Scoundrels in Law: The Trials of Howe and Hummel, Lawyers to the Gangsters, Cops, Starlets, and Rakes Who Made the Gilded Age [NOOK Book]

Overview

From the critically acclaimed author of Crazy '08 comes the thrilling true story of the most colorful and notorious law firm in American history. Scoundrels in Law offers an inside look at crime and punishment in the nineteenth century, and a whirlwind tour of the Gilded Age.

Gangsters and con men. Spurned mistresses and wandering husbands. Strippers and Broadway royalty. Cat killers and spiritualists. These were the friends and clients of ...

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Scoundrels in Law: The Trials of Howe and Hummel, Lawyers to the Gangsters, Cops, Starlets, and Rakes Who Made the Gilded Age

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Overview

From the critically acclaimed author of Crazy '08 comes the thrilling true story of the most colorful and notorious law firm in American history. Scoundrels in Law offers an inside look at crime and punishment in the nineteenth century, and a whirlwind tour of the Gilded Age.

Gangsters and con men. Spurned mistresses and wandering husbands. Strippers and Broadway royalty. Cat killers and spiritualists. These were the friends and clients of Howe & Hummel, the most famous (and famously rotten) law firm in nineteenth-century America.

The partners gloried in their reputation and made a rich living from it. William Howe left London a step ahead of the law to find his destiny defending the perpetrators of murder and mayhem in post-Civil War New York, in an age of really good murders. A dramatic, diamond-encrusted presence, Howe was one of the great courtroom orators of his era, winning improbable acquittals time after time.

Abraham Hummel enjoyed a quieter but perhaps more fearsome notoriety, shaking down high society so well and so often that receiving an envelope with the law firm's name on it became almost a rite of passage.

The partners bestrode Gilded Age New York with wit and brio, and everyone from Theodore Roosevelt to Lola Montez had a part in their story. In Howe & Hummel's prime, it would not have been unusual to see a leading politician, a pickpocket, a Broadway star, a bank robber, and a socialite all crowded together into the waiting room of their offices, located conveniently across the street from the city jail.

Howe and Hummel were not particularly good men. They were perfectly ready—even eager—to lie, cheat, and bribe on behalf of their clients. They did stop short of murder, though, a principle that played a critical role when the famous firm imploded in a truly spectacular web of deceit gone wrong.

Through the windows of the dingy premises of Howe & Hummel, readers can glimpse the Gilded Age in all its grime and grandeur. Cait Murphy restores this once-famous duo to their rightful place in the pantheon of great American characters.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
From the 1860s to the first decade of the 20th century, the story of the notorious New York City law firm of Howe & Hummel. Murphy (Crazy '08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History, 2007) noticed a reference to the firm in Luc Sante's New York City period history Low Life (1991). Intrigued, the author discovered four 1940s-era New Yorker features about the firm written by Richard Rovere, who collected them in The Magnificent Shysters (1947). Murphy dug deeper, examining court documents and extensive newspaper coverage of their cases. Although the author found very little information about the personal lives of William Howe and Abraham Hummel, she glories in the stark differences between the two men who gained renown during their lifetimes primarily through their immoral tactics in courtrooms. Howe was a flamboyant, obese Catholic. The Jewish Hummel was more understated. Howe tended to defend high-profile murderers, while Hummel focused more on Broadway stars and others involved in civil litigation. Murphy is obviously fascinated by the fact that so many prominent New Yorkers sought out the ethically challenged firm, but, she notes, the lawyers' questionable reputations might have been a major selling point. "Being rascally was a job recommendation in itself for a Tammany-era lawyer," she writes; "being rascally and getting away with it was free advertising." Though full of period color and lively characters, Murphy's narrative suffers from shifting tones, as the author seems uncertain about whether to approach the lawyers' exploits using praise, disdain or irony. An uneven but rollicking read. Agent: Rafe Sagalyn/Sagalyn Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061999475
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/15/2010
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 193,492
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Cait Murphy is the author of Crazy '08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History and has worked at Fortune, the Economist, and the Wall Street Journal Asia in Hong Kong. She lives in New York City.

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