Happy (spooky) reading!
Not long after Jack the Ripper haunted the ill-lit streets of 1888 London, H.H. Holmes (born Herman Webster Mudgett) dispatched somewhere between 27 and 200 people, mostly single young women, in the churning new metropolis of Chicago; many of the murders occurred during (and exploited) the city's finest moment, the World's Fair of 1893. Larson's breathtaking new history is a novelistic yet wholly factual account of the fair and the mass murderer who lurked within it. Bestselling author Larson (Isaac's Storm) strikes a fine balance between the planning and execution of the vast fair and Holmes's relentless, ghastly activities. The passages about Holmes are compelling and aptly claustrophobic; readers will be glad for the frequent escapes to the relative sanity of Holmes's co-star, architect and fair overseer Daniel Hudson Burnham, who managed the thousands of workers and engineers who pulled the sprawling fair together on an astonishingly tight two-year schedule. A natural charlatan, Holmes exploited the inability of authorities to coordinate, creating a small commercial empire entirely on unpaid debts and constructing a personal cadaver-disposal system. This is, in effect, the nonfiction Alienist, or a sort of companion, which might be called Homicide, to Emile Durkheim's Suicide. However, rather than anomie, Larson is most interested in industriousness and the new opportunities for mayhem afforded by the advent of widespread public anonymity. This book is everything popular history should be, meticulously recreating a rich, pre-automobile America on the cusp of modernity, in which the sale of "articulated" corpses was a semi-respectable trade and serial killers could go well-nigh unnoticed.
Starred Review. Summerscale (The Queen of Whale Cay) delivers a mesmerizing portrait of one of England's first detectives and the gruesome murder investigation that nearly destroyed him. In 1860, three-year-old Saville Kent was found murdered in the outdoor privy of his family's country estate. Local police scrambled for clues, but to no avail. Scotland Yard Det.-Insp. Jonathan Jack Whicher was called in and immediately suspected the unthinkable: someone in the Kent family killed Saville. Theories abounded as everyone from the nursemaid to Saville's father became a suspect. Whicher tirelessly pursued every lead and became convinced that Constance Kent, Saville's teenage half-sister, was the murderer, but with little evidence and no confession, the case went cold and Whicher returned to London, a broken man. Five years later, the killer came forward with a shocking account of the crime, leading to a sensational trial. Whicher is a fascinating hero, and readers will delight in following every lurid twist and turn in his investigation.
True crime about a corporate whistle-blower in Tennessee .
In Cold Blood was a groundbreaking work when released in 1966. With it, author Truman Capote contributed to a style of writing in which the reporter gets so far inside the subject, becomes so familiar, that he projects events and conversations as if he were really there. The style has probably never been accomplished better than in this book. Capote combined painstaking research with a narrative feel to produce one of the most spellbinding stories ever put on the page. Two two-time losers living in a lonely house in western Kansas are out to make the heist of their life, but when things don't go as planned, the robbery turns ugly. From there, the book is a real-life look into murder, prison, and the criminal mind.
Prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, Vincent Bugliosi held a unique insider's position in one of the most baffling and horrifying cases of the twentieth century: the cold-blooded Tate-LaBianca murders carried out by Charles Manson and four of his followers. What motivated Manson in his seemingly mindless selection of victims, and what was his hold over the young women who obeyed his orders? Here is the gripping story of this famous and haunting crime. 50 pages of b/w photographs.
Both Helter Skelter and Vincent Bugliosi's subsequent Till Death Us Do Part won Edgar Allan Poe Awards for best true-crime book of the year. Bugliosi is also the author of Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O. J. Simpson Got Away with Murder (Norton, 1996) and other books. Curt Gentry, an Edgar winner, is the author of J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets (available in Norton paperback) and Frame-Up: The Incredible Case of Tom Mooney and Warren Billings.
Starred Review. United in their obsession with a grisly Italian serial murder case almost three decades old, thriller writer Preston (coauthor, Brimstone) and Italian crime reporter Spezi seek to uncover the identity of the killer in this chilling true crime saga. From 1974 to 1985, seven pairs of lovers parked in their cars in secluded areas outside of Florence were gruesomely murdered. When Preston and his family moved into a farmhouse near the murder sites, he and Spezi began to snoop around, although witnesses had died and evidence was missing. With all of the chief suspects acquitted or released from prison on appeal, Preston and Spezi's sleuthing continued until ruthless prosecutors turned on the nosy pair, jailing Spezi and grilling Preston for obstructing justice. Only when Dateline NBC became involved in the maze of mutilated bodies and police miscues was the authors' hard work rewarded. This suspenseful procedural reveals much about the dogged writing team as well as the motives of the killers.
