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The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Warsby Paul Collins
"A common complaint about journalism is that it focuses on the sordid, gruesome and melodramatic at the expense of 'legitimate' reporting. Of course, this gripe is nothing new, as even a glance at the 'yellow' journalism of more than a century ago reveals.
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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. On June 26, 1897, the first of several gory bundles was discovered: a man's chest and arms floating in the East River. The legs and midsection were found separately and 'assembled' at the morgue for identification. The two most popular newspapers — William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer's New York World — devoted entire issues to the corpse, sending reporters out to shadow police and offering dueling rewards for identifying the man. Hearst even formed the 'Murder Squad,' reporters who were often one step ahead of the cops. Eventually identified as William Guldensuppe, the Danish immigrant had been caught between his landlady (and lover) Augusta Nack and her new suitor, Martin Thorn. Though both were suspects, only Thorn was tried and executed, after Nack cut a deal. Collins (The Book of William), founder of McSweeney's Collins Library imprint, gives an in-depth account of the exponential growth of lurid news and the public's (continuing) insatiable appetite for it. B&w illus. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"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
"No writer better articulates our interest in the confluence of hope, eccentricity, and the timelessness of the bold and strange than Paul Collins." Dave Eggers
About the Author
Paul Collins is the author of seven books, which have been translated into ten languages. His work has appeared in Slate, New Scientist, and the New York Times, and he is regularly featured on NPR's Weekend Edition as their "literary detective." He lives in Portland, Oregon.
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