wholesale The popular Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a 2021 City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars online

wholesale The popular Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a 2021 City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars online

wholesale The popular Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a 2021 City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars online

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“No writer better articulates ourinterest in the confluence of hope, eccentricity, and the timelessness of the bold and strange than Paul Collins.”—DAVE EGGERS
 
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 witnesses, no motives, no suspects.
 
The grisly finds that began on the afternoon of June 26, 1897, plunged detectives
headlong into the era’s most baffling murder mystery. Seized upon by battling media moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the case became a publicity circus. Reenactments of the murder were staged in Times Square, armed reporters lurked in the streets of Hell’s Kitchen in pursuit of suspects, and an unlikely trio—a hard-luck cop, a cub reporter, and an eccentric professor—all raced to solve the crime.
 
What emerged was a sensational love triangle and an even more sensational trial: an unprecedented capital case hinging on circumstantial evidence around a victim whom the police couldn’t identify with certainty, and who the defense claimed wasn’t even dead. The Murder of the Century is a rollicking tale—a rich evocation of America during the Gilded Age and a colorful re-creation of the tabloid wars that have dominated media to this day.
 

Review

"[Collins’] exploration of the newspaper world, at the very moment when tabloid values were being born, is revealing but also enormously entertaining….Collins has a clear eye, a good sense of telling detail, and a fine narrative ability.”— Wall Street Journal

“Riveting….Collins has mined enough newspaper clippings and other archives to artfully recreate the era, the crime and the newspaper wars it touched off.”-- New York Times

"[A] richly detailed book that reads like a novel and yet maintains a strict fidelity to facts. THE MURDER OF THE CENTURY isn''t a case of history with a moral. It''s simply a fantastic, factual yarn, and a reminder that abhorrent violence is nothing new under the sun."-- Oregonian

“A wonderful reminder that we have often been just as we are: fools for spectacle, short of memory, cheered by the invigorating shock of the immoral.”– Willamette Week

"Paul Collins'' account of the headless torso murder that led to an all-out newspaper war and then a dramatic trial has all the timeless elements of a great yarn--a baffling mystery, intriguing suspects, and flawed detectives. It''s compelling history that''s also great page-turning entertainment."-- Howard Blum, author of The Floor of Heaven and American Lightning

“Wonderfully rich in period detail, salacious facts about the case and infectious wonder at the chutzpah and inventiveness displayed by Pulitzer’s and Hearst’s minions. Both a gripping true-crime narrative and an astonishing portrait of fin de siecle yellow journalism.”-- Kirkus Reviews

"A dismembered corpse and rival newspapers squabbling for headlines fuel Collins’s intriguing look at the birth of “yellow journalism” in late–19th-century New York.  an in-depth account of the exponential growth of lurid news and the public’s (continuing) insatiable appetite for it." --Publishers Weekly


 

About the Author

PAUL COLLINS is the author of seven books, which have been translated into ten languages. His work has appeared in Slate, New Scientist, and the New York Times, and he is regularly featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition as their “literary detective.” He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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4 out of 54 out of 5
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Top reviews from the United States

Richard Schwindt
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Superior look at gilded age New York
Reviewed in the United States on January 5, 2018
I am tempted to give away some of the plot details of this true story, set in gilded age New York. But even a few spoilers would detract from the reader’s experience. Suffice it to say when pieces of an unidentified man start washing up the river in 1897, the timing... See more
I am tempted to give away some of the plot details of this true story, set in gilded age New York. But even a few spoilers would detract from the reader’s experience. Suffice it to say when pieces of an unidentified man start washing up the river in 1897, the timing conflates with the colorful – and ruthless – newspaper wars between Joseph Pulitzer’s, New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s, New York Journal. Soon, the whole city is engaged in the mystery and few are content, particularly journalists, to remain passive observers and leave the investigation up to the nascent police detective force. The Murder of the Century is a fabulous book; colorful as the newspapers, well written and exquisitely researched. Paul Collins has worked hard to produce a superior work, filled with human detail. This is a fascinating era; and one as politically engaged as our own. Highly recommended with a hard cider, in the saloon of your choice.
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A Customer
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
It''s good, but not great.
Reviewed in the United States on July 10, 2016
When I was reading this on my Kindle, my sense of pacing was thrown completely off, as a large percentage of the book is sources and references. So when the trial was over and we were wrapping up loose ends of prominent players, there was still a good 25% of the book left,... See more
When I was reading this on my Kindle, my sense of pacing was thrown completely off, as a large percentage of the book is sources and references. So when the trial was over and we were wrapping up loose ends of prominent players, there was still a good 25% of the book left, and so I was waiting for... something. Only to turn the page and find that it was, in fact, over.

