The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars

The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars

3.5 194
by Paul Collins
     
 

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“No writer better articulates ourinterest in the confluence of hope, eccentricity, and the timelessness of the bold and strange than Paul Collins.”—DAVE EGGERS
 
On Long Island, a farmer finds a duck pond turned red with blood. On the Lower East Side, two boys playing at a pier discover a floating human torso wrapped tightly inSee more details below

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Overview

“No writer better articulates ourinterest in the confluence of hope, eccentricity, and the timelessness of the bold and strange than Paul Collins.”—DAVE EGGERS
 
On Long Island, a farmer finds a duck pond turned red with blood. On the Lower East Side, two boys playing at a pier discover a floating human torso wrapped tightly in oilcloth. Blueberry pickers near Harlem stumble upon neatly severed limbs in an overgrown ditch. Clues to a horrifying crime are turning up all over New York, but the police are baffled: There are no witnesses, no motives, no suspects.
 
The grisly finds that began on the afternoon of June 26, 1897, plunged detectives headlong into the era’s most baffling murder mystery. Seized upon by battling media moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the case became a publicity circus. Reenactments of the murder were staged in Times Square, armed reporters lurked in the streets of Hell’s Kitchen in pursuit of suspects, and an unlikely trio—a hard-luck cop, a cub reporter, and an eccentric professor—all raced to solve the crime.
 
What emerged was a sensational love triangle and an even more sensational trial: an unprecedented capital case hinging on circumstantial evidence around a victim whom the police couldn’t identify with certainty, and who the defense claimed wasn’t even dead. The Murder of the Century is a rollicking tale—a rich evocation of America during the Gilded Age and a colorful re-creation of the tabloid wars that have dominated media to this day.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Collins’] exploration of the newspaper world, at the very moment when tabloid values were being born, is revealing but also enormously entertaining….Collins has a clear eye, a good sense of telling detail, and a fine narrative ability." Wall Street Journal

“Riveting….Collins has mined enough newspaper clippings and other archives to artfully recreate the era, the crime and the newspaper wars it touched off.” New York Times

"[A] richly detailed book that reads like a novel and yet maintains a strict fidelity to facts. THE MURDER OF THE CENTURY isn't a case of history with a moral. It's simply a fantastic, factual yarn, and a reminder that abhorrent violence is nothing new under the sun." Oregonian

“A wonderful reminder that we have often been just as we are: fools for spectacle, short of memory, cheered by the invigorating shock of the immoral.” Willamette Week

"Paul Collins' account of the headless torso murder that led to an all-out newspaper war and then a dramatic trial has all the timeless elements of a great yarn--a baffling mystery, intriguing suspects, and flawed detectives. It's compelling history that's also great page-turning entertainment." —Howard Blum, author of The Floor of Heaven and American Lightning

“Wonderfully rich in period detail, salacious facts about the case and infectious wonder at the chutzpah and inventiveness displayed by Pulitzer’s and Hearst’s minions. Both a gripping true-crime narrative and an astonishing portrait of fin de siecle yellow journalism.” Kirkus Reviews

"A dismembered corpse and rival newspapers squabbling for headlines fuel Collins’s intriguing look at the birth of “yellow journalism” in late–19th-century New York.  an in-depth account of the exponential growth of lurid news and the public’s (continuing) insatiable appetite for it." Publishers Weekly

Sam Roberts
…Paul Collins…artfully recreate[s] the era…[and] delivers a riveting account of what, years later, Walter Winchell would hail as "the first of the great newspaper trials."
—The New York Times
James McGrath Morris
Paul Collins engagingly recounts the press's obsessive pursuit of the story, the unlikely alliances that eventually led to the apprehension of the suspects and the trial…[he] has crafted a work that won't disappoint readers in search of a book like Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal
In the sticky summer of 1897, New York City was rocked by the discovery of a human torso wrapped in oilcloth floating in the river. A second bundle wrapped in the same fabric was found, then a third. Who was the dead man, and where had his head been dumped? The murder terrified the populace but galvanized the newspaper tabloids. Upstart New York Journal, run by a very young William Randolph Hearst, took on the champion New York World, under Joseph Pulitzer, in a circulation duel to the death. The rival papers sent out investigators, hounded the police, and offered substantial rewards, not in the service of justice but of circulation. The dogged search eventually produced suspects, but how do you get a conviction when you can't even identify the body? Collins (The Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World) utilizes newspaper accounts from more than a dozen dailies to bring this tale of sex, murder, and yellow journalism to life. VERDICT This intriguing case, sensational at the time but now long forgotten, will appeal to fans of early 20th-century social history and crime.—Deirdre Bray Root, Middletown P.L., OH

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307592217
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
04/24/2012
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
124,049
Product dimensions:
5.28(w) x 7.82(h) x 0.72(d)

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