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The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars | [Paul Collins]

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

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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

“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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (1093 )
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Performance
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  •  
    The Restless Mouse 05-05-13

    TheRestlessMouse

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "You can almost smell the grimy old New York"

    I thought this would be presented as a whodunit, but of course it's more of a documentary, this story has been told before. Even if you have already heard the story of the murder of William Guldensuppe, AKA The Scattered Dutchman, a masterful storyteller and rich details make this one worth a listen.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CG Collingswood, New Jersey, United States 03-25-13
    CG Collingswood, New Jersey, United States 03-25-13 Member Since 2009

    glasercb

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    "Very Interesting perspective."
    What did you love best about The Murder of the Century?

    I liked the fast pace and the descriptions of the New York that was.


    If you could give The Murder of the Century a new subtitle, what would it be?

    Read all about it!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jan 03-10-13
    Jan 03-10-13 Member Since 2011

    Eclectic, avid listener, favorite book is the one currently in ear.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fun little historical murder mystery"

    Quick easy read. Found the relationship between the newspapers, politics, the law and the crime very interesting. "Bones" and "CNN" in the age of no fingerprints and no limits to behavior of journalists selling papers. Did they convict the wrong person?

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dianne New Bern, NC, United States 02-14-13
    Dianne New Bern, NC, United States 02-14-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Confusion in excess"
    What would have made The Murder of the Century better?

    Story doesn't seem to be very well written


    Has The Murder of the Century turned you off from other books in this genre?

    Yes


    What didn’t you like about William Dufris’s performance?

    Not much


    What character would you cut from The Murder of the Century?

    I'm not sure any cuts would help.


    Any additional comments?

    Had a hard time finishing this audio.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Evan Honolulu, HI, United States 02-12-13
    Evan Honolulu, HI, United States 02-12-13

    Business owner , philanthropist.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fun story really got to know the people"

    Very descriptive, good mix of business and murder. I have this picture of a torso stuck in my mind.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adam Schuster Orlando, FL USA 02-11-13
    Adam Schuster Orlando, FL USA 02-11-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A specific time gives insight into today"

    Fascinating how much of the news cycle of today draws it roots from events of the past.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    devlin Seattle, WA, United States 02-04-13
    devlin Seattle, WA, United States 02-04-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "It wasn't worth the credit."
    Any additional comments?

    The story isn't bad overall. Its just a bad attempt at trying to be a nior murder story while just listing facts. It gets confusing and hard to follow with the monotone narrator.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul PITTSBURGH, PA, United States 01-10-13
    Paul PITTSBURGH, PA, United States 01-10-13 Member Since 2011

    Pablo

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Supercilious reading of a super-sized story"
    What was most disappointing about Paul Collins’s story?

    This was a fascinating story, but sadly presented in an 8-hour audiobook when a piece in the Atlantic or even a longish Wikipedia article would have more than sufficed. Collins draws it out exhaustively, putting in unneeded details for atmosphere and devoting entire chapters to twists and turns in the investigation that he inflates to grand importance when they turn out to have no impact.

    I felt like he super-sized my book when I ordered a small.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Dufris' narration reminds me of a friend of mine who thinks he does a really great Jerry Seinfeld impression. In fact, it's terrible, but he thinks it's so good that he presents it with great earnestness, like a high schooler playing Hamlet. Dufris has exactly one accent, which is pretty much what an American would think a German spoke like if his only exposure to Germans was watching Hogan's Heroes as a kid, and all "foreign" characters in the book are treated to this terrible accent. The defense attorney character was presented in such a ridiculous cartoonish booming voice that all I could do was laugh, because it reminded me, more than anything else, of Sir Topham Hatt from the Thomas The Tank Engine shows that my 4 year old likes to watch.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ElCee 12-29-12
    ElCee 12-29-12

    ElCee

    ratings
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    "How Did I Not Know About This?????"
    If you could sum up The Murder of the Century in three words, what would they be?

    fascinating authentic evocative


    What other book might you compare The Murder of the Century to and why?

    It has been some time since I read Caleb Carr's books about this same period, but they immediately come to mind.


    What about William Dufris’s performance did you like?

    The narrator was able to step into the various voices without sounding like a one-man theatre troupe.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    It would have been nice!


    Any additional comments?

    I was fascinated to learn about these events--thought I knew a fair amount about the period. The evocation of the newspaper wars is entertaining, and the facts of the crime are presented in an almost cinematic fashion.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sharon TYLER, TX, United States 12-11-12
    sharon TYLER, TX, United States 12-11-12 Member Since 2012
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    "interesting, but too long and slow"

    .The book offered a very creative story, an unusual angle (that of rival newspapers seeking headlines), and it provided an education into how a murder investigation was conducted during the gilded age. However, it was long and slow at times. I was a little disappointed in the actual storytelling, but I would listen to another book by this author.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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