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A rogue's gallery of shady, quirky, beguiling figures populates this scintillating collection of essays by one of the New Yorker's seldom-sung masters. Writing for the magazine from the 1930s through the 1960s, McKelway specialized in light true crime stories about arsonists, embezzlers, counterfeiters, suspected Communists, and innocent men and the fire investigators, forensic accountants, Secret Service men, clueless FBI agents, and biased cops who pursued them. He's fascinated by procedural, cat-and-mouse games and the sheer artistry of crime for crime's sake; his portrait of serial impostor Stanley Weyman is a gem of motiveless miscreancy, culminating in Weyman's impersonation of the (nonexistent) State Department Naval Liaison Officer in order to introduce one Princess Fatima of Afghanistan to President Harding. In addition to police blotter material, the author pens a cutting profile of the egomaniacal gossip columnist Walter Winchell and recollections of his war-time stint as an air force PR flack (with a rather blithe account of the firebombing of Tokyo). McKelway's deceptively straightforward prose accretes facts, testimony, and court documents into subtle character studies and unobtrusive ruminations on the crooked timber of humanity. His limpid style and wry humor make these pieces as fresh and engaging as the day they appeared. (Mar.)
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This volume brings together nearly four decades of memorable reporting and storytelling from one of the New Yorker’s most prolific but long overlooked writers. Readers can trace changes in the local and national sensibilities as McKelway chronicles the strange and ordinary of city life, favoring the characters who were the lifeblood of New York. Among his subjects: Father Divine, the Harlem charlatan minister, amassing wealth from hundreds of low-wage workers; Mister 880, finally caught by the Secret Service at the age of 73 after 10 years of passing counterfeit dollar bills to supplement his modest income; a summons server who raises a greater indignation than his unhappy targets; gossip columnist Walter Winchell, a favorite of powerful politicians, entertainers, and mobsters alike; and a wealthy, reclusive old woman, who is rediscovered by a well-heeled law firm when her sister dies and then is suddenly and confusedly thrust to their attention. McKelway’s writing is deliciously detailed, subtle and wry, full of keen observations and connections. Readers who are fans of the New Yorker or great storytelling in general will appreciate this book. --Vanessa BushSee all Editorial Reviews
He's one of the finest reporters of the ''40s, '50s and '60s. The stories are mid-20th-century but totally ageless. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Grandma Ag
Quirky and not something to be found easily elsewhere. There were a couple that were too drawn out for my tastes but some were hilarious. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Heather belle
A must read for anyone with any interest in reporting. The fact that much of the research for these delightful stories of New York's finest criminals and policemen (and some of the... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Tony Potter
McKelway wrote for the New Yorker for decades, basically for decades when magazines were an essential way of getting deeper news. Read morePublished 18 months ago by J. Foley
St. Clair McKelway's profile of the world worst counterfeiter is one of the funniest things I have read in years.Published on August 16, 2013 by Charles R. Woessner
I thought this was well-written and good reading. I really enjoyed it. The stories in it were interesting, as are most stories in the New Yorker.Published on July 28, 2013 by Barbara Versluis
"Reporting at Wit's End" is a wonderful collection of eighteen stories by St Clair McKelway that captures quirks and eccentricities of individuals who just happen to live around... Read morePublished on July 4, 2013 by Matt Mansfield