Savage Pastimes: A Cultural History of Violent Entertainment: A Live, Online Zoom Lecture by Renowned True Crime Author Harold Schechter
Every time a new type of mass entertainment comes along, high-minded reformers are quick to denounce it as a sign of social decay and a danger to the young. History has proved that, for all the hysteria of the finger-wagging moralists, their dire predictions have never come true. The little readers of dime novels didn’t become a generation of outlaws. The boys who thrilled to Little Caesar and Public Enemy didn’t grow up to be tommy-gun toting gangsters. The teenage fans of Halloween and Friday the 13th didn’t put on hockey masks and run out to dismember coeds with chainsaws. My own generation, raised on a relentless barrage of television gunplay (Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, The Rifleman, et al), turned out to be tie-dyed proponents of peace, love, and flower-power.
Tonight’s illustrated lecture is intended to demonstrate that today’s popular culture is no more violent than the pop entertainments of the past—indeed, in many ways less so.
Harold Schechter is Professor Emeritus at Queens College, the City University of New York, where he taught courses on American literature and culture for forty-two years. His essays on crime, psychopathology and media violence have appeared in many newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the International Herald Tribune. He has written for network television and been featured as an expert on PBS’ History Detectives, as well as various shows on cable channels, including Investigation Discovery, A & E Biography, and Court TV.
Among his more than forty published books are a series of historical true-crime narratives about America’s most infamous serial killers, several encyclopedic works (The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, The Serial Killers Files, Psycho USA: Famous American Killers You Never Heard Of), and an anthology of American true crime writing published by the Library of America. His 2014 book, The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, The Model, and the Murder that Shook the Nation was praised in the Wall Street Journal as a nonfiction account “as gripping as the cleverest Golden Age mystery” and was a 2015 Edgar nominee in the Best Crime Fact category.
In the realm of fiction, he has written a series of mystery novels featuring Edgar Allan Poe as the narrator and protagonist–Nevermore, The Hum Bug, The Mask of Red Death, and the Tell-Tale Corpse--as well as two horror novels, Outcry and Dying Breath. In collaboration with his daughter, bestselling YA author Lauren Oliver, he has also written a series of middle-grade mystery books, the first of which–Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head–was a 2016 Edgar nominee in the Best Juvenile category.
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