Bright Young Things discussion

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Historical Context > Murder & Crime in the period 1900 - 1945

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message 1: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
I've noticed that the Bright Young Things have a big appetite for the murderous and crime ridden aspects of our period of interest so I thought I'd start a thread so we could share our best reads...


message 2: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

In 1910, Edwardian England was scandalized by a murder. It seems mild-mannered American Hawley Crippen had killed his wife, buried her remains in the cellar of their North London home and then gone on the run with his young mistress, his secretary Ethel Le Neve. A Scotland Yard inspector, already famous for his part in the Ripper investigation, discovered the murder and launched an international hunt for Crippen that climaxed in a trans-Atlantic chase between two ocean liners. The chase itself was novel, but what captured the imagination was the role played by a new and little understood technology: the wireless. Thanks to its inventor Marconi's obsessive fight to perfect his machine, the world was able to learn of events occurring in the middle of the Atlantic as they unfolded - something previously unthinkable.

Commentators of the time all agreed that if not for Marconi, Crippen would have escaped. But Marconi had struggled to gain acceptance for his invention (some viewed it as a supernatural device, while distrust of foreigners remained prevalent in England and America). It was the Crippen case that helped convince the world of the potential of Marconi's miracle technology, so accelerating the revolution that eventually produced the modern means of communication we take for granted today.

With its cast of captivating characters, Thunderstruck is Erik Larson doing what he does brilliantly well: bringing together seemingly disparate yet inextricably linked lives to paint a fascinating and exciting portrait of an extraordinary age of cultural, social and technological change while evoking the darker side of human nature.


message 3: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I'm not very far into it, but next month's read is all about crime in America-

Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34 by Bryan Burrough

In Public Enemies, bestselling author Bryan Burrough strips away the thick layer of myths put out by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI to tell the full story—for the first time—of the most spectacular crime wave in American history, the two-year battle between the young Hoover and the assortment of criminals who became national icons: John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and the Barkers. In an epic feat of storytelling and drawing on a remarkable amount of newly available material on all the major figures involved, Burrough reveals a web of interconnections within the vast American underworld and demonstrates how Hoover’s G-men overcame their early fumbles to secure the FBI’s rise to power.


message 4: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
One of the most well known defense attorneys in the US is Clarence Darrow. His most famous case was the Scopes "Monkey" Trial. I have yet to read any books on that, but I have read:

Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle

The grandson of a slave, Dr. Ossian Sweet moved his family to an all-white Detroit neighborhood in 1925. When his neighbors attempted to drive him out, Sweet defended himself--resulting in the death of a white man and a murder trial for Sweet. There followed one of the most important (and shockingly unknown) cases in Civil Rights history. Also caught up in the intense courtroom drama were legal giant Clarence Darrow and the newly formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

and

For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Chicagoby Simon Baatz

It was a crime that shocked the nation, a brutal murder in Chicago in 1924 of a child, by two wealthy college students who killed solely for the thrill of the experience. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb had first met several years earlier, and their friendship had blossomed into a love affair. Both were intellectuals—too smart, they believed, for the police to catch them. However, the police had recovered an important clue at the scene of the crime—a pair of eyeglasses—and soon both Leopold and Loeb were in the custody of Cook County. They confessed, and Robert Crowe, the state's attorney, announced to newspaper reporters that he had a hanging case. No defense, he believed, would save the two ruthless killers from the gallows.

But the murder is only half the story. After Leopold and Loeb were arrested, their families hired Clarence Darrow to defend their sons. Darrow, the most famous lawyer in America, aimed to save Leopold and Loeb from the death penalty by showing that the crime was the inevitable consequence of sexual and psychological abuse that each defendant had suffered during childhood at the hands of adults. Both boys, Darrow claimed, had experienced a compulsion to kill, and therefore, he appealed to the judge, they should be spared capital punishment.


message 5: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) The Poisoner's Handbook Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum by Deborah Blum

This is an unusual but interesting book as it is a mix of the history, science, and true crime. The author traces the birth of forensic medicine which basically began in the office of the Medical Examiner of New York City. The use of poison as a means of murder was all-pervasive and had been since the days of the infamous Borgia dynasty. Science was at a loss to determine the presence of poison in a human body and murderers were having a field day. Drs. Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler changed all that in 1918 with trailblazing scientific detective work and became the founders of forensic medicine.
The author cites famous and not-so-famous murder cases and how forensics played the major part in bringing the killers to justice. Each chapter deals with a particular poison from chloroform through thallium and explains the effects that each has on the body's systems. A fascinating subject which is well presented and enlightening.


message 6: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn (nzfriend) | 651 comments Oh, I'm interested in Arc of Justice! I grew up outside of Detroit and wish I knew more about it. That looks interesting.

I bought my mom The Prisoner's Handbook. She's currently reading, and loving it. :) I want to read it when she's done.

While nearly outside of our time frame, I thought of: American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the "It" Girl and the Crime of the Century by Paula Uruburu. While mostly about Evelyn Nesbit, the climax of the book deals with the murder of Stanford White by Harry Thaw in 1906, and the following trial. I really enjoyed the book.


message 7: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Bronwyn wrote: "Oh, I'm interested in Arc of Justice! I grew up outside of Detroit and wish I knew more about it. That looks interesting.

I bought my mom The Prisoner's Handbook. She's currently reading, and l..."


I also read the Evelyn Nesbit book, Bronwyn. I thought the author whitewashed her but that aside, I liked it too.


message 8: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments One I enjoyed was The Devil's Tickets: A Vengeful Wife, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age. During the '20s-30s the new rage was a game called bridge. Still a very popular game. But a lesson that sometimes husbands should not play with wives.


message 9: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Jan C wrote: "One I enjoyed was The Devil's Tickets: A Vengeful Wife, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age. During the '20s-30s the new rage was a game called bridge. Still a very popular game. But a lesson that..."