I''m a huge fan of Erik Larsen, and so I was looking forward to getting into this book. I love to read historical non-fiction, and if it''s about an event or person I''ve never even heard of, all the better. Mr. Collins did an alright job of interspersing some small historical tidbits of interest, but it''s not as interesting as Erik Larsen, where with the latter, almost every page you''re like "Oh wow, I didn''t know that!" or "That''s where that expression comes from!" etc. In "Murder of the Century", the little bits of color that are added are pretty localized to the area and time, and they''re not that interesting or mentioned in such a way, with enough context, to make them interesting.

In any case though, it''s an interesting read. As I mentioned above, because of the large chunk of references at the end of the book, I thought there was a lot more to the story than there was. In addition, the murder, the trial.. it''s just really not that suspenseful. I expected a big twist or shocking moment. There was just nothing. I feel like I learned more about NYC in this time frame by my own wandering around wikipedia while I was reading this book.

It''s a good book, but only ''good.''
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Bev Thompson
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Crime Story or Yellow Journalism, Which Is It ?
Reviewed in the United States on June 7, 2018
If you like history, true stories, and yellow journalism, then you might enjoy this. As for the crime, I never heard of the case before, so it was new and interesting, but, quite frankly, I got tired of the constant stories of feuding between the newspapers and skipped a... See more
If you like history, true stories, and yellow journalism, then you might enjoy this. As for the crime, I never heard of the case before, so it was new and interesting, but, quite frankly, I got tired of the constant stories of feuding between the newspapers and skipped a lot of pages that containing nothing BUT. Had I known the book was about yellow journalism, I wouldn''t have purchased it. On the other hand, to give credit where credit is due, the author clearly has a sense of humor, and I was sorry he didn''t use it more often in the book; perhaps I could then have given him more than three stars. I will give him credit for his excellent descriptions of places in the book where certain incidents happened, as I got a good feel for what it was like living back then. Nevertheless, I was glad when the book was done; as result, it rates only 3 stars.
6 people found this helpful
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Jim Duggins, Ph.D.
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
If There''s No Muck to Rake, Make Some
Reviewed in the United States on July 24, 2012
Paul Collins'' work, "The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars" is perhaps the longest title ever written for a book. As such, it might indeed be a succession of headlines and subheads for the original newspapers... See more
Paul Collins'' work, "The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars" is perhaps the longest title ever written for a book. As such, it might indeed be a succession of headlines and subheads for the original newspapers whose histories unfold in the book. "The Murder of the Century" is the story of a complicated crime where the "corpus dilecti" is found in dissected body parts spread around late 19th century Manhattan. It is also the story of the development of tabloid news sources of major dailies and the avaricious scramble for readers that led news agencies to develop reporter/photograph squads with orders to "make the news if you can''t find it". Now, THAT has the odor of yellow journalism that didn''t think twice about starting a war involving the U.S.

"The Murder of the Century" is a fascinating read for those of us who are interested in mass media, its derivations and final products not to mention its possible effects on "the masses." This book is also a colorful portrayal of that world and life as it was lived in 19th Century America.

The book also portrays the major players (and, newspaper-selected alleged participants in the crime). In that way we get to see the crime from half a dozen different points of view.