In 1942, London faced a reign of terror unknown since Jack the Ripper. The nightly air raids had darkened London's neon dazzle but not its urge to live it up. With death a daily possibility, drinks and sex were everywhere. But one man had other urges. Over a five-day period, "The Blackout Ripper" murdered with a lightning-fast ferocity that stunned and baffled investigators. He left few clues in his bloody wake-until a slip-up revealed his true identity, and shocked a city that thought it had seen it all.
Jack the Ripper was renowned artist Walter Sickert (1860-1942) according to Cornwell, in case anyone hasn't yet heard. The evidence Cornwell accumulates toward that conclusion in this brilliant, personal, gripping book is very strong, and will persuade many. In May 2001, Cornwell took a tour of Scotland Yard that interested her in the Ripper case, and in Sickert as a suspect. A look at Sickert's "violent" paintings sealed her interest, and she became determined to apply, for the first time ever, modern investigatory and forensic techniques to the crimes that horrified London more than 100 years ago. The book's narrative is complex, as Cornwell details her emotional involvement in the case; re-creates life in Victorian times, particularly in the late 1880s, and especially the cruel existence of the London poor; offers expertly observed scenarios of how, based on the evidence, the killings occurred and the subsequent investigations were conducted; explains what was found by the team of experts she hired; and gives a psycho-biography of Sickert. The book is filled with newsworthy revelations, including the successful use of DNA analysis to establish a link between an envelope mailed by the Ripper and two envelopes used by Sickert. There are also powerful comparisons made between Sickert's drawing style and that of the Ripper; between words and turns of phrases used by both men; and much other circumstantial evidence. Also newsworthy is Cornwell's conclusion that Sickert continued to kill long after the Ripper supposedly lay down his blade, reaping dozens of victims over his long life. Compassionate, intense, superbly argued, fluidly written and impossible to put down, this is the finest and most important true-crime book to date of the 21st century.
The little-known world of art theft is compellingly portrayed in Dolnick's account of the 1994 theft and recovery of Edvard Munch's iconic painting The Scream. The theft was carried out with almost comical ease at Norway's National Gallery in Oslo on the very morning that the Winter Olympics began in that city. Despite the low-tech nature of the crime, the local police were baffled, and Dolnick (Down the Great Unknown; Madness on the Couch) makes a convincing case that the fortunate resolution of the investigation was almost exclusively due to the expertise, ingenuity and daring of the "rescue artist" of the title: Charley Hill, a Scotland Yard undercover officer and former Fulbright scholar who has made recovering stolen art treasures his life's work. Hill is a larger-than-life figure who seems lifted from the pages of Elmore Leonard, although his adversaries in this inquiry are fairly pedestrian. While the path to the painting's retrieval is relatively straightforward once some shady characters put the word out that they can get their hands on it, the narrative's frequent detours to other crimes and engaging escapades from Hill's past elevate this work above last year's similar The Irish Game by Matthew Hart.
Starred Review. In the early days of April 1865, with the bloody war to preserve the union finished, Swanson tells us, Abraham Lincoln was "jubilant." Elsewhere in Washington, the other player in the coming drama of the president's assassination was miserable. Hearing Lincoln's April 10 victory speech, famed actor and Confederate die-hard John Wilkes Booth turned to a friend and remarked with seething hatred, "That means nigger citizenship. Now, by God, I'll put him through." On April 14, Booth did just that. With great power, passion and at a thrilling, breakneck pace, Swanson (Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution) conjures up an exhausted yet jubilant nation ruptured by grief, stunned by tragedy and hell-bent on revenge. For 12 days, assisted by family and some women smitten by his legendary physical beauty, Booth relied on smarts, stealth and luck to elude the best detectives, military officers and local police the federal government could muster. Taking the reader into the action, the story is shot through with breathless, vivid, even gory detail. With a deft, probing style and no small amount of swagger, Swanson, a member of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, has crafted pure narrative pleasure, sure to satisfy the casual reader and Civil War aficionado alike.
