Charles E. Chapin, the notorious editor-tyrant of Joseph Pulitzer's New York Evening World during America's Gilded Age, made headlines himself after murdering his wife of 39 years. This extensively researched biography by Morris (Jailhouse Journalism: The Fourth Estate Behind Bars) brings to life Chapin's tragic story, from his childhood to his days spent cultivating a beautiful rose garden in Sing Sing prison, to the last moments of his life.
Morris lends the story depth by including colorful depictions of everyday New York life circa the early 1900s, intriguing descriptions of the corrupt practices of editors and reporters, and vivid accounts of major events like the Titanic disaster, a story that Chapin's paper scooped from its competitors.
If you could sum up The Rose Man of Sing Sing in three words, what would they be?
This was a very intriguing listen about Charles Chapin who more or less invented modern newspaper methods. The writer has clearly defined a narrative, that of flawed pioneer, that he wishes to portray and it is a legitimate view. However, the details that he throws up also lend themselves to alternative narratives which I found myself contemplating along the way. This is not to say that Chapin was not a brilliant pioneer, he was. But, the events that lead up to and follow his wife's death are too easily explained but not fully explored and neither are his frequent disappearances over the years. It almost leaves you with the idea that there are 2 Chapins.
I think the writer may have been limited by volume, there is only so much he could have got into a book without turning it into a multi-volume piece.
Well worth a listen for a forgotten piece of modern history.
Would you be willing to try another book from James McGrath Morris? Why or why not?
The writer has done a tremendous amount of research and has contained an extraordinary number of historical events here.
What about John H. Mayer’s performance did you like?
The narrator is great: he has the office-worn 'gravelliness' to his voice reminiscent of 1940s movie portrayals of newspapermen.