Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Bestial: The Savage Trail of a True American Monster” as Want to Read:
Bestial: The Savage Trail of a True American Monster
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Bestial: The Savage Trail of a True American Monster

3.7  ·  Rating details ·  746 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews

San Francisco, the 1920s. In an age when nightmares were relegated to the fiction of Edgar Allan Poe and distant tales of the Whitechapel murders, a real-life monster terrorized America. His acts of butchery have proved him one of history's fiercest madmen.

As an infant, Earle Leonard Nels
ebook, 384 pages
Published June 30th 2008 by Pocket Books (first published 1998)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Bestial, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Bestial

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Harold Schechter is quite a writer. His research is awe-inspiring and the way he can turn a tale told by an outside narrator while cuing the reader as to the times of the era that he's writing about is truly a gift. He spends very little time on the setting up the scene and this makes the read more enjoyable while moving the story along. He can transform the view of the reader from the current times to a time most know very little about. Schechter makes the reader think about not just the serial ...more
May 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sickos like me
A serial killer in the 20s who killed a lot of women, mostly landladies. It's beautifully researched but sadly not that interesting because he's no Ted Bundy; he's more in the retarded / head injury / bipolar mode. Why did he kill? Who the hell knows. His MO was to go to houses displaying a "room to let" sign, strangle the landlady as she showed him the room, then rape her, and shove the body into a closet or under the bed. He started in San Francisco and San Jose (which was interesting for me b ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Harold Schechter's writing style. The John Douglas books are just packed with facts and insights which no one seems to be able to equal and on the other end of the spectrum is Truman Capote's In Cold Blood which reads like a novel and could be the best True Crime book ever. Schechter is a very good mix of the two. Considering, first, the time period it happened. It was long ago and being able to get together the facts and make it interesting for the reader is a gift. Secondly, N ...more
Mar 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love how Schechter ties historical events into his stories. You can learn about history while enjoying a fascinating true crime tale.
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really good read

This isn't a trashy rehash. It is a very well researched true crime book. The book is readable and really flows. It's a great weekend read, and an interesting insight into the 1920s in the U.S. and Canada.
May 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three stars only because I'm a weirdo and really wanted it to be more graphic. Interesting read though.
Theremin Poisoning
Creepy. He's like the Ted Bundy of 1926...
3.5 stars:

Four years ago, if you had asked me whether or not I'd enjoy reading books about serial killers, I'd have said no. There's a big difference between reading horror, and knowing it's fiction, and reading about the suffering of a real person. But it's really not very different from reading any other non-fiction story where someone suffers or dies. It caught me by surprise when I read The Devil in the White City. The 'Death Castle' of H.H. Holmes intrigued me, so I read Schechter's Deprave
Feb 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
1. I have never read a true crime book by Schechter before, but will consider reading more books by him.
2. I have never heard of Earle Nelson, "The Gorilla Man" or any of his crimes. After reading this very informative book, I come to 2 conclusions...1. I don't think he committed all the murders attributed to him, some were just so not right...can't really explain it, just, it didn't fit..and 2. Ted Bundy studied him, because he very much copied Earle, the bludgeoning, strangling and raping afte
Robert Miller
The author painstakingly logs the murders of 22 victims (all women except one) occurring from February 20th, 1926 to June 10th, 1927. He tracks the killer's movements from Northern California, Washington, Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Illinois, and finally, Winnipeg in Canada. The women, for the most part, are seeking renters to supplement their income during troubled economic times. Once safely inside the rooms he rented, he strangles them and inflicts brute and lethal blows ...more
Erin Bodishbaugh
Harold Schechter isn't where you turn when you want deep insight or thoughtful, even-handed non-fiction -- this book's legitimacy was immediately undercut by the fact that Schechter named the Night Stalker as "Richard Rodriguez". His books are like 300-page tabloids that, while diligently researched, make heavy use of the "What if..." factor, as well as a dramatic reenactment style of writing that sometimes puts words in the player's mouths. He's an expert at knowing what his readers want: blood ...more
Kate Baker
Jan 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, history
A fast and eventful read.
I really appreciate and enjoy how Schechter ties in the current events of the time with the unveiling of the main story. Great word choices throughout too.

Ir's fascinating to think about and contrast how much as changed from the twenties - a few examples that come to mind; the commonality of the boarding house, the trusting of neighbors, how a man could pick up work from one job to the next and so on ...a world without TV or a phone in each home. It really made me thin
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harold Schechter's "Bestial" is first and foremost an entertaining journey. Through the lives of the victims, the killer, and the authorities who investigate the crimes, Schechter unfolds a drama that is extremely fascinating. The book not only informs the reader about a forgotten serial killer, but relates the difficulty police had in connecting crimes and coordinating forces two catch a nomadic criminal. Highly recomended for anyone who enjoys a trip to the unsettling outskirts of human existe ...more
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fantastic book to read. Harold Schechter's writings are well researched and sourced.