Starred Review. In 1911, Iron Workers Union leaders James and Joseph McNamara plea-bargained in exchange for prison sentences instead of death after bombing the offices of the Los Angeles Times—killing 21 people and wounding many more. The bombing had been part of a bungled assault on some 100 American cities. After the McNamaras went to jail, Clarence Darrow, their defense attorney, wound up indicted for attempting to bribe the jury, but won acquittal after a defense staged by the brilliant Earl Rogers. The McNamaras were investigated by William J. Burns—near legendary former Secret Service agent and proprietor of a detective agency. Surprisingly, Burns's collaborator in the investigation was silent film director D.W. Griffith. This tangled and fascinating tale is the stuff of novels, and Vanity Fair contributing editor Blum (The Brigade) tells it with a novelist's flair. In an approach reminiscent of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, Blum paints his characters in all their grandeur and tragedy, making them—and their era—come alive. Blum's prose is tight, his speculations unfailingly sound and his research extensive—all adding up to an absorbing and masterful true crime narrative.
Convicted of murdering millionaire heiress Irene Silverman in New York City and waiting to stand trial for a second murder in California, Sante and Kenny Kimes, mother and son, have become two of the best-known American criminals of recent years. In the wake of widespread, high-profile media coverage, this book purports to fill in missing details of Sante's murky biography. Walker, who is Sante Kimes's eldest son and half-brother to Kenny, catalogues the wrongdoings of the woman he still affectionately calls "Mom," including everything from shoplifting and theft to multiple counts of arson, insurance fraud and slavery. Walker vividly recounts his childhood with Sante and her third husband, Ken Kimes, detailing how the couple indoctrinated him into criminality. The author, who appears to be exorcising personal demons, does a fine job of elucidating the psychological and emotional price of being loved and cared for by a sociopath. It is this tension, between the loving mother and the criminal willing to neglect and at times even betray her child, that pushes the story forward. Unfortunately, the litany of crimes is so vast and comes so fast that the narrative never quite lingers long enough to develop real drama or suspense. Well researched and touching, though, it testifies to how one son can evolve into a killer and the other live to tell the tale. As a chronicle of Sante Kimes's life, it's unlikely to be surpassed by any other. The only person likely to tell a more intimate tale is Sante herself.
Freelance journalist Abbott's vibrant first book probes the titillating milieu of the posh, world-famous Everleigh Club brothel that operated from 1900 to 1911 on Chicago's Near South Side. The madams, Ada and Minna Everleigh, were sisters whose shifting identities had them as traveling actors, Edgar Allan Poe's relatives, Kentucky debutantes fleeing violent husbands and daughters of a once-wealthy Virginia lawyer crushed by the Civil War. While lesser whorehouses specialized in deflowering virgins, beatings and bondage, the Everleighs spoiled their whores with couture gowns, gourmet meals and extraordinary salaries. The bordello—which boasted three stringed orchestras and a room of 1,000 mirrors—attracted such patrons as Theodore Dreiser, John Barrymore and Prussian Prince Henry. But the successful cathouse was implicated in the 1905 shooting of department store heir Marshall Field Jr. and inevitably became the target of rivals and reformers alike. Madam Vic Shaw tried to frame the Everleighs for a millionaire playboy's drug overdose, Rev. Ernest Bell preached nightly outside the club and ambitious Chicago state's attorney Clifford Roe built his career on the promise of obliterating white slavery. With colorful characters, this is an entertaining, well-researched slice of Windy City history.
Starred Review. True-crime historian Schechter (co-author, The A-Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers) delivers a thrilling account of a murder case that rocked Manhattan at the turn of the 20th century. Roland Molineux, a socially ambitious chemist,was a proud member of the Knickerbocker Athletic Club, where he was considered a talented but snooty sportsman, repeatedly instigating spats with the club's athletic director, Harry Cornish. Pursuing women with the same determination he brought to sports, Roland doggedly wooed Blanche Chesebrough, an equally ambitious young woman with operatic aspirations. But when one of Molineux's romantic competitors, Henry Barnet, died, Cornish was poisoned (he survived) and his landlady died, Roland topped the list of suspects. The ensuing investigation and sensational trial became one of the costliest in New York State history. Schechter expertly weaves a rich historical tapestry—exploring everything from the birth of yellow journalism to the history of poison as a murder weapon—without sacrificing a novelistic sense of character, pacing and suspense. The result is a riveting tale of murder, seduction and tabloid journalism run rampant in a New York not so different from today's.
