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The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Warsby Paul Collins
Tuesday, August 26, 2014 07:30 PM
Powell's City of Books on Burnside, Portland, OR
Today the name Edgar Allan Poe invokes a tragic genius whose mastery of horror seems inexorably tied to his tormented life. But in his own time, Poe was above all a craftsman — an editor and reviewer desperately trying to earn a living by transmuting the wild ephemera of early Victorianism into innovations in science fiction, horror, and detective literature. Indeed, the crime thriller would not exist without Poe's sleuth Dupin, the deductive genius of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Purloined Letter." With brilliant scholarship and storytelling verve, Paul Collins, author of Duel with the Devil and The Murder of the Century, delves into Poe's life and his professional world, from his stormy relationship with his rich adoptive father and interest in cryptograms to hits such as "The Raven" and flops like "Eureka," his late-career crank literature outing. Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living (New Harvest) is an informative and entertaining account of one of the most singular talents in American letters.
Synopses & Reviews
“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.
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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