Finally, "The Murder of the Century" is a fast read, a beach book that plunges one into a tarnished tale of the gilded age and its appetites. Sometimes, too, the book teaches you how we got some of the attitudes we see around us today. Mr. Collins has introduced enough celebrities of the day for his book "The Murder of the Century" to smack of some of the traditions of tabloid news.
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merle
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Murder that Affected the Newspaper Industry
Reviewed in the United States on October 10, 2019
What a fascinating story. This is a well written and researched book about a crime that was not only interesting in itself, but in the way it changed journalism and the newspaper industry in New York City for years to come. The dead body of a man is discovered without his... See more
What a fascinating story. This is a well written and researched book about a crime that was not only interesting in itself, but in the way it changed journalism and the newspaper industry in New York City for years to come. The dead body of a man is discovered without his head. The newspaper are in a war for readership and use sometimes unethical means to direct the police investigation to their advantage for meeting a publication deadline. This is the beginning of "Yellow Journalism". It is a easy to read book and an interesting plot.
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Rose Keefe
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The Scattered Dutchman Case Remembered
Reviewed in the United States on April 7, 2013
The murder of William Guldensuppe hasn''t received the same level of recognition as other gruesome killings that took place during the closing years of the nineteenth century. But throughout the latter half of 1897, the people of New York talked about little else.... See more
The murder of William Guldensuppe hasn''t received the same level of recognition as other gruesome killings that took place during the closing years of the nineteenth century. But throughout the latter half of 1897, the people of New York talked about little else.

On June 26th, 1897, some boys out to escape the summer heat found a strange object floating in the East River and retrieved it. It turned out to be a headless and limbless male torso wrapped in oilcloth. The repulsive discovery was initially passed off as a medical student prank, but the conclusion changed to murder after doctors said that the dismemberment lacked the skill of a medical professional. The announcement sparked public interest, but when the missing limbs were found in Harlem soon afterward, intrigue morphed into hysteria. Who was the victim? Where was his head? And who had killed him?

Newspaper barons William Randolph Hearst and the aging Joseph Pulitzer turned the mysterious affair into a media circus, driving up the circulation of their respective papers as they competed to solve the case first. This was the era of the detective journalist, so reporters from both camps schemed, tricked, and stole in order to get names and locate evidence. They were so tenacious that the press arguably deserves the credit for identifying the victim as bathhouse masseur William Guldensuppe and his suspected killers as barber Martin Thorn and midwife Augusta Nack.

"Murder of the Century" reads more like a detective novel than a work of history, but the author is constantly faithful to the facts and has the endnotes to prove it.

As the author of three historical True Crime books, I can tell you that his task wasn''t an easy one: the `Case of the Scattered Dutchman'' was not widely written about after the trial concluded, so the hunt for non-newspaper sources must have been taxing. His persistence uncovered a surprising amount of forgotten details, which he uses to present his own version of how William Guldensuppe was killed, and by whom.

Paul Collins, who moonlights as the literary detective on the NPR show "Weekend Edition", recreates the investigation, trial, and aftermath in a way that keeps the pages turning. This is not just the story of a love triangle that ended in bloodshed: Collins has evoked Gilded Age America and its merciless tabloid wars, the echoes of which can still be felt today.
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Linda Linguvic
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
New York City and the yellow journalism of competing newspapers
Reviewed in the United States on October 21, 2012
This true story, set in New York City at the turn in 1898 captured my interest from the very beginning. I live here and have faint memories of the stories my parents and grandparents told me about how it was in those olden days. Life was challenging then but it sure was... See more
This true story, set in New York City at the turn in 1898 captured my interest from the very beginning. I live here and have faint memories of the stories my parents and grandparents told me about how it was in those olden days. Life was challenging then but it sure was vibrant, with thousands of immigrants jockeying for a place in the American dream and mega moguls jockeying for position to get rich by selling newspapers.