This week The Bookies (Emmet O'Neal's GrEaT book group) met to discuss our county-wide read Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron.
Myron was the director of a small town library in Spencer, Iowa (population 10,000) when one freezing January morning she and a co-worker opened the library's metal encased book drop to find one small shivering tabby cat with frostbitten paws. Dewey Readmore Books as he came to be known soon won over the hearts of the library staff and the entire town. Dewey became the library cat, and lived happily at the Spencer Public Library for many years.
Our book group had a pretty unanimous consensus - we liked the book. It was a sweet story about the relationship between the cat and the townspeople. Also, Myron had some really interesting points about a small town hit by hard times. We didn't have a long discussion about it because we were ready to move on to our non-fiction discussion. I asked each member of the group to bring in a non fiction title she is currently reading and tell us about it. Here was our list (oh, and there are several fiction titles we let slide in as well). I have added links to the library's catalog, and have included Dewey ;)
Slave Hunter: One Man's Global Quest To Free Victims of Human Trafficking by Aaaron Cohen - Cohen's story is an interesting one - he is the one time collaborator and friend of Jane's Addiction leader Perry Ferrell. Cohen has traveled the world in attempts to free women and children from the horrors of slavery.
The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America's Finest Hour - Bennie M. told The Bookies that this was a really excellent history of the famous Berlin Airlift. It went into great detail about the mechanics of the airlift and how the operation was carried out. Sounds like a great read!
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett - a popular choice for local book groups, in it Ms. Patchett discusses her relationship with another great writer, Lucy Grealy
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy - Ms. Grealy's story of her life and relationship with fellow writers including Ann Patchett.
North Across the River: a Civil War Trail of Tears by Ruth Beaumont Cook - the history of a little known story about a group of people forced to leave Roswell, Georgia for the Ohio River Valley - written by a local author too!
Home Tonight by Henri Nowen - contemplative writing about the parable of the prodigal son.
Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist’s Journey Into Seeing In Three Dimensions by Susan Barry - Mary D. told us this was about how people see and how our brains communicate with our eyes and vice versa.
Outside The Magic Circle: The Autobiography of Virginia Foster Durr - a great book by and about an amazing woman. We have several copies of this one!
New Lights In The Valley: The Emergence of UAB by Tennant McWilliams - Emmet O'Neal Library has two copies of this book about the history of UAB and Birmingham.
New Lights In The Valley: The Emergence of UAB by Tennant McWilliams - Emmet O'Neal Library has two copies of this book about the history of UAB and Birmingham.
Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause by Tom Gjelten - Connie W. said this was long, but very interesting if you want to learn more about Castro's Cuba and the Bacardi family.
And, as promised, a little fiction:
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout - won a Pulitzer Prize last year.
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry - Betty P. tells me this is a GREAT book!
The Toss of A Lemon by Padma Viswanathan which Paula P’s friend testified was one of the best books she had ever read!
Next month The Bookies will meet on November 10th to discuss Steinbeck's classic East of Eden. Join us!
A former reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she wrote ten critically acclaimed mysteries, including the Callahan Garrity mystery series, under her "real" name, which is Kathy Hogan Trocheck.
A native of St. Petersburg, Florida (and a diplomate of the Maas Bros. Department Store School of Charm), she started her professional journalism career in Savannah, Georgia, where she covered the real-life murder trials which were the basis of MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL.
As a lifelong "junker" the author claims to know the location of every promising thrift store, flea market and junkpile in the Southeastern United States, plus many parts of Ohio.
She has a B.A. in newspaper journalism from The University of Georgia (go Dawgs!), and is a frequent lecturer and writing teacher at workshops including Emory University, The University of Georgia's Harriet Austin Writer's Workshop, the Tennessee Mountain Writer's Workshop and the Antioch Writer's Workshop. Her mysteries have been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity Awards.
Married for more than 31 years to her high school sweetheart, Tom, she is the mother of 24-year-old Katie Abel and 20-year-old Andrew. After a three-year hiatus in Raleigh, NC, she and her husband recently moved back to their old neighborhood in Atlanta, where they live in a restored 1926 Craftsman bungalow.