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)
Dufris is the star of the show. His reading of Howe, the defense attorney, is amazing. This is a well writing and meticulously research account of a New York City murder and the sensationalist journalism that followed. The plot takes a lot of turns and in enganging thoughout. Once the trial is wrapped up, the book drags on for a few more chapters, and they should be skipped. This was a fun read, but it doesn't educate like most non-fiction. Paul Collins has a gift, but other still master the genre better.
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.
I liked the fast pace and the descriptions of the New York that was.
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Tangential, eclectic, avid listener... favorite book is the one currently in ear.
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?
Business owner , philanthropist.
Very descriptive, good mix of business and murder. I have this picture of a torso stuck in my mind.
Fascinating how much of the news cycle of today draws it roots from events of the past.
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.
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.
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.
fascinating authentic evocative
It has been some time since I read Caleb Carr's books about this same period, but they immediately come to mind.
The narrator was able to step into the various voices without sounding like a one-man theatre troupe.
It would have been nice!
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.
.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.
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