18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2004
In all his works, Jack Finney had that unique story-telling ability to make the reader feel comfortable and entertained. Without sounding condescending, as some writers do, Finney carefully and clearly explains the situation so well, that there is no risk of not understanding him. For Pete's sake, TIME AND AGAIN was loaded with illustrations so that you could see what and where he was talking about. In FORGOTTEN NEWS, Finney employs the same device.
Focusing on what was the crime of the (19th) century--the murder of a dentist, Harvey Burdell--Finney explores the lives of the victim, the probable perpetrators, the witnesses, and, most importantly, the life of NYC in 1857. In fact, even before he launches into the narrative, he provides a brief but effective introduction to the world in which Dr. Burdell lived, including the rough-and-tumble world of the Dead Rabbits and Bowery Boys.
The narrative itself is easily paced, peppered with humor just at the right moments, as when the grisly events of the murder might be upsetting the reader. The circus surrounding the investigation and trial of the suspect, Emma Cunningham, is mind-boggling even by today's standards. Careful, to avoid jumping to conclusions, Finney is admirable in reining in his opinion. There are hints galore that he thinks Ms. Cunningham committed the murder along with a shady accomplice, but he also acknowledges that there is no evidence. The story of Ms. Cunningham's faked pregnancy and her attempt to acquire an infant to claim is Burdell's, just so that she could continue her pursuit of his inheritance, is so outrageous, so unbelievable that the reader might forget that this is non-fiction.
The second part of the book describes the shipwreck of the ????. Just the fact that I can't remember the name of the boat is an indication that that narrative isn't quite as compelling as the murder of Burdell (at least to me). In fact, it was a little anti-climactic. Perhaps it should have come before the Burdell murder. And perhaps it's just me. In any event, track down this book. It is worth the read. And PLEASE, SOMEBODY OUT THERE, BRING THIS BOOK BACK INTO PRINT!!!
Rocco Dormarunno, author of The Five Points
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 1998
This was great -- so much more fascinating than anything in the papers today. The Dr. Harvey Burdell story and the sinking of the Central America were both gripping stories in different ways, and I loved Mr. Finney's conversational way of tellling them...it's a real loss that he's gone. Maybe he's somewhere in the past, where he wanted to be...
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 1998
I have read all of Finney's novels and short stories. This work of non-fiction, having characters that really lived, is as absorbing and compelling. The detailed look at "the crime of the century" gives the reader glimpse at nineteenth century thought, feeling, attitudes, and technology. I have read it several times--each reading discovering new details.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 1999
I just read Forgotten News (in one day). It was compelling because it was real. It happened. You can actually stand on Bond Street today and glimpse into 1857 New York and see the people, the way they lived, and understand their thoughts. The murder of Dr Burdell, a dentist who lived on Bond Street in NYC in 1857, was extensively covered by several news organizations of that time. Dr Burdell was a man who did not want to share his life with anyone who might need to also share his money, but he most certainly lusted after women in a shocking manner (even by today's standards). It also is clear that Jack Finney shows that he did not understand or comprehend the female of that time (or today for that matter) and what a woman had to do to secure stability for her children. Remember, women did not work at high paying jobs in those days. A man who was a widower with five children to support would have had a hard time, but most likely, would have been paid a decent wage if he were educated. Mrs Cunningham did not have any advantages and was forced to "look for a rich husband". All of the inuendo about her past was really just that. Even Jack Finney couldn't and wouldn't actually say that she had a shady past. It was hinted at, but still, the lady did what she had to in order to keep her children from starving on the streets. It was also very apparent that she was not well educated because she did not know that she could immediately request the inheritance that was hers by marriage upon the death of Dr Burdell. After the inquest, and the acknowledgment of the courts that she was actually Burdell's widow, she thought that she had to use the baby to seal the inheritance which, of course, backfired on her. The inquest held also shows how very different the courts are today. Be thankful for this as you read this book.
The rest of the book was amazing. The shipwreck and ordeals of the survivors at sea rate with the Titanic. But then, all shipwrecks are horrendous. Please read it for a very enlightening look at life in the 1800s, the people, and the hardships.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2004
This book subtitled 'The Crime of the Century and Other Lost Stories' is nonfiction derived from his research which resulted in two of my favorite (of all time) novels, TIME AND AGAIN(1970) and its sequel, FROM TIME TO TIME (1986).
I'd never before seen illustrated novels and his first in 1970 was a classic. It captured my imagination because of the drawings and the concept of time travel. I mention these books in my review of the movie THE TIME MACHINE.
When the long-awaited sequel was released, I wanted to shout "What took you so long?" Now that I've met another researcher into the past named Jack (a local journalist who delves in the olden days of my hometown, Knoxville) I appreciate even more his hard work and writing abilities to bring his characters to life and make a believable story.
This crime is about the murder of a doctor in the 1880's similar to one of the 1900's Dr. Tarnower who was killed by his mistress. He found pictures of the trial participants from the old newspapers of that day and actual evidence pertaining to the crime.