This book offers an incredible insight into how far the legal system, and society in general have come in a relatively short time.

It also offers an interesting perspective on our understanding of mental disorders then and now.

Do be warned that the descriptions of the crime scenes are graphic and not for the faint of heart.
♥ Marlene♥
On Friday, May 25, 2007 I wrote about this book:

Finished reading this book last night. As always Mister Schechter makes this period alive for you. He kept me interested from page 1 till the last.

I have read a lot of books by this author now. Only one was very disappointing, (Fatal) but all the others, like Deranged, Deviant Depraved were great.
Now I need to get my hands on Fiend.
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story depicts the depravity of a serial killer. Since all of this was during the 1920's communication was lacking among the police forces of other towns and states. It isn't surprising he was able to get away with so much.

It's too bad Earle Nelson (Ferral) never confessed to his crimes. He maintained his innocence to the gallows.
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've come to expect great story telling from Schechter and he didn't let me down. Earle Nelson was such a strange man and it was very enjoyable reading about the 1920s way of life. Definitely a page turner.
Paul Coombs
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A frightening account of a killer without conscience. Harold Schechter takes us on a haunting journey through the darkest place of the human mind; a territory unknown to most people. leaving no bodies unturned; he spares no gruesome details, that leaves our own minds disturbed.

It was a little slow in places, but mostly a very interesting book. The story is well put together using historical documents and newspapers. It would have been interesting to find out more about Earle's poor wifve, and why she did what she did. Recommend for true crime buffs that enjoy history.
Apr 15, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Difficult read...Schecter has other books that are definitely more interesting.
Another interesting deviant.
May 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Title should read *North* American monster, since he killed in Canada, too.
Oct 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I did not realize how long they have been using fingerprint analysis to find criminals.
Heather Rhodes
This was interesting. An enjoyable read.
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
A gripping account of one of the first American serial killers, a hulking man who also had a Houdini-like ability to escape custody.
I couldn't believe how convoluted and boring this ended up being.
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
A sensationalised, yet slightly plodding true crime book.
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
am currently reading...heavy material....but insightful
Sep 01, 2011 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this by accident for my Kindle, but gonna give it a go. I do enjoy True Crime, but I thought I was buying a book about H.H. Holmes. Oh, well!
Could have been about 100 pages shorter - was a bit dry, although meticulously researched.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Cannibal: The True Story Behind the Maneater of Rotenburg
  • Lethal Marriage: The Unspeakable Crimes of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka
  • A Death in White Bear Lake: The True Chronicle of an All-American Town
  • Erased: Missing Women, Murdered Wives
  • Cellar of Horror: The Story of Gary Heidnik
  • The Darkest Night: The Murder of Innocence in a Small Town
  • The Road Out of Hell: Sanford Clark and the True Story of the Wineville Murders
  • The Boy in the Box: The Unsolved Case Of America's Unknown Child
  • Bad Boy: The True Story of Kenneth Allen McDuff, the Most Notorious Serial Killer in Texas History
  • Invisible Darkness
  • The Italian Boy: A Tale of Murder and Body Snatching in 1830s London
  • Cruel Deception
  • The Devil's Rooming House: The True Story of America's Deadliest Female Serial Killer
  • A Beautiful Child
  • Hunting the Devil: The Pursuit, Capture and Confession of the Most Savage Serial Killer in History
  • The Complete Jack the Ripper
  • Doc: The Rape of the Town of Lovell
  • Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters
Aka Jon A. Harrald (joint pseudonym with Jonna Gormley Semeiks)

Harold Schechter is a true crime writer who specializes in serial killers. He attended the State University of New York in Buffalo, where he obtained a Ph.D. A resident of New York City, Schechter is professor of American literature and popular culture at Queens College of the City University of New York.

Among his nonfiction works are
More about Harold Schechter...

Nonfiction Deals

  • Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
    $8.24 $1.99
  • A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf
    $27.00 $2.99
  • Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
    $10.74 $1.99
  • Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
    $8.99 $1.99
  • A Room of One's Own
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Life in a Medieval City
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged a New Afghanistan
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Too Close to Me: The Middle-Aged Consequences of Revealing A Child Called "It"
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Inside the Criminal Mind: Revised and Updated Edition
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
    $9.24 $1.99
  • Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
    $13.99 $2.99
  • How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir
    $11.49 $1.99
  • Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Heart of Christianity
    $9.74 $1.99
  • Hidden Figures
    $4.09 $1.99
  • Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man
    $7.24 $1.99
  • Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures
    $11.99 $1.99
  • K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Art of Living: The Classical Mannual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness
    $10.49 $1.99
“The wayward morality of the country’s “flaming youth” was blamed, at least in part, on their easy access to enclosed automobiles, which one outraged critic described as “bordellos on wheels.” 1 likes
“In America, the advent of the modern serial killer coincided absolutely with the coming of the automobile.” 1 likes
More quotes…