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The Gainesville Ripper Hardcover – September 30, 1994


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult (September 30, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556113528
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556113529
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 20 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,716,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In August 1990, five young people were killed in Gainesville, Fla., all students at the University of Florida or Santa Fe Community College. Of the four women slain, some were also raped and others mutilated. The murders were committed by Danny Rollings, a Louisiana resident who had previously been arrested for armed robbery and theft throughout the Southeast and, after receiving a death sentence in this case, admitted to a triple murder in his home state. This account of the lives of the killer, who as a child had suffered extreme psychological and physical abuse, and his victims creates a vivid sense of tragic confluence. Appeals of Rollings's death sentence are pending. Ryzuk's (Thou Shalt Not Kill) true-crime book is haunting. Photos not seen by PW. Paperback rights to St. Martin's; True Crime Book Club main selection.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A series of random, vicious murders of five college students in August 1990 spread fear and panic at the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. In 1994, Danny Rolling, a 40-year-old drifter and habitual criminal, confessed and was sentenced to death. Ryzuk (Thou Shalt Not Kill, Warner, 1990) has written the most complete account of this case to date (see also John Philpen & John Donnelly's Beyond Murder, Onyx, 1994). Rolling was the product of an abusive childhood, and Ryzuk skillfully contrasts the bright promise of the murdered students with Rolling's poverty-stricken background and borderline personality. Except for too much dramatic license in pretending always to know what Rolling was thinking, Ryzuk's approach is effective, and her book will appeal to true crime readers.
Gregor A. Preston, Univ. of California Lib., Davis
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. W. on November 7, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Having read Rolling's book co-authored with Sondra London, there is no comparison. This book far outstrips the former in exploring the personalities of not only Rolling, but of the victims and those close to them. I lived in Gainesville and went to the University of Florida not long after the murders, and the shockwaves of these crimes still perpetuate through the town to this day. Ryzuk captures the environment of fear that enveloped the campus and surrounding area with razor-sharp accuracy.
Ryzuk also does a superb job of painting a complete picture of events from several different angles, having interviewed many of the victim's friends and relatives, as well as others involved in the investigation. Some of the events are repeated in the book, but it's for this purpose that I believe this approach was worthwhile. Her use of a timeline during the events leading up to the crimes builds suspense and takes the reader along on a fateful ride with doom.
I have driven by the 34th Street wall memorializing the victims hundreds of times, but only after reading this book do I feel like I have a sense of who the victims all were. They are no longer five semi-anonymous names painted on a wall, but clearly distinguishable lives with different goals that, sadly, will never be achieved. My only complaint is that the personalities of Sonja Larson and Christina Powell do not come off as vividly as did those of Christa Hoyt, Manny Taboada, and Tracy Paules, which may have to do with the willingness of those left behind to talk, but that's only my speculation. By walking us through the victims' relationships and daily events leading up to the killings, Ryzuk almost breathes life into the victims again. Friends and families of the victims are also explored, and their anguish is palpable.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Lysa Burleson VINE VOICE on January 5, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Mary Ryzuk's account of the Gainesville Ripper, Danny Rolling, has got to be the absolute worst of all three books written on this case.

Her writing style is tedious and at times overly dramatic and just plain silly. For example;

"Savagely intent, and volatile, the sinister mystery of his fantasies was set free the moment he saw her. Pretty. Dark. Brunette. At the cosmetic counter."

That is way over the top. This is a true crime book not some trashy dime store romance novel. There is no need to over sensationalize and dramatize the content of a true crime book. The case itself is dramatic enough to stand on its own.

Also, her "facts" are often incorrect. I don't know what she used as research material but the text is rife with inaccuracies and her timeline of the murders is pure conjecture.

If you want to get the facts in a clear and concise manner pick up a copy of "Beyond Murder" by Donnelly and Philpin. Their book knocks the socks off of this one as well as James Alan Fox's "Killer on Campus".
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 13, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I started school at the University of Florida in August 1990...the day after the public became aware of the murders in Gainesville. I will never forget the horror and fright that accompanied my first few days of college. Nearly nine years after the fact, I wanted to read this book to find out about Danny Rolling - to try to understand what made him do what he did. I think the book gave me a good idea about his childhood and his feelings of inadequacy. But, I thought it was too graphic in describing the details of the murders. I also thought that there were a lot of things in the book that the author could not possibly know - like what the victims were thinking or feeling just before their awful murders. I thought that some of the details were wrong (for example, the Oaks Mall is in Gainesville, not Shreveport [page 160]), and that the jumping back and forth between what Rolling was doing and what the murder victims were doing at different time periods was confusing.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Konrei on September 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
THE GAINESVILLE RIPPER is author Mary Ryzuk's true-crime recounting of one of the most hideous serial-killing sprees on record, the slaughter of Christina Powell, Sonja Larson, Christa Hoyt, Tracy Paules and Manuel Taboada, all college students, in Gainesville, Florida in the late summer of 1990.

These five young people were the unfortunate victims of Danny Rolling, a small-time habitual offender and confessed murderer, now awaiting execution on Florida's Death Row. As is well known, the Gainesville victims were not simply murdered---they were butchered, sexually assaulted, mutilated, and intentionally posed in what has to rank as one of the most bizarrely ritualized occurrences of its type anywhere.

Ryzuk maintains a readable novelistic tone throughout, though at times her approach rankles. The young victims (in their late teens and early twenties) are all too predictably described as being exceptional individuals of one stripe or another. Her delving into certain private details of their lives (dating and bed partners) seems unneccessary and puerile.

Ryzuk tries to be evenhanded in her treatment of "Danny Boy" Rolling, whom she sees as the product of a cold, extremely abusive household where severe corporal punishment, spousal abuse, and aggravated assault were near-daily happenings. The Rollings are presented as a ne'er do well working poor Southern family with a long history of deadly violence toward each other (Danny's paternal great-grandfather cut the throat of his wife, an episiode witnessed by Danny's father as a child, and a paternal uncle committed suicide with a shotgun). Danny's father and paternal grandfather were both policemen, though Ryzuk makes it evident she believes they reveled only in their ability to inflict force by authority.
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