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A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion: A Novel

3.29  ·  Rating Details ·  679 Ratings  ·  144 Reviews
From the acclaimed author of Atticus and Mariette in Ecstasy comes a stylish novel set in the hard-drinking, fast-living New York City of the Jazz Age that follows two lovers in a torrid affair on an arc of murder and sexual self-destruction.

Based on a real case whose lurid details scandalized Americans in 1927 and sold millions of newspapers, acclaimed novelist Ron Hanse
ebook, 272 pages
Published June 7th 2011 by Scribner
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Jul 19, 2011 Irene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
In an era when prohibition was casually ignored, a number of delusional women and men sought further escape from the mediocrity of daily life through occasional sexual dalliances, but none as sensationally provocative as that of Ruth Snyder and Judd Grey, nor with predictable ordinary consequences.

Ron Hansen skillfully weaves an astonishingly well-researched, yet captivating tale that riveted a nation in 1925, and from beginning to end, he expertly transports the reader to the historically infa
In 1987 I went on a two-book true crime reading spree. Ann Rule had just published Small Sacrifices about Oregon mother Diane Downs, who murdered her three children in 1983. From there, I went to Ann's first blockbuster thriller The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy - The Shocking Inside Story (a triple threat title, that). Having sated my morbid curiosity about sociopaths and psychopaths (particularly those bred and raised in the Pacific Northwest), I left behind the world of true crime.

Until last
Nancy Oakes
Oy. To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

Based on the true account of Judd Gray and Ruth Snyder who in the late 1920s killed Snyder's husband for a sizable amount of insurance money (as related in MacKellar's The "Double Indemnity" Murder: Ruth Snyder, Judd Gray, and New York's Crime of the Century), this book starts out very nicely, examining both characters very closely, both separately and together. It offers readers a view of a conflicted Judd Gray who is in thrall with Ruth but w
Jun 13, 2011 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-favorite-read
Based on a true story from the late 1920s. Ruth Snyder was a blond, blue-eyed beauty when she married her husband Albert in 1915. Everywhere she went heads turned. Albert was thirteen years older than Ruth, and together the couple had one daughter. They lived in Queens Village, New York.

Albert was often demeaning to his wife, sometimes drinking too much, and when he had free time, he chose to spend it doing things that he alone enjoyed. Initially, Ruth tried to please her husband, but it wasn't
Bob Mustin
Here’s one thing I’ve learned from several years of reading, analyzing (and enjoying) historical fiction: while it should lean heavily on the story’s real-life history, the story will read best when it adheres to one of the structures of good fiction. Hansen has always been amazingly good at creating vivid storylines (witness his books adapted to other creative media: Atticus and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford as cinema, and Mariette in Ecstasy as staged drama). Thus ...more
Hansen, Ron. A WILD SURGE OF GUILTY PASSION. (2010). **.
I began to lose interest in this novel early on, and barely made it to the halfway point when I put it down. It came as a shock to me that Hansen, a writer for whom I have a great deal of respect, should choose a subject such as this for his latest novel. It’s the tale of a sleazy tale of adultry that we have read about before in “Double Indemnity.” A lingerie salesman falls in love/lust with a secretary for a magazine publishing house in
Oct 11, 2014 TK421 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
I am at a lose for words. This book was beautifully written about a truly monstrous topic. Never before have I been so affected by a "character" in literature as I have been by Ruth Snyder. Mr. Hansen you have truly shown your remarkable storytelling skills.

Mari Manning
Jun 28, 2014 Mari Manning rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have just finished reading "A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion" by Ron Hansen, which led to my favorite time waster: googling. I liked the book, but if you are into googling, this book lends itself to your guilty passion.

This book was touted as fiction ...which it was since there were conversations, descriptions of rooms and scenery that could only come from the imagination of a writer. However, about half way through the book,I discovered that the main characters, Ruth Brown Snyder and Henry Judd
John  Bellamy
Although a longtime fan of Ron Hansen’s novels I must confess that this fictionalization of the Albert Snyder murder melodrama provokes two contradictory reactions. As a true crime writer myself, I admire his skill in recreating one of the most notorious—i. e., well-publicized—homicides of the Roaring 20s. His grasp of the principal characters of this sordid story and his mastery of its many details is sure and deftly arranged. But notwithstanding his impressive gifts as a novelist, his ...more
John Hood
Jul 30, 2011 John Hood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nothing says Summer like a good murder story. Maybe it’s the cold-bloodedness of it all that helps to beat the heat; perhaps it’s simply that sweat is easier to endure when it’s shared with someone who’s sweating death. Whatever it is, there are few things more refreshing when the temperature rises than witnessing somebody fall.

