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 Nelson possessed the power to unsettle his elders. As a child he was unnaturally obsessed with the Bible; before he reached puberty, he had an insatiable, aberrant sex drive. By his teens, even Earle's own family had reason to fear him. But no one in the bone-chilling winter of 1926 could have predicted that his degeneracy would erupt in a sixteen-month frenzy of savage rape, barbaric murder, and unimaginable defilement -- deeds that would become the hallmarks of one of the most notorious fiends of the twentieth century, whose blood-lust would not be equaled until the likes of Henry Lee Lucas, John Wayne Gacy, and Jeffrey Dahmer.
Drawing on the "gruesome, awesome, compelling reporting" (Ann Rule) that is his trademark, Harold Schechter takes a dark journey into the mind of an unrepentant sadist -- and brilliantly lays bare the myth of innocence that shrouded a bygone era.