I really enjoyed that book about that "fatal hand of bridge" and about the Culbertson system of bidding. It had a little bit of everything, especially for the bridge player.


message 10: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Go Down Together The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde  by Jeff Guinn Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn

From the moment they first cut a swathe of crime across 1930s America, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker have been glamorised in print, on screen and in legend. The reality of their brief and catastrophic lives is very different -- and far more fascinating. Combining exhaustive research with surprising, newly discovered material, author Jeff Guinn tells the real story of two youngsters from a filthy Dallas slum who fell in love and then willingly traded their lives for a brief interlude of excitement and, more important, fame. Thanks in great part to surviving relatives of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, who provided Guinn with access to never-before-published family documents and photographs, this book reveals the truth behind the myth, told with cinematic sweep and unprecedented insight by a master storyteller.


message 11: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I have read this book too, Ally........and thought it was very well done. The public romanticized the lives of Bonnie and Clyde who in reality were two-bit crooks who enjoyed killing. The author reveals that the truth is not nearly as exciting as the myth.


message 12: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments Ally, I have this book but haven't really gotten to it yet.


message 13: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
I haven't actually read it myself yet but it really interests me and it has great reviews.


message 14: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn (nzfriend) | 651 comments Jan C wrote: "Ally, I have this book but haven't really gotten to it yet."

That's me too. It's sounded so good, I just have so much to read!


message 15: by Shelley (new)

Shelley | 30 comments The thirties are my period. I have to say that if you haven't read Dash Hammett, there is no crime writer better.

And he lived an honorable life, too. Went to jail for his beliefs, and it almost killed him.

Shelley, Rain: A Dust Bowl Story
http://dustbowlpoetry.wordpress.com


message 16: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Shelley wrote: "The thirties are my period. I have to say that if you haven't read Dash Hammett, there is no crime writer better.

And he lived an honorable life, too. Went to jail for his beliefs, and it almost k..."




I particularly like his Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett and the Continental Op character. For more about Hammett and his lady, playwright Lillian Hellman, you might want to read An Unfinished Woman: A Memoir


message 17: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments Jill wrote: "Shelley wrote: "The thirties are my period. I have to say that if you haven't read Dash Hammett, there is no crime writer better.

And he lived an honorable life, too. Went to jail for his beliefs,..."


It was all a pack of lies, though. I loved that book for years. And then heard it was a bunch of lies. I'm sure there was some truth, too.

I've been reading Hellman and Hammett: Lillian Hellman and Dashiel Hammett; Art, Politics, Love, War by Joan Mellen.


message 18: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Hmmm, I didn't know it was full of untruths. Oh well, it was still interesting.


message 19: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
While browsing today at the library I found:

The Bobbed Haired Bandit: A True Story of Crime and Celebrity in 1920s New York

Ripped straight from the headlines of the Jazz Age, The Bobbed Haired Bandit is a tale of flappers and fast cars, of sex and morality. In the spring of 1924, a poor, 19-year-old laundress from Brooklyn robbed a string of New York grocery stores with a "baby automatic," a fur coat, and a fashionable bobbed hairdo. Celia Cooney's crimes made national news, with the likes of Ring Lardner and Walter Lippman writing about her exploits for enthralled readers.

The Bobbed Haired Bandit brings to life a world of great wealth and poverty, of Prohibition and class conflict. With her husband Ed at her side, Celia raised herself from a life of drudgery to become a celebrity in her own pulp-fiction novel, a role she consciously cultivated. She also launched the largest manhunt in New York City's history, humiliating the police with daring crimes and taunting notes.

Sounds fun.


message 20: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Jennifer W wrote: "Sounds fun.'"

Certainly does. Please post a few thoughts once you've read it Jennifer W.


message 21: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments I'm going to try the kindle sample.


message 22: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Just saw this story on Mysteries at the Museum.

The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd

If history is right, a 26 year-old beauty named Winnie Ruth Judd murdered her two best girlfriends one hot Phoenix night in 1931. Then she hacked up their bodies, stuffed the pieces into a trunk, and took them by train to Los Angeles as her baggage.
If history is right, she was sentenced to die but "cheated the gallows" by acting insane. She spent nearly 40 years in Arizona's insane asylum-flummoxing officials by escaping six times.

If history is right, she only got her freedom at age 66-after serving more time than any other convicted murderer in the history of the nation--because Arizona was finally tired of punishing her.

But if history is wrong, Winnie Ruth Judd's life was squandered in a horrible miscarriage of justice.


message 23: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Murder in the Adirondacks: An American Tragedy Revisited

Chester Gillette met Grace Brown, a farmer's daughter, at the Cortland, New York, skirt factory where both of them worked. When she became pregnant in the aftermath of a clandestine relationship, he refused to damage his growing social standing by marrying her. After she threatened to expose him, they traveled together to the Adirondacks. Grace thought she was going to be married, Gillette had other plans. On July 11, 1906, she ended up at the bottom of Big Moose Lake, and Chester Gillette was accused of murdering her.

The Gillette-Brown murder case from which Dreiser drew his An American Tragedy was a sensation in its day. Newsman Craig Brandon has done a remarkable job of researching the case and the family backgrounds of the two principals and, is probably more familiar with the complete story than Dreiser ever was. Yet with all this information, this new treatment reads like a novel. Accompanied with over 100 photos, Murder in the Adirondacks sheds new light on what was a "yellow Journalist's" delight in 1906.


message 24: by Ruth (new)

Ruth BBC Radio 4 Extra has a True Crime season at the moment with some interesting programmes. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02xp224


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