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The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield: A Tragedy of the Gilded Age
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The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield: A Tragedy of the Gilded Age

3.2  ·  Rating details ·  307 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
Even before he was shot dead on the stairway of the tony Grand Central Hotel in 1872, financier James “Jubilee Jim” Fisk, Jr., was a notorious New York City figure. From his audacious attempt to corner the gold market in 1869 to his battle for control of the geographically crucial Erie Railroad, Fisk was a flamboyant exemplar of a new financial era marked by volatile fortu ...more
Paperback, 206 pages
Published May 31st 2011 by Anchor (first published 2011)
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Jul 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
This is the kind of book that makes a reader pick up the TV remote.

Subtitled A Tragedy of the Gilded Age the only real tragedy is that it resulted in this book. A clumsy retelling of the murder of Jim Fisk, railroad magnate and thug plumped up like a Thanksgiving Butterball with conjecture and hearsay. Josie Mansfield, his discarded mistress, provides color but it is in nonsensical bookended chapters. H.W. Brands took a fairly obscure historical footnote and stretched it over 200 pages - at best
Very interesting, concise book about a now, lesser known scandal.

The book not only describes the death of the robber baron Jim Fisk and Fisk's career as a high profile speculator in the gold market and his battles with Cornelius Vanderbilt over the Erie railroad, but also it describes a changed America following the Civil War, much of which stays with us today from economic speculation to the movement from subsistence farming to everything depending on industrialization (panic of 1873 having an
Nov 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book reads quickly and has a good way of making the storyline flow together as you will find in the best historical narratives (like "Seabiscuit" or "A Perfect Storm"). It does an excellent job of describing the persons involved and their motivations without delving into the quagmire of speculation too much or getting bogged down in the minutia of the case and case laws. Excellent.
Nov 10, 2011 rated it liked it
This scandalous story was told using language common to its time, the 1860's-1870's, which made it less interesting for me than I thought it would be. I do not regret having read it, especially since it's quite short. The most interesting points relate to the power brokers of the time including Vanderbilt.
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book. Whenever an author can transport you to a bygone time and insert you into it, then that is a great start. H.W. Brands is a great historian and this is a great book. He chronicles the murder of Jim Fisk, who was for his time of the richest and most powerful men in the post-civil war United States.

The book is enjoyable, read well, and is well worth anyone's time.
Jul 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed it, but I knew who Jim Fisk was going into the book. I would think if you have some vague idea of who he was, you'll enjoy this book. I could have used a bit more on his relationships with Gould, Tweed, Vanderbilt, and Tweed.

Fun quick history read on the Gilded Age in New York.
Fascinating and well told story
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
The first half of the book was a really quick read, but the part for the trial seemed to bog down a bit. I don't regret any of the time I spent on it though.
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
The cover and title intrigued me, so I picked this book up at the library. I'd never heard of Jim Fisk or Josie Mansfield, but I enjoy reading about the Gilded Age and true crime stories interest me...

Fisk was a wealthy financier who was notorious for shady dealings in the stock market and other ventures. Josie was his mistress -- until she met someone else.

I liked Brands' writing style--he introduces the major players and describes their financial and political dealings, personalities, and rel
John O'reilly
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Breezy and unusual tale of robber barons in the 1870s. Written almost as a newspaper style recount of a tawdry affair, murder of passion, and scandalous trial, Brands creates an entertaining and quick read.

He is a very good writer and this is a vignette worthy of a read for social historians.
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, bio
Note for self: Eh, ok, did a decent job running through what happened to a Gilded Age player who got dumped by his "girl" and murdered by her new man.

Didn't much care about any of the characters, which took away some of my interest.
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Boring. This book was boring. The author does not bring any depth to any of the main figures in the book. Josie Mansfield is hardly a presence in this story. Jubilee Jim Fisk was a larger than life part of New York's gilded age,but that's lost in this book.
I'm not exactly sure what I think of this. On the one hand, it's an interesting story; on the other hand, it's just ... strangely written. Maybe it's just me, but I find it disconcerting to read a history (biography) of events more than 100 years ago written in the present tense. I mean, even today's newspaper covering yesterday's events is written in the past tense. My guess is it's an attempt to convey an air excitement or immediacy to the story, but, to me at least, it's such a strange thing, ...more
Dec 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was drawn to the words New York, tycoons and of course scandal. The cover says New York’s Gilded Age and some of its legendary players, including Boss William Tweed, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the railroad tycoon Jay Gould. Rich people behaving badly. This is a very small little slice of that world. A perfectly enjoyable tidbit for me!

