Ardent Audible listener with a long commute!
First of all, kudos to Deborah Blum and her publishers for picking Coleen Marlo to narrate this book. Marlo is fantastic narrating Amy Stewart’s “Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insects” and “The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks,” pronouncing complex scientific names and using foreign pronunciations easily (well, at least in the five languages I know well enough to know if she’s saying the words correctly.)
Blum’s “The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York”. Rather than focusing solely on a particular crime or group of particular poisoners, Blum’s chapters are (in order): Chloroform; Wood Alcohol; Cyanides; Arsenic; Mercury; Carbon Monoxide Part I; Methyl Alcohol; Radium; Ethyl Alcohol; Carbon Monoxide Part II; and Thallium.
“The Poisoner’s Handbook” describes how the poisons were developed and used, and how the forensic science developed techniques to uncover the poisons. Blum weaves the tales of the scientists who worked so hard to make sure that cruel, careful murders by poisoners were detected. She also discusses a plethora of unintentional poisonings, and the public health risks that caused them.
The biggest cause of accidental poisonings was, in Jazz Age New York, prohibition. Blum describes New York City in the early 20th century so completely, I can see it in my mind, with horses and buggies, Model-T Fords, and a scrum of long-vanished air pollution.
"The Poisoner's Handbook" is lively and intriguing, and well worth the listen.
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About ten years ago, I was shocked when my now-teenager asked me, "Where we you when President Kennedy was killed?" I told him I was born after that, but I was sure his grandparents would remember. They do, of course - but even 50 years later, it's hard for them to talk about that day. My mother's eyes become unfocused, and she talks about the apartment she and my Dad lived in, and going to watch the news on the neighbors' black and white television. My Dad mumbles, talks about hearing the news at his first job after college, and looks at the floor.
"Three Shots Rang Out: The JFK Assassination 50 Years Later" (2013) is an ABC News Special by Diane Sawyer. Sawyer narrates a collection of radio stories and interviews, along with audio clips from television broadcasts made immediately after John F. Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963. "Three Shots" follows the story as reporters did, from Dealey Plaza to Kennedy's burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Audible version includes reporter interviews of witnesses made right after the assassination that have never been rebroadcast, which are fascinating today. The interviewees are calm, sound and relate what they saw, without speculation. That's a real contrast to today's requisite "How did it make you feel?" end-of-interview question. I do remember 9-11 quite vividly of course, and the news, and I always felt like saying "Why are you asking that question? How does it help the story? Do you think you'll get an answer other than an eloquent version of scared and devastated, followed by tears?"
Sawyer's piece also has interviews with the reporters, describing in more detail the various locations where the events happened. I was pretty startled to hear a thorough description of the Dallas Police Office basement, followed by audio of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald. I realized that the screams I heard were Oswald's. Millions of radio listeners must have heard the same thing 50 years ago.
It's a very good listen. If my future grandchildren ask me the same JFK question, I'll tell them to listen to this story.
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My friends and I, playing cops and robbers during first grade recess, always solemnized each capture by administering the Miranda Warning perfectly. No, we weren't living in a challenging neighborhood - Jack Webb's Dragnet and Adam 12 were early evening rerun staples out local ABC affiliate.
20 years later, in law school, Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436, its constitutional basis, and its numerous exceptions, took weeks of my criminal law class. I did wonder who Ernesto Miranda was; whether he had actually committed the crime he was convicted of; how his case ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court; and what ended up happening to him. This book answers those questions, and more, about Miranda and other key criminal cases.
Michael S. Lief and H. Mitchell Caldwell provide a careful historical and cultural framework for these cases, and detailed personal histories of both the accused and the victims. Chapter 1, which deals with lynching in the south, is especially chilling.
These are the trials that are in the book, in the order that they are in (thanks Google Books for the table of contents), and I'm including the Audible concordance for anyone who wants to go to a specific case:
Ch 1 (Audible 1-2). When Mob Rule Trumps the Rule of Law. The unfortunate case of a man lynched in 1906, after the US Supreme Court agreed to review his capital conviction for rape establishes that the state has an obligation to protect prisoners in its custody.
Ch 2 (Audible 1-4). When the Constable Blunders. In 1956, evidence becomes inadmissible because it is obtained illegally and it is the "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree" - even if the evidence is porn.
Ch 3 (Audible 1-6). Rules of Engagement. An (overly) sympathetic look at Randy Weaver and Ruby Ridge in 1992. Regardless, Gerry Spence's tactics were legendary (he presented no defense) and his hours long closing argument was compelling.
Ch 4 (Audible 2-3). Defending the Despised. Future president John Adams defends the British soldiers accused of killing American colonists in the Boston Massacre.
Ch 5 (Audible 2-5). You Have the Right to Remain Silent. The Miranda decision.
Ch 6 (Audible 2-7). The Black Doctor and the White Mob. Clarence Darrow successfully defends a Black family of professionals on trial for a 1925 killing in Detroit when a blue collar White mob attacked after the family moved into the neighborhood.
Ch 7 (Audible 3-3). The Trial of the (Nineteenth) Century. Congressman Daniel Sickles uses the temporary insanity defense after killing Phillip Barton Key, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, in 1859. Scandal knows no century.
Ch 8 (Audible 3-5). Genius, Scoundrel, Traitor. Former Vice President Aaron Burr's trial for the one crime listed in the U.S. Constitution, treason. Good history of Burr, trial a bit boring.
There were three narrators on this Audible, and that mostly worked - a few rough spots, but they weren't jarring enough so that I was distracted from the book.
This is under the Audible category "Mysteries and Thrillers - True Crime" but it's misplaced. It belongs in History.
When I finished this, I went looking for the first two books in the Closing Argument Chronicles - "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury" (2000) (famous trials) and "And the Walls Came Tumbling Down" (civil rights) (2006). They aren't on Audible, darn it.
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I never knew nothing about this subject matter before I listened to this audiobook, but the cops and robbers / detectives and criminals storyline kept my interest the entire time. The fact this is a true story is why it's interesting and why it's not super action packed all the time. The book has plenty of tension and suspense and never gets boring, credit the author and reader for getting me to listen to a book about a pearl necklace.