From Publishers Weekly
It started in 1955 with a missing eight-year-old boy, Jimmy Bremmers, later found murdered, and the arrest and conviction of Ernest Triplett, a simpleminded Sioux City, Iowa, salesman, for the crime. But within months public hysteria caused the police to arrest 20 middle-class gay men who were charged with being "sexual psychopaths," although none had anything to do with the murder, and who were incarcerated for prolonged periods of time in a state mental hospital. Miller (Out in the Worlds: Gay and Lesbian Life from Buenos Aires to Bankok) has produced a cross between a fast-paced true-crime shocker and a biting expos of 1950s sexual hysteria. While there are still plenty of missing details (many of those involved who are still living were reluctant to talk or had only vague memories), Miller's story has enough chilling facts to pack a wallop: while under arrest, Triplett was given huge amounts of "experimental" drugs (LSD and amphetamine) to help him remember the murder, and his enjoyment of Liberace was used against him in court. Although he supplies a cohesive social context how McCarthyism linked communism and homosexuality as twin "enemies within" along with a similar, but far larger, homosexual scandal that occurred simultaneously in Boise, Idaho the stories of Triplett and of the 20 others arrested never quite come together. Still, Miller, a Tufts University professor and Lambda award winner, paints a disturbing picture of what it meant to be gay in mid-century America. (Jan.)Forecast: Miller's careful archival and interview work here makes the book suitable for courses in history and sociology, an angle Alyson intends to take up with course adoption mailings. The title should find the gay history readership, and the faux lurid title, heightened by a tabloid-like cover, may draw in browsers.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Residents of Sioux City, IA, were stunned and shaken by two brutal child molestations and murders in 1954 and 1955. The shock and outrage that followed led to the roundup of 20 gay men, who were then committed to a psychiatric hospital as criminal sexual psychopaths. Journalist Miller (In Search of Gay America) has written a taut and engrossing account of this sad chapter in Sioux City's history. Miller covers the brutal crimes, the politics set against the backdrop of McCarthy-era paranoia, the difficulties of being gay in Sioux City, life in the sexual psychopath ward, and the long-term effects this sex-crime hysteria had on all involved. Miller then comes full circle, discussing the adoption of some form of "Megan's Law" in all 50 states in the 1990s. ("Megan's Law" requires convicted sex offenders to register with their local police departments.) Today, as in the 1950s, criminal sexual acts set off panic and hysteria. The challenge is how to protect citizens without trampling civil rights. Highly recommended for history collections and especially for those specializing in gay and legal history. Karen Sandlin Silverman, Ctr. for Applied Research, Philadelphia
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.