside of Bangkok. Hundreds of workers, mainly young women, were trapped inside a building with no fire extinguishers or alarms and no fire escapes. More concerned with profits than human life, management blocked off the exits. Officially 188 workers died. Others are still listed as ‘missing.’ The fire was all but ignored by the world’s media. The ugly truth behind Asia’s much-vaunted ‘economic miracle’ proved too unpalatable… The Kader workers slaved for less than $1 an hour to make toys for corporate giants such as Toys ‘R’ Us, Hasbro and Tyco… [P]rovides a unique insight into the global economic processes that are drawing millions of rural toilers in Asia, Latin America and Africa into the factories and shantytowns of cities like Bangkok.”

Publisher: Labour
Paperback: 79 pages

Inside the Cult

Marc Breault and Martin King

An above-average quickie paperback purporting to give the insider’s scoop on David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. Breault joined the Davidians in ‘86, King interviewed Koresh just before the going got good. Of course, there’s plenty of dirt here and loads of background material. Make no mistake, Koresh was one strange dude who combined an ability to make people believe the stupidest things with an inability to keep his pants zipped. His “legal” wife was 14 when they got married. He was, in short, the perfect cult leader. (Ever notice how these groups are always set up so the top dog gets all the girls?) There’s plenty of weirdness here, and thankfully, no BATF/FBI/conspiracy stuff—in fact, the whole raid/holocaust thing gets short shrift in favor of pre-raid cult antics. But the field is still wide open for the definitive book. JM

Publisher: Signet
Paperback: 375 pages