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The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars
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The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars

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3.58  ·  Rating details ·  7,263 ratings  ·  810 reviews
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 upon neatly severed limbs in an overgrown ditch. Clues to a horrifying crime are turning up all over New York, but the police are baffled: There are no witness ...more
Hardcover, 270 pages
Published June 14th 2011 by Crown (first published June 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.58  · 
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 ·  7,263 ratings  ·  810 reviews


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Chrissie
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
Sally
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 d
...more
Rebecca
Nov 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime
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 archival evidence. I expe ...more
Elizabeth Cárdenas
Oct 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
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 - I
...more
Mo
Nov 29, 2012 rated it liked it
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
...more
Faith
Mar 31, 2013 rated it liked it
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
John
Apr 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Melinda
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Carla Remy
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
New York 1897, body parts are turning up wrapped in oil cloth, chopped up and separated, dropped in the East River, in the burroughs. The 1890s was no stranger to tons of murder. But this one was very grisly, with the chopped up body parts and all, so of course it was a tabloid frenzy. Joseph Pulitzer was competing with William Randolph Hearst (who was in his prime). At one point, when this case was on trial, Hearst actually rented top carrier pigeons to fly courtroom news and sketches to his pa ...more
Margaret
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
...more
Doreen
Apr 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Cassie
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was so entertaining! It is not only about an astonishing true crime, but the rise of tabloid journalism, and a little known episode in history that pitted two great giants- Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst - against on in another in an event that forever changed the way we receive our news. Paul Collins combines all of the things that I love in a book: non-fiction, criminal minds, history, and wit. I really enjoyed it!!
Jan
Jun 20, 2012 rated it liked it
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 murd
...more
Connie D
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. This is fascinating as a murder mystery, a courtroom drama, and a look at the strange media wars and early paparazzi of late 19th century New York. It kept my attention even late at night when I normally fall right asleep. (And yes, it is quite gruesome at times.) It's especially disturbing because it's true.
Fishface
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-crime
What a great read. Covers a notorious historical crime case with humor, insight and a ton of interesting details that never bog down. The story moves right along. I was sorry to see it end.
Kirsti
Nonfiction account of an 1897 murder that reads like a novel. Lots of information on the yellow journalism that was going on in New York City at the time.
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 R
...more
Cindy
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Leona
Jul 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 have 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 defendan ...more
Kris Irvin
Aug 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
Why did I read this book? (No. Really. Why?) OH right, it's because it was mentioned in The Poisoner's Handbook, an excellent PBS documentary.

The synopsis of this book is about 10 times more thrilling than this book itself. You'd be better off reading the Wikipedia articles, people. It's long, it's boring, it's repetitive. But someone worked their butt off on researching it so I gave it 2 stars.

Never again. PBS, you have betrayed me for the last time.
Beela
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is now one of my favorites of ALL TIME. Hands down, the best true crime story I have ever read.
J.M.
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Well-written look at a gruesome murder and subsequent trial that was played out in the tabloids back in 1897.
Paula Dembeck
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The time is 1897 and it is hot down by the docks in New York City. The reader can almost feel the listlessness as crowds of people wander the streets and go about their lives. That was all to change when four young boys playing by the 11th Street Pier spotted a bundle floating in the East River, a bundle they thought might have fallen off a cargo freighter and potentially hold something valuable they could sell. One of the boys swam out to retrieve the package and brought it back to the wharf. A ...more
Steven Howes
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Katherine Addison
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I feel fairly safe in saying that, unless you've read this book, you've never heard of William Guldensuppe, Augusta Nack, or Martin Thorn. And yet, this case was HOWLED about in the newspapers in 1897 and; it has some historical importance, as it marks the comet-like rise of the repellent William Randolph Hearst and his Journal.

Collins is writing for mystery readers as well as for historians, and his book does explicitly what I often wish true crime books would do. He follows the course of the
...more
Mariam
Tabloid wars between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst around a grisly murder in the Gilded Age
Nina
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This 1897 murder was "an open sewer of murder, dismemberment, adultery, contract killing, false identity, gambling, illicit abortion, and medical malpractice." Perfect fodder for the rise of the tabloid press wars. William Randolph Hearst in particular was shameless. He had his own murder squad out trying to solve the crime ahead of the police and obstructing justice at every turn. He felt government didn't move fast enough to meet pressroom deadlines, so he made his own news. Reporters even sal ...more
Rebecca
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book- fascinating look at the rise of yellow, tabloid journalism especially between Pulitzer and Hearst fueled by a spectalcular murder- a headless corpse is recovered, boiled and with no ID. There are fake witnesses, planted evidence (by ringers for the papers) generally a circus atmosphere. The murder itself is also worth a book- a love triangle, midwife, butcher, barber, rumors and innuendo. Fast listen, recommended!
NancyHelen
Dec 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, true-crime
I found this story shocking not because of the murder itself outlined, but the distasteful, opportunistic and frankly macabre behaviour of the tabloid press and much of the New York population at the time in response to the murder. I wish I could see that the world has become more respectful and sophisticated since the turn of the 20th century, but unfortunately I saw so many parallels with today's media and entertainment seeking masses that I finished this book feeling quite disturbed.
Laura
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
WOW! I loved this book! I lost sleep several nights wanting to finish this book.

It details a murder mystery from the late 1800's however what the story truly involves is news and how we developed as a society, into the news hungry group that we are.

With familiar names like Pulitzer and Hearst playing prominent roles, the story unfolds as these magnates are competing for attention.

Throughly well written and I would highly recommend.
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Paul Collins is a writer specializing in history, memoir, and unusual antiquarian literature. His ten books have been translated into a dozen 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). He lives in Oregon, where he is Chair and Professor of English at Portland State Uni ...more
“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.” 3 likes
“I know the ways of the Mafia.” 1 likes
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