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Killings Paperback – June 4, 1985


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (June 4, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140079777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140079777
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #355,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From AudioFile

Regular readers of Calvin Trillin's essays in The New Yorker know that he doesn't write about people who live the kind of lives that lead to murder in order to disparage them. In Trillin's telling, the oddball in Iowa or the trailer-park tenant in Tennessee takes on a dignity that transcends his circumstances. In Barrett Whitener's narration, that dignity is lost. He describes the characters, most of whom live in small towns and have endured more than their share of bad luck and bad decision-making, in a clipped, judgmental tone. These essays, part of The New Yorker's U.S. Journal series from the 70's, are not typical murder tales in that they tell us more about the nuances of individual lives in particular times and places than about gore and mayhem. It's too bad the narrator can't appreciate those nuances. T.F. (c) AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Exemplary journalistic writing.
Danton M.
I found it engrossing to read these accounts which originally ran in the New Yorker magazine.
R. Barrell
I have read this book at least twice in its entirety and some of the essays several times.
E. Abrams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Catherine S. Vodrey on September 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Once again, I find myself titling a Calvin Trillin review, "If I could give it ten stars, I would!" Trillin is a national treasure. You've heard of Poet Laureates; well, Trillin ought to be our national Deadpan and Danged Funny Laureate. What may not be immediately evident on first reading his work is that the subtle humor that ripples throughout most of his stuff disguises an extraordinarily sharp mind and a nose for a wonderful story.
"Killings" examines the sudden deaths of a dozen or so ordinary Americans. Although Trillin touches on the manner of their deaths, what "Killings" is really about is the detail of these victims' lives. It is utterly absorbing and that rarity, a book you will enjoy even more on the second or third read than on the first. Trillin's apparent artlessness ensures that he, as author, never gets in the way of his wonderful, wonderful stories. Highly recommended!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By E. Abrams on October 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book of essays is sad and beautiful. In general, I have always liked Trillin, but some of his humor pieces can be a little too cute. These essays, which originally appeared in the New Yorker, are very spare and moving. Each tells the story of a person killed--by accident, by murder, by abuse--and each essay is absorbing, melancholy and invested with meaning. The format makes the book an easy one to read and a good one for when you do not have a lot of time to read: each essay stands on its own. I have read this book at least twice in its entirety and some of the essays several times. The writing is skilled and precise. Trillin never lapses into sanctimony or sentimentality. I have recommended this book to many, and actually ended up loaning my copy to someone who liked it so much he wouldn't give it back! (I found a used copy on amazon for cheap and stopped bugging him to return it.) I love this book and wish it were more widely read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Ebeling on February 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is the stuff of a classic and should not have been allowed to go out of print. The measure of a good to great book as far as I am concerned is that it represents not only the issues of the individual but also sends out definitive postcards from a certain time and place. Reading this collection of crime reportage that originally appeared in The New Yorker magazine in the author's "U.S. Journal" series, from 1969 to 1982, I am astounded how Trillin intuited the local and global struggles that continue to define the post 1960's social watershed in American precincts beyond more cosmopolitan cities.

Trillin says that the story inherent in a sudden death-homicide, suicide or accident-is more often about how people live or the society in which they move. He finds understanding the place essential to understanding the crime. Most of the deaths are due to murder (the Penguin paperback cover blurbs say all are, but that's not true), and most take place in neighborhoods and among people of which townsfolk would say, but that wouldn't happen here and to them. Even when the death occurs in Miami (a prominent defense attorney), a barrio in Riverside, California, or in Tucson where alarms and guard dogs had become a way of life, the death is still a surprise.

KILLINGS is first class journalism. The author's prose is fluent, immediate, and his information is beautifully ordered. You never know at the outset of a given story who will be the killer or the killed. He keeps himself entirely out of the action and is never judgmental. In an afterward he notes that one of the key players in a story later said of what appeared in the magazine, "If he had come two weeks later, he would have written a different story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Danton M. on April 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
So unlike the modern obsession with glamor or headline-grabbing murderers or victims, this enthralling book collects a set of stories about killings that probably never should have happened. I almost felt as if I were back in the decades in which the essays were first written, from 1969-1982, so vivid are the details of setting and character. Exemplary journalistic writing.

I have only one minor complaint, not even enough to subtract a star. That is, I wanted to know more about the ultimate outcomes of the cases. I'd like to see an updated edition with more information!
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