The Rose Man of Sing Sing: A True Tale of Life, Murder, and Redemption in the Age of Yellow Journalism / Edition 3

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Today, seventy-three years after his death, journalists still tell tales of Charles E. Chapin. As city editor of Pulitzer's New York Evening World , Chapin was the model of the take-no-prisoners newsroom tyrant: he drove reporters relentlessly-and kept his paper in the center ring of the circus of big-city journalism. From the Harry K. Thaw trial to the sinking of the Titanic , Chapin set the pace for the evening press, the CNN of the pre-electronic world of journalism. In 1918, at the pinnacle of fame, Chapin's world collapsed. Facing financial ruin, sunk in depression, he decided to kill himself and his beloved wife Nellie. On a quiet September morning, he took not his own life, but Nellie's, shooting her as she slept. After his trial-and one hell of a story for the World's competitors-he was sentenced to life in the infamous Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. In this story of an extraordinary life set in the most thrilling epoch of American journalism, James McGrath Morris tracks Chapin's rise from legendary Chicago street reporter to celebrity powerbroker in media-mad New York. His was a human tragedy played out in the sensational stories of tabloids and broadsheets. But it's also an epic of redemption: in prison, Chapin started a newspaper to fight for prisoner rights, wrote a best-selling autobiography, had two long-distance love affairs, and tapped his prodigious talents to transform barren prison plots into world-famous rose gardens before dying peacefully in his cell in 1930. The first portrait of one of the founding figures of modern American journalism, and a vibrant chronicle of the cutthroat culture of scoops and scandals, The Rose Man of Sing Sing is also a hidden history of New York at its most colorful and passionate.James McGrath Morris is a former journalist, author of Jailhouse Journalism: The Fourth Estate Behind Bars , and a historian. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia, and teaches at West Springfield High School.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
This well-written biography captures the spirit and flavor of a major newsroom, of the pressure to scoop other papers, and the need to get the news first. . . . Morris’s opus is a worthy contribution to this period of American history.
 author of William Randolph Hearst: The Early Years, 1863–1910
Luc Sante
The life of Charles Chapin—with its epic sweep, third-act tragedy, and oddly serene ending—could be a novel, could be a movie, and could even be an opera. James McGrath Morris renders it with full justice giving the reader a panoramic tour of fifty years of the American scene while keeping the narrative engine humming. This book is a pleasure.
—author of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York
The Washington Post
Morris foreshadows Chapin's tragedy skillfully in the first chapter, then drops back and sticks to chronology. He keeps the narrative crisp with telling bits from the journals of the day and Chapin's own writing. — Shelby Coffey III
Publishers Weekly
Journalist Morris (Jailhouse Journalism) excellently portrays Charles E. Chapin (1858-1930), scandal-dogged legendary city editor of Joseph Pulitzer's New York Evening World. Backed by extensive research, Morris builds the driven man's roller-coaster life with each masterfully etched chapter, starting with an overview of Chapin's career and demise, succeeding ones detailing his childhood, his apprenticeship with a Kansas newspaper and his arrival in Chicago, landing a plum reporting job at the Tribune. Chapin quickly excels at his new job, with his skills for sniffing out a story, finding its emotional core and writing it up in colorful, energetic prose. After a series of successes as a reporter and editor in Chicago, Chapin moves to New York and is hired at the World, wowing his boss, reporters and rivals. Morris portrays Chapin's turbulent personal life and the world of yellow journalism that ruled newspapers of that time, sharing captivating facts and anecdotal glimpses of early 20th-century America. Dogged by illness, the burden of a fragile wife and growing debt, Chapin, enjoying the fruits of a wildly successful career, suddenly faces financial ruin and scandal after a run of bad investments, which leads him to decide to murder his wife and himself. Unable to shoot himself after killing his wife in 1918, Chapin flees but is captured, tried and sentenced to 20 years to life in New York's notorious Sing Sing prison after a sensational, grueling trial. Morris's impressive achievement will enthrall readers. (Nov. 3) Forecast: Although published by a university press, this work has mainstream appeal and could draw in general American history readers and lovers of true crime. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Charles E. Chapin, the notorious editor-tyrant of Joseph Pulitzer's New York Evening World during America's Gilded Age, made headlines himself after murdering his wife of 39 years. This extensively researched biography by Morris (Jailhouse Journalism: The Fourth Estate Behind Bars) reads like a true-crime page-turner, bringing to life Chapin's tragic story, from his childhood to his days spent cultivating a beautiful rose garden in Sing Sing prison to the last moments of his life. Morris lends the story depth by including colorful depictions of everyday New York life circa the early 1900s, intriguing descriptions of the corrupt practices of editors and reporters, and vivid accounts of major events like the Titanic disaster, a story that Chapin's paper scooped from its competitors. An engrossing read, this is suitable for all libraries.-Donna Marie Smith, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., FL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823222681
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Series: Communications and Media Studies Series
  • Edition description: 3
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 470
  • Sales rank: 1,333,902
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

James McGrath Morris is a former journalist, author of Jailhouse Journalism: The Fourth Estate Behind Bars , and a historian. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia, and teaches at West Springfield High School.

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