Paul Collins tells the story of the brutal, bloody murder of William Guldensuppe committed by his girlfriend and her lover. Narrator William Dufris gives a delightfully varied and nuanced performance. The book features the voices of a diverse cast of late-19th century New York characters, from Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst to a duck farmer in Woodside to employees of the Murray Hill bathhouse. Together, the characters tell the story of a gruesome crime that fueled a sensationalistic media juggernaut from the moment a group of young boys found a man's mutilated torso floating in the East River in New York City on a summer day in 1897. In Dufris' inventive performance, he expertly adopts the voice of the chillingly blasé murderers; then turns on a dime to describe, in a voice filled with wonder, the new forensic science that went into identifying the body. Dufris engages the listener by sounding as fascinated by the story as the author himself is.
It is vital that Dufris get the performances just right, since Collins has distinguished his book from other histories of the crime by telling the story of the investigation and trial largely through the voices of the people who were actually there. Collins carefully reconstructs their quotes into an intensely detailed narrative, and Dufris individualizes the voice of each witness, including the murder defendants themselves. Especially effective is his portrayal of one of the main defense attorneys in the story, William Howe, whom Dufris imbues with a bold, brash voice that enlivens the "Big Bill" persona that Collins describes. But Dufris is just as adept at capturing the macabre character of the women who, obsessed with the case, filled the sweltering courtroom gallery day after day to show their support for the dashing murder defendant, Martin Thorn. Maggie Frank
In Long Island, a farmer found a duck pond turned red with blood. On the Lower East Side, two boys playing at a pier discovered a floating human torso wrapped tightly in oilcloth. Blueberry pickers near Harlem stumbled upon neatly severed limbs in an overgrown ditch. Clues to a horrifying crime were turning up all over New York, but the police were baffled: There were 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 perplexing murder. Seized upon by battling media moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the case became a publicity circus. Re-creations 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 - an anxious 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 that the police couldn't identify with certainty - and that 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.
©2011 Paul Collins (P)2011 AudioGo
“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. [A]n in-depth account of the exponential growth of lurid news and the public’s (continuing) insatiable appetite for it." (Publishers Weekly)
I was so bored at first, I almost gave up, but I am glad I persevered. Once the suspects were identified, I found it interesting. It was interesting to read about this crime in the context of the culture and technology at that time. The end of the book could have been shorter,
This is a story about a murder, but the twist is that the victim has no head. This tends to make identifying the body a bit difficult, particularly before the era of fingerprints, computer databases and DNA. There were many theories as to who did it, including the fact that the victim was still alive. Even at the end, I was not convinced of exactly what happened and how much culpability each suspect had.
The story itself was three stars for me, but the extra star comes from the narration. Once the trial started, I was enthralled with the different voices. They really came to life, particularly the defense attorney.
On a funny note, I live in NY State and taxpayers get frustrated with Albany's lack of action, I was amused to read that a bill regarding alternate jurors took 33 years to pass in the early 1900s and even then a reference was made to Albany's inaction.
Good book. Held my interest, but nothing special. It does show that not much has changed in the way society, the press, the police and prosecutors handle a big case. I'm a retired police officer and detective who worked in a very large city. That said...
The press take something obscure and make it big, sensationalizing every dark corner of a person's life as if that makes them guilty. The police try to do as little as possible until forced to move forward, then move in all the wrong directions, because they are the easiest directions to go in. The prosecutors don't seem to care who did it, just want to ride the wave of a big case and make a name for themselves. The people and the juries seem to swallow it all, hook, line, and sinker.
Of course not all cops, not all prosecutors, not all press, and not all society are like the above description. Most are not, but it seems more and more we are less concerned with justice and more on rattling our heads and demanding revenge.
Think it's not true? Look at how many people are being released from long prison terms and death row after DNA evidence is clearing them. People don't seem to mind bending our civil rights until they are the targets of an unjust persecution.
Possibly. If I read more on the trial covered in the story from other sources.
Just generally the scenes of the accused in prison and the way they reconciled their infamy!
My 15 minutes of fame due to the media!
Worth a listen. Leaves you with the sense that the media has always been ridiculous and makes heros of the wrong sort. The real news goes unnoticed.
I like books on history. Especially Post Civil War through WW2. I like dog stories and travel adventure books.
A great story and history of the beginning of the twentieth century. The story is told in a way that keeps you engaged. I did not want the story to end.
This was a wonderful book, and William Dufris is a very engaging narrator with excellent character voices. The problem is the editing. For example, most chapters begin without a sufficient pause from the previous chapter. The editor does not leave enough room for the listener to reflect on what was just said. This also leads me to wonder if the quality control is up to snuff, although this is hard to discern without reading along.
Pacing is the editor's art, and this editor nearly ruined a first-rate book read by a first-rate narrator. It's a shame I have to give the performance 2 stars since the narrator deserves 5. But until Audible makes production a separate star rating, this is what I must do.
A little dry, yet still entertaining with the attention to details of the period. The origins of yellow journalism fascinate as we seem to have returned to News as Entertainment rather than information. As the french say:..."the more things change, the more they remain the same."
This is history but not the kind I learned in school. A murder, gruesome but not more so than others of the day, became a source of competition between the newspapers of Joseph Pulitzer and Randolph Hearst. The book is filled with juicy details and we are filled in on the stories of all players. Excellent. I hope more of Collins' books make it here.
I might read this book again because of the historical aspects. Learned a lot about the newspaper industry and life in the late 1800's in the U.S.
The historical tie-in.
The reader had a rather uninteresting delivery; I thought he was bored or sleepy.
The rise to prominence of Pulitzer and Hearst and the rivalry between them.
Professional who loves a good book. Prefer non fiction-but will take on good fiction.
All the details and backgound in a relatively quick read
How time has changed things but things are pretty much the same
Did a great job
The things the media did not report and the things they did
I like how they followed the lifes of the people after the trial
I wanted to try this book but really didn't think it would hold my attention and even wondered if I would finish it. But once I started to listen it had me, it was surprisingly good. I recommend this one.
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