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The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars

3.56  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,693 Ratings  ·  665 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
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Broadway Books (first published June 1st 2011)
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I think lots of people would like this book/audiobobok. Both the murder itself and what the tabloids did with this story are the two main themes. The book is non-fiction but reads as a novel. However, this is a double-edged sword. The press turned the murder/crime/trial events into pure sensationalism. The author too writes of the events in a sensational style, to capture the mood, the time, the way it was! That is good, BUT at the same time I found myself asking if the facts were being delivere ...more
Rebecca Foster
Collins is a master of the nonfiction narrative, but I was a bit let down by this one. What he does best is a brand of creative nonfiction that blends memoir, travelogue and history with a penchant for finding the quirky and previously undiscovered (I’m thinking mostly of Sixpence House, but Banvard’s Folly, The Trouble with Tom and Not Even Wrong also fit the bill). This is more of a straight journalistic inquiry, something any author might have written if provided with an idea and enough archi ...more
Occasionally, a book comes along that makes you really want to read it. The title is usually a hook, especially when the book is on a library shelf. The title here is representative of a newspaper headline. Whatever is published 'above the fold' is supposed to draw you in.

The murder featured in Collins' book is not well known. When I searched online, I could find very few references to it, and most were in relation to Collins and this book. Calling it 'The Murder of the Century' is definitely ta
Feb 03, 2012 Tony rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
THE MURDER OF THE CENTURY: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars. (2011). Paul Collins. **.
I have to confess up front that I couldn’t finish this book. It was so poorly organized that by the middle I was so confused that I no longer able to follow the story. I may not be the brightest penny in the pile, but I am usually a careful reader. The author, in his attempt to capture every detail of this crime and the resultant newspaper wars that it sparked, managed
Elizabeth Cárdenas
Murder of the century? Really? Which one?

Not well organized. It was so confusing that I was forever going back to see who/what the author was talking about.

Easy to put down. I read a little bit for short periods of time - not compelling enough to keep my attention. One would think that the "Murder of the Century" would keep you intrigued. It did do one thing well: I got a good night's rest every time I picked it up at bedtime.

Not sure how the title applies - It didn't convince me that the crime
Hmm. This was a well-written book, and it has an interesting premise: looking at the rapid growth of late nineteenth century "yellow journalism" through the prism of a sensational, mostly forgotten murder case. I love to read about unscrupulous reporters as much as the next girl, and the trial sections of the book were pretty fun, but... the case just isn't very interesting. It's basically the Ruth Snyder/Judd Gray case from the twenties with the names changed, and while the first few chapters s ...more
2 stars

If you were one of those people who were caught up in the O.J. Simpson case, watched all of the coverage on TV, and devoured every detail, then this might be a good book for you. If you went so far as to wait outside the courthouse every day, then I can definitely recommend this book to you!

Umm… I was not one of those people.

I thought this a story of mob mentality, and how the press creates and/or caters to it. I’m not even sure what led me to this book. I have no interest in eagerly s
Apr 11, 2012 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carrier pigeons transported courtroom sketches while telegraph wires carried breaking news. Collins' nonfiction book does more than just depict a grisly murder which stunned New York. He uses the crime as an examination of yellow journalism in Fin de siecle Manhattan as Pulitzer's New York World and Hearst's New York Journal competed for readership by offering many grim and gory details as any "if it bleeds, it leads" 21st century local newscast.

The trial of accused murderer Thorn allowed the p
I won an advance reader copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway and Crown Publishing, and I want to thank them for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars covers the recovery of a torso, arms, and various parts of a man found in the river in New York City in 1897 and the ensuing trail both inside and out of the courtroom. The bizarre murder sparks controversy from the very beginning whe
Aug 13, 2012 Melinda rated it really liked it
In the summer of 1897 pieces of Willie Guldensuppe began bobbing up in the East River. Each section was neatly wrapped in distinctive red and gold oil cloth and bound with window shade cord. Guldensuppe, a German immigrant and masseur at the Murray Hill Turkish Baths, was one of over 100 murder victims in NYC that year. But this was also the "yellow journalism" era and that was how this story became a sensation. A well-researched true crime story with plenty of colorful characters this book read ...more
Feb 14, 2016 Cindy rated it really liked it
The author skillfully combines a sensational turn of the century murder with a historical look at New York and the newspapers that ruled the day. This crime, while an event for its day, was unknown to me (and I read a goodly amount of true crime). It is a love triangle between a woman and her two lovers. The crime takes place in 1897 at the beginning of the advent of forensics - fingerprinting is just being proposed, there is little in the way of crime scene preservation as the police, press, an ...more
Apr 24, 2011 Doreen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: elle
I've never really been a fan of the true crime genre as I grew up on a steady diet of murder mysteries, and true crime always pales in comparison. That said, I do enjoy the popular history genre, as it both entertains and makes me feel virtuous for learning something actual.

