Harold Schechter is Professor Emeritus at Queens College, where he taught classes in American literature and myth criticism for forty-two year. His essays have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and the International Herald Tribune.
A true crime historian, he has written extensively about some of our country’s most infamous serial and mass murderers. Using primary sources such as newspaper clippings and court records, he supplies thorough documentation of every case he profiles, while still managing to create compelling narratives and fully fleshed-out characters. He is the editor of the Library of America volume, True Crime: An American Anthology.
His 2014 book, The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Crime that Shook the Nation, was nominated for an Edgar Award in the Best Fact Crime category. In addition to his work in narrative nonfiction, Schechter is the author of an acclaimed series of detective novels based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Under the pseudonym H. C. Chester, he has also co-written the middle-grade trilogy, Curiosity House, with his daughter, bestselling YA novelist Lauren Oliver. The first book in the series, Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head (2016), was nominated for an Edgar Award in the "Best Juvenile Mystery" category.
Schechter has also written extensively on American popular culture. In The Bosom Serpent: Folklore and Popular Art, he explores the relationship between contemporary commercial entertainment and the narrative archetypes of traditional folklore. Savage Pastimes: A Cultural History of Violent Entertainment places the current controversy over media violence in a broad historical context. Examining everything from Victorian murder ballads to the productions of the nineteenth-century Grand Guignol, the book makes the somewhat contrarian argument that today's popular entertainment is actually less violent than the gruesome diversions of the supposedly halcyon past.
In his 1973 article, "Kali on Main Street: The Rise of the Terrible Mother in America", Schechter uses the phrase "horror-porn," which is cited by the Oxford English Dictionary as the first printed appearance of the word "porn" in its now-common figurative meaning: "As the second element in compounds: denoting written or visual material that emphasizes the sensuous or sensational aspects of a non-sexual subject, appealing to its audience in a manner likened to the titillating effect of pornography.
With David Black, Schechter also co-wrote the teleplay for the Season 8 Law & Order episode, “Castoff.”