When you make that a few somebodies, well, even Miami’s steamy, sultry dog days can become almost pleasant, unless of course you’re on the receiving end of a shotgun, a g
Nov 14, 2012 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, I liked this one quite a lot, despite my usual tepid reaction to biopic-type books. It's based on a cause celebre case about an affair gone bad, in which the 2 lovers, a society climber and a corset salesman, kill the woman's husband, a pompous pill of a businessman. The story is in fact the same one that inspired *2* James M Cain noirs, Indemnity and Postman. The style of this is neither hardboiled nor noirish. Apparently the actual execution of the crime was so terrible that Damon Runyon ...more
Susan Zizza Maguire
Though not the torridly compulsive page turner NPR touted, it's a good read. Based on the same 1927 true life murder that inspired Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, A Wild Surge weaves invented scenarios with true ones (from court transcripts and a bio penned by Judd Gray) pretty seamlessly. (The NY Times Book Review stated that the title “A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion” comes from an editorial in The New York Daily Mirror written by Cornelius Vanderbilt III, and it too is ...more
This book was based on the real-life case that gave rise to The Postman Always Rings Twice, to double-indeminity being part of the lingo, and, I would've thought, the musical Chicago, but that was already on Broadway when the "dumbbell murder" case came to court (and may, indeed, have given Ruth Snyder the inspiration for it).

Ron Hansen takes what has to have been one of the most inept coverups of one of the most sensational murders of all time and makes it compulsively readable fiction. Using t
Jul 26, 2012 Andrea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a novel written based on a true crime that happened in NYC. A narcicistic woman and her star crossed lover plot to kill her husband. Mostly the woman - Ruth -does all of the plotting. She loves being the center of everyone's world - when her husband, Albert begins to challange her and ignore her demands. very early in their marriage, she begins playing around. She meets a Judd, and he falls head over heels.

The book beings with the murder and then goes back to describe how it all began a
Kay Wright
Aug 07, 2011 Kay Wright rated it it was ok
Writing a novel that closely follows a true story is like walking a wire between truth and fiction, there must be a lot of temptation to juice it up. This sad story of sex, murder and stupidity doesn't need a lot of juicing but I never cared at all for the woman (toujours cherchez la femme)at the heart of the story and her boyfriend comes across a drunken idiot. The only thing I learned from this book about the trial of the century ala 192? is that people drank like fish during prohibition and ...more
Sep 07, 2011 Joanne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I liked Mariette in Ecstasy and Atticus: A Novel, but this book was too sordid and seamy for me, as one might guess from the embarrassing-to-carry-around cover. Supposedly based on a real-life story, same as the movie Double Indemnity.
Jul 27, 2011 Kalen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-reads
I'm really digging recent books that take historic events and flesh them out in the form of a novel. I much prefer this to the James Frey school of memoir where you fictionalize non-fiction. Give me this approach any day.

Hansen is a great writer and I can't wait to read more of his books. He really captures the era, the atmosphere, and the characters in a wholly believable way.
Oct 01, 2014 Stacey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great fictional account of a true murder. Hansen did a great job of painting the 20's era and the characters! Oh, the characters were so vibrant and lusty.

Of course I had to look the story up online to see what Judd and Ruth looked like in real life and read the headlines.
If ever a novel was to be played out in black and white, fogged with cigarette smoke, with images of spinning newspaper headlines, it would be Ron Hansen's "A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion," the writer's fictional account of a highly publicized 1920s murder in New York City.

Hansen gets to the guts early. In the opening scene, 9-year-old Lorraine Snyder wakes up to find her mother bound in the hallway. Ruth Snyder tells the little girl to forget about untying her, go find a neighbor to help. Her
Oct 06, 2016 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disturbing true story that scandalized America in 1927. In NYC beautiful, manipulative Ruth seduces a man whom she convinces to kill her husband.
Stephen Durrant
I came to this, my first Ron Hansen novel, after hearing a positive review on French television of the recently released French translation. "A Wild Sure of Guilty Passion" was a compelling read. Based on a 1927 murder in New York State, which has already been memorialized in the classic 1944 Billy Wilder movie "Double Indemnity," Hansen proves very adept both at recreating an earlier period and at portraying how a spiral of human weakness can lead to tragic results. The mystery at the heart of ...more
Greg Zimmerman
Oct 25, 2011 Greg Zimmerman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Girl convinces boy to murder her jerk husband. While not your standard love story, it is an easily recognizable literary plotline. And Ron Hansen's new novel A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion deftly chronicles a famous real-world instance of such a story of manipulation and murder.

