A MONSTER PREYED UPON THE CHILDREN OF NINETEENTH-CENTURY BOSTON. HIS CRIMES WERE APPALLING -- AND YET HE WAS LITTLE MORE THAN A CHILD HIMSELF. When fourteen-year-old Jesse Pomeroy was arrested in 1874, a nightmarish reign of terror over an unsuspecting city came to an end. ""The Boston Boy Fiend"" was imprisoned at last. But the complex questions sparked by his ghastly crime spree -- the hows and whys of vicious juvenile crime -- were as relevant in the so-called Age of Innocence as they are today. Jesse Pomeroy was outwardly repellent in appearance, with a gruesome ""dead"" eye; inside, he was deformed beyond imagining. A sexual sadist of disturbing precocity, he satisfied his atrocious appetites by abducting and torturing his child victims. But soon, the teenager's bloodlust gave way to another obsession: murder. Harold Schechter, whose true-crime masterpieces are ""well-documented nightmares for anyone who dares to look"" (""Peoria Journal Star""), brings his acclaimed mix of page-turning storytelling, brilliant insight, and fascinating historical documentation to ""Fiend"" -- an unforgettable account from the annals of American crime.
From serial killer expert Schechter comes a grisly, hopped-up, but surprisingly well-executed narrative of the vicious crimes and long imprisonment of Jesse Pomeroy, the notorious 19th-century "Boston Boy Fiend." Schechter argues that "killer kids have always been with us," but even in the context of a history of horrifying examples of youth violence, the case of Pomeroy is appalling. An abused, deformed, impoverished child, he graduated at age 12 from animal cruelty to the ritualized torture and mutilation of younger boys. In 1872 he was caught and sentenced to six years in a reformatory. He presented a rehabilitated facade and, following his shrewish but loyal mother's campaigning, was released after 16 months. Six weeks later he killed a neighborhood girl; an indifferent constabulary failed to discover her body until after Pomeroy was apprehended for a second vicious child-murder. This confluence caused unprecedented outrage; ultimately, Pomeroy received a life sentence in solitary confinement. While Schechter has displayed a career enthusiasm for what Hannibal Lecter termed "louche" subject matter (Schechter's books on serial murderers have been titled Bestial, Depraved, Deranged, etc.), he is a deft writer and does well at re-creating from documentation the thoughts and perspectives of long-dead figures; even Pomeroy is rendered subtly, with creepy verisimilitude. Schechter ably portrays the "living death" of Pomeroy's captivity (he served 53 years, making repeated escape attempts, and had become a media curiosity by the 1920s), and captures the poignancy of the infirm Pomeroy's release, in 1929, to a prison farm, where he remained until his death in 1932. This is a memorably gothic tale of sadistic psychosis and social vengeance�true-crime lovers will not want to miss it. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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October 01, 2000
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