Where Magic Meets Technology: Peter Bebergal’s ‘Strange Frequencies’

By Michael Grasso

I remember vividly the rich variety of books that I was surrounded by in childhood that talked about the history of magic, or then-current trends in paranormal research, or how investigators were searching for the signs of the afterlife on magnetic audio tape. If you grew up in the ’70s and ’80s like me, and loved books like these, then go out and get yourself a copy of Peter Bebergal’s Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural

“You Owe Me Awe”: Culture, Class, and the New South in Thomas Harris’s ‘Red Dragon’

By Michael Grasso

Thomas Harris’s sophomore novel Red Dragon (1981) introduced the world to iconic serial killer and cultured cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and arguably set the gold standard for all serial killer fiction to follow. But Harris’s novel is more than just a taut true crime thriller that first popularized the archetype of the serial killer profiler. It is also a methodical, deliberate exploration of the class anxieties…

“Going At Ghosts With Science”: ‘Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale’

By Michael Grasso

Legend of 20th century science fiction Nigel Kneale (1922-2006) would likely bristle to be described as such. Andy Murray’s terrific biography, Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale, readily conveys Kneale’s sometime ambivalence at being pigeonholed as a genre writer. But the full parade of Kneale’s fascinating life gives perspective to the inseparability of the mundane and the fantastic…

“The Devil Had Worshipers Long Before Lenin”: The Occult Spy Novels of E. Howard Hunt

By Michael Grasso

In his series of “Peter Ward” novels, published by various paperback houses (Signet, Dell, and Fawcett) between 1965 and 1971, Hunt conjures an agent with a pedigree strikingly similar to his own: Ivy League-educated (at Brown), possessing both a mysterious past involving disastrous CIA ops gone wrong and a burning desire to see himself accepted by the clandestine Washington D.C. power structure…