The Big Policeman: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Byrnes, America's First, Most Ruthless, and Greatest Detective

Overview

"A fascinating, fast-moving account of one of the most polarizing and influential figures of nineteenth-century New York." ?Daniel Stashower, author of The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder "An essential read for those interested in police work, detective stories, and New York City history." ?Library JournalFrom 1854 to 1895, Thomas Byrnes rose through New York City's police department to become one of the most celebrated detectives in American history, a giant who captured Manhattan's Jack the Ripper ...
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Overview

"A fascinating, fast-moving account of one of the most polarizing and influential figures of nineteenth-century New York." —Daniel Stashower, author of The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder "An essential read for those interested in police work, detective stories, and New York City history." —Library JournalFrom 1854 to 1895, Thomas Byrnes rose through New York City's police department to become one of the most celebrated detectives in American history, a giant who captured Manhattan's Jack the Ripper copy-cat killer, solved the murder of prostitute Maude Merrill, cracked the largest bank heist in American history, and "shaped not just the New York City Detective Bureau but the template for detective work . . . in every modern American metropolis," according to the New York Times. Byrnes pioneered crime scene investigations, was the first to use mug shots, and perfected the brutal interrogation process called "the third degree," but he was forced to resign amid widespread corruption that had plagued the department for decades. Author J. North Conway narrates in vivid detail the crimes, corruption, and gritty police work associated with the man history has dubbed "the big policeman."
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Creating period atmosphere by quoting extensively from newspaper accounts of the sensational crimes Byrnes solved, Conway portrays his subject's cleverness and excesses with a flawed-hero flavor that should draw in true-crime fans." —Booklist "Conway presents the exceptional biography of Thomas Byrnes, who has been called 'the father of detective work.' The story of his remarkable career is interwoven with many notable 19th-century events. . . .An essential read for those interested in police work, detective stories, and New York City history."—Library Journal "A fascinating, fast-moving account of one of the most polarizing and influential figures of 19th-century New York. Conway brings 'the big policeman' to life." —Daniel Stashower, author of The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder "A treasure trove of information not only on larger-than-life pioneering detective Thomas Byrnes but also on law-and-order in wide-open nineteenth-century Manhattan."—David Pietrusza, author of Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series "Across the sordid tableau of crime, vice, and murder in New York City's Gilded Age, no figure cut so enduring a path as Thomas Byrnes, the city's top cop who used brains and brawn in his then-groundbreaking belief that to catch a criminal, one must think like one. J. North Conway has mined the clues and unraveled the mystery of the man behind the headlines, painting a nuanced portrait of the crusader who pioneered law enforcement's most durable and controversial investigative techniques. Meticulously researched and written like an unusually well-crafted police blotter, The Big Policeman portrays New York's criminal underground and ambitious lawmen as vividly as any TV drama ripped from the headlines." —Greg Campbell, coauthor of Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History and author of Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World's Most Precious Stones
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762771752
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/8/2011
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 953,309
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

J. North Conway is the author of King of Heists: The Sensational Bank Robbery of 1878 That Shocked America and the upcoming Bag of Bones: The Sensational Grave Robbery of the Merchant Prince of Manhattan; in addition to seven other nonfiction books. He has been a daily newspaper reporter and editor, and a columnist and feature writer for the Providence Journal and Bostonia, the alumni publication of Boston University. He has worked as an editor/writer for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the second oldest international learned society in the country. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth and Bristol Community College in Fall River, Massachusetts. He previously taught at Boston University, Northeastern University, and Fisher College. He lives in Assonet, Massachusetts.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 THE CASE OF JACK THE RIPPER (Chief Detective Thomas Byrnes solved the case of the brutal slaying that prompted the press to speculate that London’s Jack the Ripper had struck in New York City.)American Almanac 1854 (A selection of social, political, cultural and historical details depicting the tenor of the times are presented in this intercalary chapter.)Chapter 2 NO IRISH NEED APPLY (The Byrnes family immigrated from Ireland during the Potato Famine and settled into one of New York City’s worst slums, Five Points.)American Almanac 1863 Chapter 3 NEW YORK CITY UNDER SEIGE (Byrnes distinguished himself as a brave and fearless police officer during the infamous New York City draft riots in the summer of 1863.)American Almanac 1872 Chapter 4 THE MURDER OF MAUDE MERRILL (Byrnes solved the sensational murder involving a fashionable courtesan, Maude Merrill, who was brutally killed in an upscale house of prostitution.)Chapter 5 THE MURDER OF JUBILEE JIM (Byrnes apprehended the murderer of James Fisk Jr., one the country’s most successful Wall Street financiers.)American Almanac 1878Chapter 6 THE GREATEST BANK ROBBERY IN AMERICA (Using gritty detective work, Byrnes tracked down the criminals responsible for robbing close to $3 million from the Manhattan Savings Institution.) Chapter 7 BAG OF BONES (Byrnes tracked down the grave-robbers who stole the body of millionaire department store magnate, A.T. Stewart.) American Almanac 1880-1884 Chapter 8 CHIEF OF DETECTIVES (In 1880 Byrnes was promoted to Inspector and took command of New York City’s detective bureau. He instituted a series of protocols that modernized the detective bureau including the use of mug shots, police line-ups and the use of undercover detectives to infiltrate criminal gangs.)Chapter 9 THE CASE OF THE MURDERED WINE MERCHANT (Byrnes tracked down and apprehended the murderer of New York City wine merchant, Louis Hanier.)American Almanac 1892-1895 Chapter 10 AN UNSPEAKABLE ROTTENESS (After being appointed Superintendent of the New York City Police Department in 1892, Byrnes faced a series of legislative investigations into police corruption. Although Byrnes was never directly implicated in any corrupt practices, he was forced into retirement in 1895 by Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt when it was revealed that he had amassed a small fortune on his meager $5,000 yearly salary. Byrnes became an insurance investigator, opening a detective agency on Wall Street and died in 1910.)
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