The other stories was just as interesting, especially that of Ida who was rescued from a burning building in New York by a person who later became one of his characters. Even though she insisted her rescuer was the fireman climbing behind the bearded man (of the past), there was the picture to prove differently.
Jack Finney's unique illustrated novels interweaving the present with the past of the 1880's were a small portion of his numerous novels, some of which became famous movies. He also had many in French and German.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2011
Jack Finney, who is a wonderful storyteller, shares some of his inspiration in this book. Culled from newspaper archives, he has pulled together a collection of stories that, in their time were headline-worthy, and long since totally forgotten.
If you've ever browsed through an antique store wondering why a bunch of people signed a bowling pin, or who all those people were in a group photograph, you will probably enjoy this book.
The first half is the retelling of the so-called "crime of the century;" the murder of a well-respected doctor and the investigation that followed. Finney sticks to the facts as told in the newspaper accounts, although that sometimes leaves us frustrated for a neat wrapping up of all the stray facts.
The remainder of the book is a series of interesting stories that caught Finney's eye.
Overall, a cozy way to spend a winter's night.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2005
Since I picked up this book for free at a library give away I suppose I shouldn't complain, but I felt a bit cheated by it. The back cover makes it sound like a sort of News of the Weird, circa 1880, with a scattering of interesting headlines. And everything on the back cover is in the book, and all of the short bits about cannibals and weird inventions and stock market insanity are in there... they're just crammed into about 20 pages. The vast bulk of the book, perhaps 170 out of the 290 pages, is an incredibly-overlong retelling of a murder trial from NYC in the 1880s, where a bizarre mistress apparently had a friend kill the doctor she desperately wanted to marry. She apparently staged their wedding in advance using another man as a double, went to great lengths to drive off other potential female suitors, stole his will and other documents that would have reflected poorly on her, bullied her daughters to help alibi her in the murder, and so on. It's an interesting case, but unfortunately the presentation is very lacking, and there is really no conclusion to the whole story, even after 180 pages of it.
The murder and trial have all the elements of a good episode of Law and Order --unfortunately it badly needs to be edited down by at least 80 pages, and rewriting wouldn't hurt either, since so little of the evidence (the bizarre and self-defeating tactics of the prosecution, for instance) are explained with any sort of context, while every bit of unimportant minutia is poured out onto the page like a bucket of spilled blood. The author was obviously far too in love with his own material, and while he is entitled to some love based on all the tedious research he did to unearth it, the reader is entitled to a book that's been properly edited and had the fat cut from the meat.
After that endless trial description, there are 10 pages of quick and fascinating bits, followed by another overlong description of the sinking of a steamship in a hurricane. That segment runs a good 90 pages, and while it's too long, it's not as greviously-boring as the doctor's murder case. The book then closes with 10 more pages of interesting weird news tidbits, all of which were fascinating and could easily have been doubled or tripled in size.
This book felt like it came in about 350 pages in rough draft, the publisher ordered it down to under 300, and in his cutting Finney decided to pare down every short news item, while leaving the bloated trial story untouched. An approach that was exacty opposite the one he should have taken, in my opinion.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I was eager to read this book. First, it was written by Jack Finney, legendary author of Time and Again. Second, I love true crime stories, especially those set in other time periods.
However, I was disappointed because it seemed less like a book and more like a researcher's notes. Finney spends most of his time on the intriguing true crime case involving the murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell. Finney came across the case (and the other stories included in the book) while researching Time and Again. I got the feeling he got so involved reading these old newspaper stories--it happens to researchers a lot--that he was determined to get a second book out of it, no matter what. The problem with the Burdell section, which covers about half the book, is that Finney did not edit it well. He includes every tiny detail he uncovered. It becomes tedious. Finney can be a great storyteller but not here.
The rest of the book is more newspaper accounts about such topics as cannibalism, shipwrecks, and other weird stories he came across while researching his novel. Some of the illustrations are good but did not reproduce well.
All in all, you'd be better off doing what Finney did. Read through actual newspapers of the era to get an idea of how people actually lived and died in the 19th century.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
When researching for his "Time" books, Finney spent a lot of time reading newspapers from the mid to late 1800s. Enamored by many of the stories and especially those in "Leslie's Illustrated" (a weekly newspaper but on the level of the National Enquirer), Finney came across a lot of details of how people lived, dressed, ate, wore, did for recreation, spoke, etc. Most of these details ended up in "Time and Again" and other stories of this ilk.
But he was interested in two stories and followed them in the newspapers to their end. One was a murder investigation and the other a sinking of a passenger ship. Both stories are interesting for their color and content and the one of the sinking ship is especially touching (many of the first hand stories sound like the Titanic).
Definitely worth reading.
on January 5, 2013
Jack Finney tells a wonderful tale, and this one is true! It's like having your own advisor and informer as you traverse this murder case from long ago. Funny, engaging, and interesting throughout. Great book.