Panic by Harold Schechter, Narrated by Steven Weber

Harold Schechter’s Panic showcases an early American example of moral panic, mass hysteria, and pattern recognition gone horribly awry.
This well-researched narrative begins with details of a tragic event, the result of the sort of irrational, hysterical panic arising in the 1930s surrounding the fear of child rapists and murderers surging across the American landscape. One father’s need to protect his daughters from a danger he perceived as being right around the corner erupts in a disastrous and heartbreaking conclusion.
From that awful event, Schechter traces backward to the small number of isolated incidents that had been blown up and made to seem like part of a growing trend. Each of these individual cases was certainly terrible, but they were hardly part of a nationwide surge in that sort of criminal activity.
Looking at the world we live in today, one can see that we haven’t grown beyond this sort of outrage-driven crusade where we perceive the boogeyman du jour in every shadow.
Steven Weber’s narration is perfectly suited to this gripping non-fiction essay. I’m pleased to see that he continues to narrate other short samples of Schechter’s larger body of work contained in Bloodlands.

Little Slaughterhouse On the Prairie by Harold Schechter, Narrated by Steven Weber

Little Slaughterhouse On the Prairie shares the story of the Bender family, contemporaries of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family in Kansas during the late 1800s. A family of serial killers operating an inn in the remote, seemingly endless fields and plains of Kansas, the Benders were responsible for an unknown number of missing persons.
Like something out of the fictional Splatter Western tales published by Death’s Head Press, the Benders were a monstrous family. Inviting guests into their inn for dinner and sleeping accommodations, those guests would frequently be greeted with a sledgehammer to the head before being further mutilated, robbed, and disposed of on their sprawling homestead. Men, women, and children alike fell victim to the predations of the Bender clan.
The mystery of where the Benders disappeared, and what might have happened to them as they evaded justice was the primary focus of this narrative. Unfortunately, Schechter doesn’t seem to have any answers, even after all of his research. Ultimately, we’re left with more questions as multiple theories are proposed, some more appealing than others.
Steven Weber’s narration is, again, fantastic. His delivery of these gruesome, historical details is satisfying and articulate.

Consider This by Chuck Palahniuk: Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini

Readers familiar with–and fond of–Chuck Palahniuk’s distinctive style of storytelling are sure to find Consider This: Moments In My Writing Life After Which Everything Was Different to be no less compelling. This collection of insights and anecdotes was certainly no less captivating for me than Stranger Than Fiction or any of his other non-fiction material I’ve devoured over the years.
I’ve read several different books dedicated to the craft of writing and best practices to employ, some better than others. This book stands apart as being truly the most interesting. Shared as if we’re hypothetical participants in a kitchen table writer’s workshop hosted by Palahniuk, the reader/listener doesn’t feel any impulse to interrupt or make it a two-way conversation–though it strangely feels like a conversation at times.
Approaching the craft from a journalistic perspective rather than a creative writing perspective makes for a different set of rules and guidelines than many of these books provide while cementing some of the rules that are true, regardless of background.
Even if one doesn’t want to apply the rules and practices recommended by Palahniuk, they make for interesting experiments and elements to try out, allowing the writer to spread their wings in a different sort of environment.
The narration provided by Edoardo Ballerini was fantastic, and the bit from Palahniuk himself was a nice touch as well.
I can’t recommend this enough for anyone who wants to write, regardless of genre or industry.
Similarly, I have to recommend this to readers who want to experience a glimpse behind the scenes of one of the more peculiar and fascinating writers of my lifetime. His tales of book signings and road trips alone make this worth listening to or reading, even if you never have any impulse to put pen to paper or fingertips to keys.