When pieces of a man''s body wrapped in oilcloth were discovered in the river, the populace was intrigued and the flames of interest were fanned by the newspapers competing for the story. The head of the body was never found but the victim was eventually identified. He was supposedly murdered by his female lover and her boyfriend and the trial of the century caoytred the public interest, fanning the flames of curiosity at the circus-like atmosphere that surrounded the case.

All the lurid details were there - the grotesque descriptions of the pieces of the body, the supposed love affair that caused the victim to be cut into pieces and the conflicting testimonies of the accused.

This book is a fast read and the fact that it is based on a true trial made it all the more interesting. I loved it but do stop short of giving it my highest rating because after a while I found some of the details a bit tedious.
4 people found this helpful
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S. McGee
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
News vs Entertainment: the Birth of the Tabloid Wars
Reviewed in the United States on July 12, 2011
If you had imagined that a tabloid newspaper couldn''t possibly sink lower than the News of the World has done in recent years -- tapping the phones of British citizens and others -- it''s time to pick up and read the lively and wildly-entertaining saga of a nasty 1897 murder... See more
If you had imagined that a tabloid newspaper couldn''t possibly sink lower than the News of the World has done in recent years -- tapping the phones of British citizens and others -- it''s time to pick up and read the lively and wildly-entertaining saga of a nasty 1897 murder case in New York City. "The public likes entertainment better than it likes information" wasn''t a comment by a contemporary tabloid publisher today, but one uttered over a century ago by William Randolph Hearst as he prodded his reporters on the New York Journal to outgun and outmanoeuver their rivals at Pulitzer''s World, particularly as the rival tabloids fought each other for an edge in any story involving gruesome or bizarre murders.

In The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars, Paul Collins (author of Sixpence House and the more recent The Book of William: How Shakespeare''s First Folio Conquered the World , about Shakespeare''s First Folio), the author explores with glee and gusto the no-holds barred world of newspapering in the 1890s in a narrative that is built around the murder and dismemberment of William Guldensuppe, a German-born masseur. From the moment that the man''s torso washes up on the southern tip of Manhattan on a hot summer weekend, the newspapers are on the case, turning it into a public spectacle. As the victim is identified, Hearst rents out the prime suspect''s apartment after she lets her lease lapse -- his reporters allow the police in to investigate but block other reporters. Reporters cut telephone wires (except their own), hire passenger pigeons to carry sketches from the courtroom to the pressroom and even try to undertake a citizen''s arrest of a possible suspect in the crime. "Really," the Herald''s publisher had mused during the throes of that scandal, "the newspapers are becoming the only efficient police, the only efficient judges that we have."

This focus on the early tabloid wars in the booming late 19th century Manhattan is the really fascinating part of this book, juxtaposed against the details of rudimentary forensic science, a murder conspiracy and life for "ordinary" New Yorkers at the turn of the century. One of the fascinating elements is the way that Collins hones in on the tiny details: when the man sentenced to die for the crime is taken off to Sing-Sing to await electrocution, he is able to watch the scenery on the smoker train along the Hudson; the community of Woodside in Queens revolved around the hub of a hay feed and general store and was so rural that ducks swam in the ponds. One of those ducks would play a crucial, if slapstick role in the investigation, and so hard up was one newspaper for stories that it would end up writing a profile of the critter. ("It is an ordinary duck," their correspondent informed readers...) His depiction of the "Wrecking Crew" -- a mass of journalists on bicycles whose goal was to outride the competition and hamper them by any possible means -- left me laughing so hard I ended up with hiccups.

This is a great book to read for summer, combining a true-crime mystery safely in the past with enough color about New York in the 1890s and the birth of "journalism as entertainment" of the kind that endures to this day to make it of broader interest. Those who might be tempted to mutter "but who cares?" about a century-old tale of reckless journalism might remember that only months later, Hearst would take great pride in the disproportionate role he played in pushing the United States into the Spanish-American War. From crime as entertainment, it was an easy step to war as entertainment.