It fascinates me how the various financial markets were manipulated and still are. And even more fascinating how one woman finagled a small fortune.

I am surprised
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've always been fascinated by Fisk and Gould, and their battle with Commodore Vanderbilt over the Erie Railroad, especially their cross-river escape to New Jersey, where they owned the Legistlature. I did not know that Fisk was killed in a love triangle, and there were no less than three trials of the killer, Edward Stokes.

This is a lively account of these events, which provides a lively picture of the rise of American predatory capitalism, the early days of the celebrity phenomenon and the yel
Linda K
Aug 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
Just an ok book showing that the lowly traits of greed, lust and power have always been around and cause people to do bad things. Jim Fisk was a greedy manipulator in New York City in 1868 and ended up murdered by one of the men who he had dealings with. It was more involved due to their both lusting after the same woman. In the end, after 3 trials, Fisk's killer was given only 4 years in prison. Interesting account of courtroom drama and questioning by both sides.
Aug 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was an entertaining read, a period piece of characters the likes of which America will never see again. I haven't read much on Fisk or most of the Gilded Age players, but Brands frames the context of the story well. The somewhat lavish writing seems to fit the story and characters. Nothing major here but stimulating.
Diana Duncan
Just okay. There was way too much boring descriptions of testimony from the trials and not enough background information, especially on the murderer Stokes. I failed to see anything tragic about the 3 major participants. This did illuminate some of the greed and corruption of the era but I did not get much else out of it.
Interesting -- a somewhat short listen, very well narrated, about a character I knew nothing about and a time I know only vaguely...and more of Great Britain, than New York. It's a profile of the situation and the characters, rather than an in-depth understanding...but I believe it's glimpse into Fisk, and Mansfield, and the other people involved is definitely worth a look.
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was fairly cut and dried without much mystery but that wasn't really the point. It was a good (enough) read. The most interesting elements I found were the system abuses and the public's blase' attitudes that happened before the murder. This covers a little Tammany Hall scandal and how Fisk and his co-conspirators tried to corner the gold market.
Aug 01, 2012 rated it liked it
I read a lot of history and I have always liked what I've read from H.W. Brands. This book, while interesting in places, seemed like kind of quick "throwaway" for him. Potentially interesting story about some characters on the fringes of history, but in the end there wasn't a lot there. It was a murder mystery actually. Probably wouldn't read it again, but it was ok.
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
I like the idea of a shorter book about an event mostly lost to history, but for a book about an affair and murder, I had a hard time getting into this book. It is mostly a courtroom drama about characters I didn't care much about.
Alex Robinson
Feb 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, bio, crime
Very quick read which paints and interesting portrait of life in NYC during the period but lacks the depth needed to make it a stand-out read. It reminds me of Rick Geary's excellent TREASURY OF VICTORIAN MURDERS series of comics, but without the visual flair.
Jun 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Was hoping for a narrative history in the vein of Erik Larson, but didn't get it. This was a bit on the drier side. The courtroom proceedings were especially dull. I've heard this wasn't his best work. I might give another one of his books a shot.
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
Not the sweeping historical epic in style of Erik Larsen, simply because the events, incidents and relationships involved are just not that interesting. Brands lifts far too many large chunks of direct quotations from letters and court records which are so verbose they drag down the narrative.
Jeff Crosby
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
A richly-detailed and spellbinding account of a tragedy of The Gilded Age - the murder of Erie Railroad tycoon Jim Fisk, written by historian H.W. Brands. Highly-recommended to readers of that period of American history, even if you've never heard of Fisk.
Rosemary A.
Jul 21, 2012 rated it liked it
The best I can say about a "history" book is that it reads like a novel. This one is also a murder mystery.
Eileen Lennon
Aug 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Ok. Nothing I haven't read before.
Could have been a lot better. Wasnreally poorly written and for it being only 160 pages, I expected a lot more from it.
Andrew Obrigewitsch
Jun 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: educational, history
And interesting short history story, that shows not much has changed in the last 100 years with the working of the political system and the justice system.
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Henry William Brands was born in Portland, Oregon, where he lived until he went to California for college. He attended Stanford University and studied history and mathematics. After graduating he became a traveling salesman, with a territory that spanned the West from the Pacific to Colorado. His wanderlust diminished after several trips across the Great Basin, and he turned to sales of a differen ...more
More about H.W. Brands...