Not Even Wrong, The Trouble With Tom, Sixpence House, The Book of William -- and enjoyed them each in their own ways, while following his career with interest.
The Murder of the Century is a more obvious book than any of those, perhaps indicating that someone (Collins himself, an agent or editor or publisher) is getting tired with the sales of those quirky books (a little sleuthing into that well-known book-industry sales-reporting tool shows that Murder is already his second-bestselling book, close behind Sixpence, which has an eight-year head start). Of course, there's nothing wrong with writing books that people will want to read, and Murder is much more commercial than, say Trouble, being the story of a major (but now-forgotten) murder case and subsequent media frenzy in late 19th century New York City.
It's a fine scandal -- a series of body parts (lower torso, upper torso and arms) are found around New York in 1897, and are identified as William Guldensuppe, German immigrant and worker in a Turkish bath in midtown. Guldensuppe was living with a woman, Augusta Nack, who had left her husband for him, and the story is that another man (Martin Thorn) was moving in, and Guldensuppe wouldn't move out. Add the lack of a head -- allowing the defense to claim that Guldensuppe ran away and is not dead -- and the whispered imputations that Nack, a licensed midwife, did most of her work as an illegal abortionist, and the newspaper arms race between Hearst and Pulitzer of the day, and the Guldensuppe murder was front-page material. More than that: screaming front pages, over and over again, with teams of reporters from a panoply of papers doing nothing else and special editions chasing each other and the last scrap of news or scandal or imputation, from the first piece of Guldensuppe was pulled from the East River until Thorn was executed for the crime.
Collins tells that story well, digging into the archives -- as he did in Book of William and Trouble With Tom -- to get lots of details and color. (There's a lot of dialogue in this book, and Collins has a note up front to state that it's all straight out of the papers of the day -- this story was so exhaustively covered that nearly every word of it was written down at the time.) On the other hand, there's less Collins in this book than in his previous work: he's telling a reporters' story this time, in the way a reporter would. It's exciting and interesting and a great window into a world that's both been gone for over a hundred years and still feels very contemporary, with ubiquitous news and blaring scandals.
If you've never read Paul Collins, but like smart nonfiction, Murder is a great place to start -- he has an amazing story to tell, one completely forgotten after the century of shocking murders since. But if you have read Collins before, there's less of him in these pages than you've been used to.
- Read in February
- Love From the Shadows by Gilbert Hernandez
- Batman: Death by Design by Chip Kidd and Dave Tayl...
- Basse Wickman solo en trio-upplevelse
- Carving Out a New Nook in the Market
- A Short Political Comment, In Re the US 2nd Amendm...
- Reviewing the Mail: Week of 2/23
- Peanut by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe
- Skåpmålarmusik del 10: Jim Hanft
- Free Matt Hughes!
- Impressing People Who Can't Do Math
- Oh, and the Nebulas, Too
- Diagram Prize Time Again
- Skåpmålarmusik del 9: Karla Bonoff
- Traveling by Map
- Borrowing E-Books
- Poseidon: Earth Shaker by George O'Connor
- The Murder of the Century by Paul Collins
- Reviewing the Mail: Week of 2/16
- Skåpmålarmusik del 8: Latin Quarter
- Incoming Books: February 16
- Skåpmålarmusik del 7: Eva Hillered
- Skåpmålarmusik del 6: Spirit of the West
- Ve Haff Vays Uf Making You Buy Kindles!
- The Colonial Marines Battle Cry
- For My Conservative Readers
- Find Them In the "Goddamned Partner" Section at Ha...
- In Honor of the Day
- In Sickness and in Health, In Debits and In Credit...
- The Times Is ON IT
- What Work For Hire Looks Like
- Some People I Know May Need This
- Reviewing the Mail: Week of 2/9
- Richard Thompson ännu glödande
- Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
- Calvin & Hobbes IRL
- Ännu en chans
- My New Look
- Najafi Sells Bookspan to Pride Tree
- Reviewing the Mail: Week of 2/2
- Distributed Egosurfing
- The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Re...
- Musiken som smutsig industri
- Hey Kids, Comics!
- Worries Assuaged
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- ► 2011 (104)
- ► 2010 (103)
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