In the time-honored debate regarding the relative value of supernatural versus naturalistic horror, one seldom hears somebody espouse a middle-way alternative to the viewpoints each end of the spectrum. Harold Schechter, one-man true crime book factory and the editor of the new True Crime: An American Anthology, laid out the intriguing ground work for just such a position in a recent interview with the Columbus Dispatch.
From his interview:
Q: When a drug dealer shoots someone in a drive-by we barely notice. What sorts of true crimes most intrigue us?
A: From childhood on, there's a deep hunger in our lives for what folklorists call "wondertales": stories that shock, thrill and amaze. Every now and then, a crime comes along that seems like something out of one of the Grimms' more nightmarish fantasies: wicked parents who slaughter their own children, or ghoulish predators who haunt the night, or cannibal ogres who devour the innocent. These are the crimes that resonate most powerfully in the popular imagination - that become part of our cultural mythology.
I like how this suggests that sort of unified theory of what attracts us to horror and folds the supernatural and naturalistic elements into a larger argument. Sadly, Schechter and his interviewer don’t pursue this thread any further. Still, the interview is interesting for what it says about the traditions and future of what might truly be, along with mass-market romance, one of the last “disreputable” genres.