This book is equal parts true crime and popular history, as it spends as much time describing the Guldensuppe case as it does the atmosphere around it, particularly the rambunctious journalism that sought to make news as much
Jun 20, 2012 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Whenever I read books like this, I always think about how people (usually older people) like to reminisce about the "good old days" when everyone was somehow magically moral, upstanding, and law-abiding. Then I chuckle a bit.

Okay, so maybe it's a little weird to be chuckling when I'm reading a book about a murder, but cut me some slack. It amuses me that anyone would think that immorality is confined to the modern age. Yes, even back in those alleged "good old days," people were murdering each o
Jul 31, 2011 Leona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came across this book in the WSJ. After hearing/listening/reading about the Casey Anthony trial, one would think that the sensationalism connected to that case was a modern day phenomenon. Not so. As far back as 1897, the public was fascinated by the murder this book is about. While not a 24/7 news cycle as we are with the internet, the newspapers were reporting on this story day in and day out and the people couldn't get enough of it. You have the crazies writing love letters to the defendant ...more
Janne Varvára
Since the last true crime book I read was a bit unsatisfactory, I decided to go for this one, about a dismembered body in New York that fueled a media sensation.

Sadly, this is kind of unsatisfactory too. I went into it with a true crime mindset, but perhaps if you start this book off thinking you'll read a book on early mass media, you might be better off, as that's its main focus.
What that means is that you don't really feel intimately acquainted with the case by the end of the book, but since
The best historical true crime books find a way to tie the dastardly deeds into the picture of society as a whole, and Paul Collins picks an excellent hook for The Murder of the Century. While its main focus is a notorious murder case that shocked New York City in the final years of the 19th century, the secondary thread looks at the ways that the story changed journalism--and how 'yellow' journalism and the rise of tabloids changed the way society looked at crime. Reading the shenanigans of rep ...more
Tabloid wars between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst around a grisly murder in the Gilded Age
Jack Cheng
May 22, 2016 Jack Cheng rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the audio book and really enjoyed it.

The story is like Law & Order: 1897. First a body is found, or rather parts of a body are found. Then, various people try to identify the victim, which leads to suspects. Meanwhile, William Randolph Hearst has started a paper in New York City to compete with Joseph Pulitzer and they go nuts on the case with salacious details and rumors, and even investigations that scoop the police.

Collins is a great narrative non-fiction storyteller. I did
In New York City 1897, various body pieces, apparently belonging to one victim, are turning up all over the city. Detectives are stumped but this murder is about to trigger a huge newspaper war between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. It is the birth of both yellow journalism (and there is an explanation given for that term) and tabloid reporting.

This was quite an interesting and entertaining read. The newspaper publisher’s involvement in the investigation of the murder sets off a pu
T.E. George
Jun 23, 2012 T.E. George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps author Paul Collins and Crown Publishers could have come up with a shorter title but they couldn’t have given us a more rousing story. Collins manages to offer hard history in a story telling style that reads as good as any detective novel.

The Murder of the Century is about, as you might guess, a murder. But more than that it is the story of how journalism became sensationalism and truth learned to play second fiddle to headlines that sell. Long before CNN, MSNBC and FOX News, Joseph Pul
First of all - I absolutely adore Paul Collin's writing. Having been a Paul Collin's follower since he was writing for McSweeney's, I love his writing style and the amount of research he puts into his writing. The Murder of the Century carries on much of the same tradition of detailed research. Other reviewers have covered the theme of the book better. Collins does a great job illustrating the competitiveness between the newspaper rivals and how it transformed the newspaper and reporting industr ...more
Steven Howes
Feb 18, 2013 Steven Howes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting and well-researched book. It deals with a rather macabre murder that took place in New York City in 1897. While the murder itself was sensational in that it involved a love triangle and a dismembered body without a head, it was by no means atypical when compared to the scores of other murders that took place in New York at the time. What made this murder sensational was the coverage it received from the City's many newspapers and in particular William Randolf Hearst's ...more
AdultNonFiction Teton County Library
Teton Co Call No: 364.152 Collins P
Julia's rating: 4 stars

What a page turner! True crime junkies, get your fix!

