Hunting Serial Killers in East River Apartment
My Life Among the Serial Killers: Inside the Minds of the World's Most Notorious Murderers, by forensic psychiatrist Helen Morrison and Harold Goldberg (William Morrow, 2004) is in the bookstores this month. The book is Morrison's memoir of working with more than 80 serial killers, including Chicago’s John Wayne Gacy, and Gary L Ridgway, the Green River Killer. She offers a controversial conclusion, which is that there may exist a gene for serial killing.
Author Harold Goldberg moved into his East River apartment on Halloween night last fall. But despite the topic of his new book and his choice for moving day, Goldberg is not a Stephen King type of writer. In fact, much of his professional work has been devoted to magazine pieces on entertainment, sports, travel, and video-games. True, he takes great pleasure in showing us a twisted hook which was wrested from the jaws of a white shark off South Africa’s coast, but that was just a scary magazine story. The rest of his work has been quite benign.
He is slim and wiry, with a shaved head and a broad, toothy smile. A native of Buffalo, he arrived in New York City in the late Eighties, after getting a piece published in Esquire. Since then he has written for a variety of publications, including Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, the NY Times, New York Magazine, and the Village Voice.
At one point he became Editor in Chief of Sony Online, but when the company wanted to ship him to its San Diego headquarters he balked and has been freelancing full-time in New York ever since.
What’s wrong with San Diego?
“It’s not New York,” he says. “I don’t think I could live anywhere but New York City. Just looking at the East River park there,” - and he follows with a wide gesture at the ballpark and the FDR Drive and the water right outside his living room panorama window - “there’s a kind of literary attribute to the passing parade...
That’s why people come to New York, to be energized by other people. San Diego is very beautiful, but it’s not New York”...
What was left to do was find the kind of work that would permit him to maintain his short commute, namely from the bedroom to his living room desk. He saw Dr. Helen Morrison on CNN one day. It was a very short item, and Goldberg couldn’t shake the feeling that the forensic expert was being quite guarded about her work. He was also fascinated by the fact that the woman had interviewed some 80 serial killers in her research. There could be a book there, he thought. Over the course of six months the expert and the writer decided to delve into a project together. Harold’s agent, Chris Calhoun, sold the idea in one day to William Morrow. The rest is forensic history.
“There are lots of books in the true crime genre,” says Goldberg. “But there’s no other memoir of the complete career of a forensic psychiatrist who makes it her mission to find out why serial killers kill. She believes serial killers are born and not made. She makes the case for genetics as the culprit.”
Goldberg wanted to raise the bar of what would have been yet another truecrime book, by adding the elements of science, medicine, and the inevitable controversy about the laws dealing with serial killers.
While working on the new book, Harold decided it was time to move out of his cramped first-floor apartment on West 12th Street. He remembers the place fondly, but the move further downtown in search of more spacious living was inevitable. A natural worrier, he was relieved when the admission process to the East River corporation was over. Since moving in he finds great inspiration in his balcony and his view of the park.
“It’s the city, but there’s also a bucolic atmosphere to the place,” he says. “The view of the water is hypnotizing...” Goldberg hasn’t invested yet in renovation. His immediate plans are to “do something about the kitchen.” For now the apartment has been repainted (white and dark-green), and the floors sanded. His desk, bookshelf, and a comfortable sofa are the only furniture in the living room. One gets the feeling that Harold is still relishing the very idea of having so much uncluttered space, after his years of cramped living in the Village.
The short commute thing might explain why he has so few complaints about transportation or about shopping in the neighborhood. Notions of making it on time in the mornings are foreign to him, and so he is able to accept life on the Lower East Side as what it is: a little slower, a little safer, a little friendlier.
Harold Goldberg Purchased 2-bedroom apartment in East River Housing.
Broker: LoHo Realty