Dateline: New York City, 1925. Voluptuous Ruth Snyder, secure in her sex appeal and her ability to manipulate men, begins a torrid affair with brassiere or corset salesman Judd G
Dec 29, 2015 Mr rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I thought Ron Hansen’s DESPERADOES (1979) displayed a much keener understanding of the celebrity-hood of the infamous Dalton gang than the Eagles managed in their 1973 concept album. Also, I admired how he imparted humanity to the “dirty little coward / That shot Mr. Howard” in THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD (1983). But, honestly, I just don’t get why he wrote his latest novel--other than to make use of a truly terrific title. Adulterous lovers Ruth Snyder & Judd ...more
Jul 17, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If it seems the Casey Anthony trail has received undue press it has always been thus; we Americans have always been captivated by scandal. Ron Hansen’s latest novel, A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion harkens back to a time when a murder trial was also the focal point of every newspaper in America. The murder of Albert Snyder in 1927 by his wife Ruth Snyder and her lover Judd Gray is once again recreated by Hansen. The murder and its subsequent trial have inspired works such as Double Indemnity and ...more
Oct 06, 2012 Steve rated it liked it
For some reason, I didn't notice that this book was based on a true story till I was about half way through it. I guess I didn't read the back of it. So it seemed to me a bit loosely drawn, and the characters a bit vague and cliched. But it any case, it came together for me about half way through, about the time that woman, Ruth Snyder, and her lover, Judd Gray, actually murder Ruth's husband. That murder, though Ruth especially thinks is really well-planned, is something of a joke, and it's ...more
Mar 10, 2013 Alyssa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three and a half stars. I found this to be a quick, enjoyable read, and overall well written, though I am of two minds about the writing style itself. It starts out by describing the murder in a short, impersonal style, almost like a police blotter or news article, which I found very effective. As the novel backtracks to recount the events leading up the murder, though the tone towards the characters is still impersonal on the whole, it lets the characters' personalities and desires reveal ...more
Dec 22, 2011 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based on a sensationalized true crime that served as the inspiration to Double Indemnity and was additionally immortalized by the famous photograph of Ruth Snyder at the moment she was being electrocuted in Sing Sing, this is a well-crafted re-imagining of how the protagonists, Judd Gray and Ruth Snyder, met, embraced carnal pleasure, and eventually murdered Ruth's husband, Albert.

I found the first part of the book to be more creative and interesting primarily because it had a strong narrative
I found the book compelling mostly because it was based on a true story. The sociopathic and calculating nature of the main character Ruth was riveting. I found it incredulous how she, like a master puppeteer or black widow spider drew Judd into her web in a time when most men would not have had such easy access to a woman as sexually arousing as Ruth. At the same time, her demonization of her husband was quite stunning especially with her mother living with her in her home, almost as if she ...more
Jul 09, 2012 Dawn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a bit different than what I expected. I thought it was well written, and it did keep my interest...I just wasn't expecting a memoir/real life story of two lovers who scheme to murder the mistress's husband. There was a feel to the story that made it feel a bit voyeuristic to me.
Almost as though it was an extended tabloid account of these peoples lives in-depth and in color.
Sometimes the narrator would use a phrase like "Later, the waitress would be able to clearly recall and tell the c
Nov 21, 2013 Sherry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up because of my love for narrative true stories. I found the writing to be mediocre, sometimes so condensed and recited, it was like reading a fifth grade book report. Sometimes the narrative showed true imagination, characterization and I was able to get lost in it a time or two. The POV was confused at times. It was disappointing because of the way the story was setup, you knew exactly what was going to happen next (because you'd been told 25 pages before that it was going to ...more
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Hansen was born in Omaha, Nebraska, attended a Jesuit high school, Creighton Preparatory School and earned a Bachelor's degree in English from Creighton University in Omaha in 1970. Following military service, he earned an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1974 and held a Wallace Stegner Creative Writing Fellowship at Stanford University. He later earned an M.A. in Spirituality from Santa ...more
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