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The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield: A Tragedy of the Gilded Age (American Portraits) Paperback – May 31, 2011


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The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield: A Tragedy of the Gilded Age (American Portraits) + Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1776
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Product Details

  • Series: American Portraits
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (May 31, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030774325X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307743251
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #607,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for H. W. Brands

“H. W. Brands is a master at finding the essence of an important American life, telling its story grippingly and showing us why it is important to our own generation.”
—Michael Beschloss
 
“Brands will change the way you see history.”
The Austin American-Statesman
 
“A wonderfully skilled narrative historian.”
Los Angeles Times
 
“Brands is masterly.”
The Economist
 
“Few historians can tell a tale better.”
The Dallas Morning News

About the Author

H. W. Brands is the Dickson Allen Anderson Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography for The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, and for Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Visit the author's website at www.hwbrands.com.


More About the Author

H.W. Brands taught at Texas A&M University for sixteen years before joining the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History. His books include Traitor to His Class, Andrew Jackson, The Age of Gold, The First American, and TR. Traitor to His Class and The First American were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Montgomery on June 13, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I like the concept of a short popular history. There are, as the author indicates, many small tales that get overlooked in the larger books. I don't know that the murder of Jim Fisk qualifies as a small tale, touching as it does on Black Friday, political corruption, Vanderbilt, Gould and the like. It is an interesting story which is well told here. The style, like the title, is a bit florid. (The opening is reminiscent of an outtake from The Phantom of the Opera.) Once the tale gets going it is compelling reading offering a great deal of information smoothly. The history is excellent, the pacing perfect. Toward the end the tale slows in the minutae of a trial. Less of the court record and more on the side characters might be welcome at this point. (While the outcome for Jay Gould is covered, none of the wives are revisited.) All in all this is a fascinating idea and I would definitely recommend it to any reader. I would buy another short history from this author if it were priced closer to or below a mass market paperback. (This is not a full length book.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Schmerguls VINE VOICE on March 1, 2014
Format: Paperback
This slight volume tells of the shooting of Jim Fisk, New York speculator, by Ned Stokes on Jan 6, 1872, at the Grand Central Hotel in New York. Fisk and Stokes were vying for the affection of a woman. The book, with the help of newspaper accounts and the trial transcripts, tells well of the trial Stokes went through. The author is not a lawyer and makes no attempt to discuss the legal aspects of the trials, Some of the trial procedure and happenings seem quite odd, and are kind of fascinating. There are no footnotes and the bibliography is slim. I would have much preferred a more factual and penetrating discussion of the legal aspects of the trials. I have previously read Brands' The Reckless Decade on 7 Sep 2003 and felt he was an interesting writer, and so I read this book, which is not a very profound effort.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Classic Hollywood Lives on February 8, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lightweight tale of the life, times, and murder of a corrupt Gilded Age railway tycoon. Left a lot of unanswered questions and failed to flesh out the story and supposed allure of Josie Mansfield. I really wanted to like this book, but unfortunately I didn't - and I can't recommend it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By CKE TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
I have been a fan of H.W. Brands for a decade. I have read about a dozen of Brands' works and The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin is my personal favorite biography on Ben Franklin while theThe Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream is a fantastic telling of the California gold rush. Unfortunately, "The Murder of Jim Fisk..." falls severely short of the standard set by those previous works.

The premise of the book is solid. It tells the story of the murder and the intrigue resolving around the Gilded Age's Jim Fisk. A man who by all accounts was a shameless self-promoting villain. He was a lose confidant of both Boss Tweed and Jay Gould - and the story of his death wove all three figures together.

It is a bit hard to explain, but "The Murder of Jim Fisk" (somewhat ironically) lacks passion. The story is both too short and unfocused. The primary characters, Jim Fisk, Josie Mansfield, Ned Stokes, Jay Gould, and Boss Tweed are all discussed, but rarely explored. This causes the who book to lack depth, and... passion. In the end, it reads more like a newspaper article than a 200 page book.

Final Verdict - I will give "The Murder of Jim Fisk" a soft recommendation. It is far from terrible, but it is quickly forgettable. I am still a huge fan of H.W. Brands, but I you may want to read one of his earlier books first.

3 Stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author provides an interesting story of the corruption, immorality and greed of a period of US history that may have been forgotten or is little known today. It is an enlightening read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. Mabry on February 18, 2013
Format: Paperback
While I agree with some reviewers that this is a great narrative tale on an interesting subject, that is precisely only what it is, a short popular history tale. I do love H.W. Brands and own multiple volumes of his brillant labors. I have watched some of his interviews and recommend his works to my college students. He has a very readable narrative style and I do learn while reading his well researched competent view of American history. I hope to drag a few a of my most precious volumes down to UT, Austin campus one day and get his autograph. Historians are rock stars to me.

Now, all of that being said, this I think was a dandy of a story but short on history. There was plenty of biographical opportunities missed, struggles in the New York Stock Markets, the domination of railroad companies, an examination of the personalities in the tale, etc. But I think that Dr. Brands did what he probably intended. He told an interesting story in a short easy narrative for a general audience. While I wanted much more to come from his prolific pen, he completed what I perceive to be his objective.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gerald Swimmer on September 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a new concept book for me. It takes a historical event and follows it closely. Mr. Brands is a good writer and manages to tell the story of the murder of Jim Fisk. The first section of the book draws a vivid picture of the era. I will comment that most if not all of this ground in covered in American Colossus. The remaining portion which describes the trials read somewhat like a court room procedural. In a few hours spent reading the story is told.

The shortness of the book does not permit any real picture of Josie Mansfield and it just touches on interesting characters such as Boss Tweed. Teddy Roosevelt is mentioned briefly.

I also missed the analysis of Mr. Brands who is a fine historian. I realize that is not what the book is intended to convey but somehow I felt slightly cheated.
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