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A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  739 ratings  ·  150 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
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 14th 2011 by Scribner (first published June 7th 2011)
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Average rating 3.34  · 
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Ange H
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: real-books-i-own
A fictionalized account of a real-life murder that caused a sensation in the Roaring '20's. I wasn't familiar with the Snyder/Gray case until I picked up this book, but I found it to be an absorbing one - a sad, sordid tale of adultery, murder, and wasted lives. Oh, and stupidity. The two lovers, Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray did a really, incredibly bad job of killing Ruth's husband Albert and trying to make it look like a robbery; so much so that the press dubbed this "The Dumb-bell Murder." Back ...more
Julie Christine
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
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nancy Oakes
Jun 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-fiction
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
May 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
May 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Bob Mustin
Sep 03, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
The 1927 trial of Ruth Snyder and her lover Judd Gray was a sensational story smack dab in the middle of the Jazz Age--the era of flappers, Prohibition, speakeasies, hot jazz, fast dancing, and fast-talkers. Ruth Snyder was a blue-eyed, blonde coquette who was married to a man she claimed was emotionally cruel to her and her daughter. Judd was a mild-mannered man who taught Sunday School and was (up till then) devoted to his rather plain and unexciting wife. Judd was also a salesman who dealt in ...more
John  Bellamy
Nov 23, 2011 rated it liked it
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 narrati ...more
John Hood
Jul 30, 2011 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
Jul 21, 2012 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 c ...more
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Susan Zizza Maguire
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 pow ...more
Kay Wright
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 d ...more
Jul 16, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Sep 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating fiction based on true case of love triangle/murder in NYC in 1920's, really good, this author often writes fiction based on historical fact such as "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford".
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
My heart was still racing 20mins after finishing this book. Set in New York during the jazz era, and based on the true story of Ruth Snyder and her lover Judd Gray, who murder her husband. This is historical fiction at its best.
Connie Klever
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
Wow--what a twisted little page turner! Based on a real murder case--not the stuff I usually read, but set in the 1920s, which has been intriguing to me lately. Worth a try!
Doctor Moss
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
Ron Hansen writes historical novels. This one might be his best. It depicts a famous murder case from 1927, the murder of Albert Snyder by his wife, Ruth, and her lover, Judd Gray. Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray seem like affairs just waiting to happen, both still young but years into marriages that don't make them happy. Their unhappiness is less a matter of failures, I think, than a reflection of both of their unsettledness, a simple need for something different than anything they have.

The story is
Eugene LeCouteur
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I love Mariette in Ecstasy and Exiles, but this book did not do it for me. While the other books by Hansen felt intimate and immediate, this felt flat. Perhaps it is the tawdry topic. Perhaps the characters just weren't that interesting in life and Hansen could not make them that much moreso in fiction. I found myself glossing over sections to get to the end.
The book has some good parts, but the middle third seemed overlong and tired. The vast amount of alcohol consumption seemed odd give it wa
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
These people had some serious issues. The author certainly did a lot of research on this case and the time period.
Jul 15, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Greg Zimmerman
May 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Stephen Durrant
Jan 31, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Bob Walenski
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I wanted something different and a down and gritty crime saga, set in the roaring 20's was just the perfect ticket. This story was compelling and difficult to put down. It was written as a news story, the facts laid out and the more fluid story as flashback. I did NOT realize when I began that the story was based on a real murder. The 1920's was the birth of tabloid journalism, and this murder and trial captured the imagination of the nation.
Hansen based his imagery on the actual news accounts a
MisterLiberry Head
Aug 15, 2014 rated it did not like it
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 Gray ...more
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Ron Hansen is the author of two story collections, two volumes of essays, and nine novels, including most recently The Kid, as well as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which was made into an Oscar-nominated film. His novel Atticus was a finalist for the National Book Award. He teaches at Santa Clara University.

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