Synopses & Reviews
Fat men's races and fall-out shelters, murder victims and loose women, cheerleaders and immigrants, celebrities and children in distress were just some of the urban curiosities splashed across the pages of city newspapers during the Speed Graphic era (1930s-1950s). Championed by acclaimed news photographers like Arthur Fellig (a.k.a. Weegee), the Speed Graphic camera produced a new visual style that was as blunt, powerful, and immediate as a left hook. Driven by the desire to fill newspaper pages with sensational images, press photographers shot everything, day and night: automobile accidents, fires, murders, all the cop news that fought for a hot spot on the Front Page. And they covered uncounted numbers of social affairs?pictures called "grip-and-grins" in the trade: school events, sports, celebrities, oddities both of nature and humanity. Veteran journalist and mystery writer Larry Millett has unearthed over 200 of the best photos from the archives of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the St. Paul Dispatch for Strange Days, Dangerous Nights. Included are the sensational stories behind the photos and biographies of some of the top press photographers of the day. An evocative look at another time, this is a visual history like no other, a feast for fans of photography and photojournalism, crime buffs, and urban historians?and a testament to the craft of those photographers who documented their era one shot at a time. "A collection of vivid and sometimes spectacular photographs that throw new light on the not-so-distant past, a place that is a bit like home, a bit like a movie, and a bit like another planet. It is heartening to find such stuff so well preserved and so expertly annotated.? -- Luc Sante, author of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York, Evidence and The Factory of Facts
"A collection of vivid and sometimes spectacular photographs that throw new light on the not-so-distant past, a place that is a bit like home, a bit like a movie, and a bit like another planet. It is heartening to find such stuff so well preserved and so expertly annotated.? -- Luc Sante, author of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York, Evidence, and The Factory of Facts
A collection of strange and startling photos from the 1940s and 50s from the archives of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the St. Paul Dispatch. An evocative look at another time, this is a visual history like no other, a feast for fans of photography and photojournalism, crime buffs, and urban historians--and a testament to the craft of those photographers who documented their era one shot at a time.
A woman stabs and kills her husband and then cradles his body--Members of the National Guard patrol city streets during a labor strike--A house lies in ruins following a natural gas explosion--A decapitated corpse sprawls on the ground in front of a factory--Terrified residents make their way down a fire escape as their hotel burns--A young woman stares into a mirror attached to her iron lung--With an eye for the picture that tells a story, Larry Millett has collected 220 of the best of these "noir" images. These newspaper photos that capture the nitty-gritty era of the Speed Graphic camera are like a slice of Minnesota life. Here are nighttime murders, car-crash victims, the St. Paul Winter Carnival, hotel fires, celebrities, drowning victims, union picketers, tornadoes, floods, the strange twists in everyday life, and the pre-urban renewal vibrant downtown St. Paul. Millett has also scouted out many strange and amusing photos from the supposedly "happy days" of the 1950s. "Fat men's" races, fall-out shelters, and fake "ndian"bands were among the strange rituals of the era.In the two decades after World War II, and especially during the 1950s, photographers from the St. Paul Pioneer Press and St. Paul Dispatch cruised the city in search of dramatic visual images. Equipped with the legendary Speed Graphic, a large-format camera capable of producing richly detailed prints, the newspapers' dozen or so staff photographers took thousands of black-and-white pictures, many of them startlingly graphic. The photographers often worked closely with the police and had a remarkable degree of access to crime scenes and criminals. This allowed them to produce images--of blood-soaked murder victims, drowned children, bodies strewn around accident scenes, houses blown to pieces--unlike anything seen in newspapers today in a visual style that could be blunt and powerful.Strange Days, Dangerous Nights includes detailed captions that tell the story behind each picture. This book is unique; there is nothing else like it for the region.Visit the book at http://www.mnhs.org/exhibits/strangedays/index.htm
About the Author
Larry Millett worked for three decades as a reporter, editor, and architectural critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press before retiring in 2002. His books include Lost Twin Cities (awarded an AIA International Architecture Book Award), Twin Cities Then and Now and five mysteries including The Disappearance of Sherlock Holmes He is currently at work on a comprehensive guide to the architecture of Minneapolis and St. Paul, to be published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. John Sandford is the pen name of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, New York Times bestselling novelist, and amateur photographer John Camp. His books include The Hanged Man's Song, Hidden Prey, and Naked Prey.