Collins doesn''t play up any explicit parallels or try to draw any morals, which is just fine -- that fun is left to the reader. His writing style is crisp and lively, doing justice to the larger-than-life characters that inhabit these pages. I found this both fascinating and fun -- a great book that can either be read for the historical tale it tells or looked at as one of the steps that led the tabloid world in the direction of headlines like the famous "Headless Body in Topless Bar" -- and the misadventures of the late and somewhat lamented News of the World. Highly recommended; 4.5 stars, rounded up.
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Top reviews from other countries

R Helen
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An eye-opening look at newspaper reporting!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 3, 2012
I absolutely loved this book. First off, it''s a great mystery. Second, it''s an incredibly interesting tale of the tabloid wars that gripped New York at the turn of the twentieth century. Paul Collins is a great writer and he documents, with quite a bit of humour, the...See more
I absolutely loved this book. First off, it''s a great mystery. Second, it''s an incredibly interesting tale of the tabloid wars that gripped New York at the turn of the twentieth century. Paul Collins is a great writer and he documents, with quite a bit of humour, the incredible lengths that William Randolph Hearst, Joseph Pulitzer and others went to in order to get, and even more incredibly, to "make" their stories. I think readers will be shocked at how much the press actually contributed to solving mysteries, as much as to creating their own. And let''s not forget their attempts to actually undermine investigations in order to win readers! And they are seemingly not punished for it! But what really stands out is that 110 years later newspaper publishers would be scandalized if such activities came to light in their reporting. The recent phone-hacking scandal is a good case in point. Yet, Collins shows us that, not only was this not the case during the Gilded Age, but Hearst and others made their careers doing just this kind of thing and worse, much worse. And it was all considered part of the job. I definitely give this book five stars. It was enlightening, it was thrilling, and it was definitely entertaining.
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S RiazTop Contributor: Children''s Books
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The Murder of the Century
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 21, 2011
On a sunny, summers afternoon on the 26th June 1897 in New York, some boys found a package when they were swimming in the river. Inside, was the grisly find of a human torso. The police originally thought of medical students, who had been responsible for other bodily parts...See more
On a sunny, summers afternoon on the 26th June 1897 in New York, some boys found a package when they were swimming in the river. Inside, was the grisly find of a human torso. The police originally thought of medical students, who had been responsible for other bodily parts found in the city. However, when the limbless trunk was discovered in the countryside, a murder enquiry began. The incident was not without precedent - three years earlier, eleven year old Susie Martin was also found cut up. However, despite some excellent police work; most notably by Detective Arthur Carey who, despite being relegated to an area of the city known as "goatsville", had tracked down where the oilcloth wrapping the body was brought from, it was the newspapers that were hot on the heels of the story. This then, is the story of that murder and of the newspaper war it generated - most notably between Joseph Pullitzer of the World and the up and coming William Randolph Hearst of the Journal. The body was identified, even though the head had not been found, and the woman he had lived with was arrested, along with her lover. I obviously do not wish to give away the plot of the book, but this is a thrilling re-enactment of the investigation, trial and verdict, alongside the battle for newspaper sales and the dirty tricks used to increase newspaper circulation. Rewards were offered, coloured ink gave headlines prominence and sketch artists used carrier pigeons to get their pictures to the newspaper offices the quickest. The defendents, Augusta Nack and her lover Martin Thorn, gave the public everything a good journalist could wish. There was a love triangle, adultery, abortion, and, above all, the missing head of the body which caused doubt over the identity of the alleged victim. Martin Thorn''s lawyer was the flamboyent William F. Howe, but even he could not rival the newspapers for stunts and headlines. My personal favourite was after an illness caused the jury to be changed: "Look more intelligent than the former lot" shrieked the paper! The book recreates all the people involved, gives an excellent account of the investigation and trial and finishes with what happened to everyone linked to the case. Highly recommended.
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Margaret Ediger
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Fascinating details not only about that famous trial,but also on its influence on newspapers.
Reviewed in Canada on June 8, 2019
I enjoyed learning about life in New York City during the final years of the 19th Century.
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R. M. Perring
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