Pinkerton's Great Detective: The Amazing Life and Times of James McParland

Pinkerton's Great Detective: The Amazing Life and Times of James McParland

by Beau Riffenburgh




The story of the legendary Pinkerton detective who took down the Molly Maguires and the Wild Bunch

The operatives of the Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency were renowned for their skills of subterfuge, infiltration, and investigation, none more so than James McParland. So thrilling were McParland’s cases that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle included the cunning detective in a story along with Sherlock Holmes.

Riffenburgh digs deep into the recently released Pinkerton archives to present the first biography of McParland and the agency’s cloak-and-dagger methods. Both action packed and meticulously researched, Pinkerton’s Great Detective brings readers along on McParland’s most challenging cases: from young McParland’s infiltration of the murderous Molly Maguires gang in the case that launched his career to his hunt for the notorious Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch to his controversial investigation of the Western Federation of Mines in the assassination of Idaho’s former governor.

Filled with outlaws and criminals, detectives and lawmen, Pinkerton’s Great Detective shines a light upon the celebrated secretive agency and its premier sleuth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780670025466
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/14/2013
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 6.58(w) x 9.48(h) x 1.32(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Beau Riffenburgh has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Cambridge, where he was a member of the academic staff. He has written numerous books on exploration, including Shackleton’s Forgotten Expedition. He lives in Llanarthne, Wales, UK.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Introduction 1

1 The Makings of a Detective 11

2 The Molly Maguires 28

3 A New Identity 46

4 On the Inside 59

5 The Long Strike 71

6 Three Dead Men 83

7 Murder and Vigilante Vengeance 95

8 Trials and Tribulations 112

9 McParlan on the Witness Stand 124

10 One After Another 138

11 An Ending and a Beginning 150

12 A New Life 165

13 A New Detective in Town 178

14 Calling the Shots 192

15 A New Direction 204

16 Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch 216

17 On the Trail of the Wild Bunch 229

18 The Man in Charge 244

19 A Murder and a Confession 259

20 Battle Lines Are Drawn 275

21 The Lull Before the Storm 291

22 The Fight for Adams 304

23 The Haywood Trial 317

24 Four Trials 340

25 The Long Good-bye 355

Acknowledgments 369

Index 373

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Locating the real James McParland amid the invective, acclaim and invention (including his own) is no easy task, and Beau Riffenburgh, author of '’Shackleton's Forgotten Expedition,’ has made good use of the recently released Pinkerton archives.... McParland was the prototype of a character that has become an adored part of America’s cultural landscape, the hard-boiled gumshoe, the lone sleuth in search of justice.”
—Ben McIntyre, The New York Times

“Revisiting archives and reintroducing historical context, Riffenburgh unfolds a measured, thought-provoking tale of mine-centered mayhem.”
American History 

“Thanks to Riffenburgh, it is not hard to divine the truth. McParland was neither a demon nor a saint. This is no copout. The man belonged to an age ravaged by violence and conflict, and his job as he understood it was to capture the guilty.... He was not always in the right, but he broke with the right less often and less deliberately than the criminals he hunted. That is as much heroism as Riffenburgh, a great detective in his own right, has managed to find in this alien, tumultuous time.”
The Christina Science Monitor

“Riffenburgh navigates… [a] moral quagmire deftly, contextualizing McParland and his far more violent time, while simultaneously deconstructing the image of the ‘Great Detective.’”
—The Daily Beast

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Pinkerton's Great Detective: The Amazing Life and Times of James McParland 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
This book is about James McParland, a Pinkerton detective who had many spectacular triumphs and and some great defeats. The book is very well researched and documented. McParland was a man who was called the greatest Pinkerton detective by some and by others the rottenest so and so ever. As a young man, this Irish immigrant, who had proved his worth in smaller cases, was pulled from the ranks of the Pinkerton Detective Agency to help investigate the activities of the Molly Mcguires. Mine owners in Pennsylvania had enlisted the Pinkertons to infiltrate the secretive society of the Molly Mcguires, which the mine owners believed were responsible for the violence and murders surrounding the labor unrest in the coal mining region of central Pennsylvania. At a time when many investigators and informers simply disappeared and were never heard from again, McParland went undercover months on end. He rose through the ranks of the Molly Mcguires gaining the confidence and trust of the leaders. Eventually he was able to give evidence with corroborating witnesses that lead to the end of the Molly Mcguires and the start of a legendary career for McParland. This book provided for review by Viking.