Collins, whose other books I now must seek out, has done insanely extensive research (there are forty pages of sources and notes) to retell a scandalous tale of Gilded Age New York that was followed in newspapers around the globe.

Picture New York in 1897 where Harlem is a land of farms and a place to go berry-picking. Picture the newspaper magnet William Randolph Hearst as a young and
Aug 08, 2012 Doreen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Diane, Kate (Auburn prison is mentioned) Cathy
Recommended to Doreen by: not sure
The author crafted this book to read like a novel, a story flowing from one conversation to the next. It was a great way to read about a true crime. Most non-fiction crime stories can be dry, reading more like a school text than a cohesive story. This one is special.

The murder takes place in 1897, a very interesting and peculiar time in America. The streets of the greater New York area are colorfully described. The author created scenes that were easy to visualize. The characters in this tragedy
Sheila DeChantal
June 26, 1897, New York. A farmer in Long Island is startled when he finds that his duck pond, and his ducks are red with blood. Meanwhile, two boys playing on a pier on the Lower East Side discover a human floating torso wrapped in oil cloth. In Harlem, blueberry pickers find neatly severed limbs in a ditch.

Who was this mystery man? No witnesses... no suspects, and there was no head.

In the midst of this hideous crime two of the big media moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph's went after
Dec 07, 2012 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
Honestly, when it said gilded age crime, I assumed there would be Astors involved. Instead this book was better than that.

It involves a headless dismembered corpse and two warring papers, the World and the Herald, respectively owned by Pulitzer and Hearst. The tabloid sensationalism is well noted, but what is also interesting is how in the quest of the good story, they also investigated the crime and found the murderer(s).

The war between the papers is amazingly documented and how they struggled
Kater Cheek
I listened to this book on the recommendation of someone at Audible, who said I would like it on account of I liked THE POISONER'S HANDBOOK. I did like it, but I can't say I liked it as much as THE POISONER'S HANDBOOK, or DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, or the other books it's said to resemble. True, it is a murder mystery set in New York city in the late 19th century (one of my favorite periods of history), but the ratio of murder to history seemed to lean too far towards "murder".

The story is based
Apr 07, 2014 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“He’d developed a fierce love of reading, while on Death Row…”—page 240

It’s just three-and-a-half years to the end of the nineteenth century, and the number of automobiles you’re likely see on the streets of Manhattan on any given day can still be counted on the fingers of one hand. The Bronx is still mostly farmland. In Manhattan, squads of newspaper reporters on bicycles scurry to scoop their competition. Both newspaper giants, Joseph Pulitzer and William R
Andy Shuping
This is a well researched book and I can only imagine the amount of time Paul Collins spent at the libraries and talking to the librarians to find this stuff. He makes judicious use of the other newspapers of the time and even gives us some of the front pages from the time. He gives such great information on the late 1800's and the newspaper wars between Hearst and Pulitzer and the way they reported (and investigated) the Guldensuppe murder. Collins makes the reader feel like they are actually p ...more
Alissa Thorne
I really enjoyed this book. The story of the crime itself served as a thread that leads you through the investigative methods of the time, the culture, and the reporting. For example, fingerprint technology was just emerging and was not yet widely adopted. So when a corpse turned up without a head this presented a considerable problem in identification and later, conviction.

Later when the case was in trial, at one point women were banned from the court room due to necessity of discussing anatom
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Paul Collins is a writer specializing in history, memoir, and unusual antiquarian literature. His nine books have been translated into eleven languages, and include Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books (2003) and The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars (2011).

A frequent contributor to the "Histories" column of New Scientist magazine,
More about Paul Collins...

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“When Jules Verne was on everyone’s nightstand, Pulitzer ordered daredevil reporter Nellie Bly to travel around the world in eighty days; she accomplished it in seventy-two.” 1 likes
“I know the ways of the Mafia.” 0 likes
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