Archive for September 16th, 2015


manYou can have the fiction that is Hannibal Lecter – I will take the true life tales of cannibals and serial killers any day. There is no better nonfiction book than Devil in the White City, which recounts the creepy exploits of serial killer Dr. H. H. Holmes against the backdrop of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. Now, we have another gripping tale of a real-life figure, Alfred G. Packer, told expertly by author Harold Schechter in the new book Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal.

Mr. Packer’s tale is much more ambiguous than the average run-of-the-mill criminal killer as what he was accused of doing stemmed from a desperate fight for life in a most inhospitable setting: the winter wilderness of the Rocky Mountains.

About Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal by Harold Schechter: “In the winter of 1873, a small band of prospectors lost their way in the frozen wilderness of the Colorado Rockies. Months later, when the snow finally melted, only one of them emerged. His name was Alfred G. Packer, though he would soon become infamous throughout the country under a different name: ‘the Man-Eater.’ After the butchered remains of his five traveling companions were discovered in a secluded valley by the Gunnison River, Packer vanished for nine years, becoming the West’s most wanted man. What followed was a saga of evasion and retribution as the trial of the century worked to extricate fact from myth and Polly Pry, a once-famed pioneering journalist, took on the cause of Packer. Man-Eater is the definitive story of a legendary crime—a gripping tale of unspeakable suffering, the desperate struggle for survival, and the fight to uncover the truth.”

Like the fate of the Donner Party, Mr. Packer’s tale shocked and intrigued the country at the time. But in the able handles of Mr. Schechter, the story is told expertly as the truth is parsed from the sensational and we are left a compelling history to complement the legend.

Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal by Harold Schechter is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers.