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The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • ISBN-10: 0307592227
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307592224
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)

More About the Author

Paul Collins is a writer specializing in science history, memoir, and unusual antiquarian literature. His 8 books have been translated into 10 languages, and include Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books (2003) and The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars (2011). His freelance work includes pieces for the New York Times, Slate, and New Scientist, and he appears on NPR Weekend Edition as its "literary detective" on odd old books.

Collins lives in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches in the MFA program at Portland State University.

Customer Reviews

I found the book fascinating and a very good read.
Dee S. Knight, Erotic Romance author
The book is very well written, keeps the reader's interest, and is carefully researched.
R. H. Johnson
If you love true crime stories, I highly recommend this book.
Mariangela Buch

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

135 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Peter Hillman on June 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a real gem, a fun and delightful good read, of a bygone era with which the author clearly
is in love, an era when reporters collared and interrogated witnesses with or without the police, the police hustled to try to know as much as the journalists, a haircut, shave or massage could be taken way too literally, the streets were dominated by horses, immigrant groups knew their tribal members, and among the chief entertainments were competing, screaming morning and evening newspapers, each pulling out all the stops.

Sitting atop the "yellow journalism" pile were two giants: Hearst, young and up-start, willing to apply any amount of yellow ink to sensationalize his "Journal" and out-do the others; and, Joseph Pulitzer, hardly the epitome of journalistic integrity we think of today when his eponymous awards are given. This Pulitzer, much older and venerated, seems willing to "yellow up" his "World" almost against his better instincts.

To convey a meaty sense of what these end-of-the-Gilded Era times and journalism wars were like, Collins resurrects the Guldensuppe "Scattered Dutchman" murder case--seemingly lost up to now to general readers. In fact, an internet search today of "Guldensuppe murder case" reveals primarily 114 year-old press clippings. Collins, to his immense credit, has done exhaustive primary research to draw us in to the times, the personalities, the case, the papers. What's more, his chapters are supported by substantial end notes that often also delight and inform the reader. Throughout, Collins writes with a sense of immediacy and wonder, a you-are-there style that builds as quickly as one can turn the pages.

I found this a captivating and engrossing read.
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78 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Martinez on June 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I won an ARC of The Murder of the Century from the publisher in a Goodreads giveaway and was so excited to read it because I've really been looking forward to this book. I have a serious love of good narrative nonfiction.

The Murder of the Century is a two-part story. The first aspect of the story is the grisly murder (and subsequent trial) that gripped New York City in 1897 after a man's torso was found floating near a pier by two young boys. At first, the police were baffled and had no clues as to the identity of the dead man, let a long a suspect or a motive. As other body parts and clues turned up across NYC, detectives plunged into investigating the gruesome crime and trying to find leads. The second (and perhaps more central) part of the story is the publicity circus that arose surrounding the murder and trial. Media moguls William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer seized the story and fed the growth of their newspapers (the Journal and the World, respectively) on sensational headlines following every aspect and detail of the case. Hearst even created a Murder Squad at his paper to do their own detective work, and reporters for both papers were often ahead of the real police detectives in chasing leads and finding clues.

Collins's book is a really great history of the beginnings of the tabloid wars and yellow journalism, told through the lens of the Guldenseppe murder -- the crime that really sparked the escalation of the newspaper wars and which found Pulitzer and Hearst dueling fiercely for headlines and readers. The book is extremely readable and in the style of popular history books like those written by Erik Larson and Howard Blum.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By R. Baum on June 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a great rip-roaring summer read. I loved the suspense of the murder mystery along with the carefully researched details that made late-Victorian era New York come to life. The yellow journalism tabloid war was just icing on the cake, as it broadened my understanding of how journalism in that era reported and made the news. When I started this book, I could hardly put it down and devoured it over a three day period. I love history books such as this that also provide the suspense and excitement that I would normally expect from a fictional novel rather than an historical account.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Andy Shuping on October 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a well researched book and I can only imagine the amount of time Paul Collins spent at the libraries and talking to the librarians to find this stuff. He makes judicious use of the other newspapers of the time and even gives us some of the front pages from the time. He gives such great information on the late 1800's and the newspaper wars between Hearst and Pulitzer and the way they reported (and investigated) the Guldensuppe murder. Collins makes the reader feel like they are actually part of that time period and helps us soak in the feelings from that era where so much was changing and so quickly.

Where this book faltered a bit for me is that the pacing isn't always the most even in the first half of the book. He bounces around from following reporters from the World and then back to the Journal or following the trail of a detective and at times its a struggle to figure out whose who. I think part of the problem is that there are so many different players that we never get a sense of who they really are, such as Detective Carey. He's introduced early on, mentioned once or twice more...and then seemingly fades, even though he seems to have been a major person within the investigation. There are also a couple of places where he starts a story and then never finishes it. Such as the case with the experienced diver that indicated he found something, it's never revealed what he found. Maybe Collins doesn't know, but why mention it then?

All in all an interesting read on the first great murder trial of the modern time, but not one I would purchase for myself.
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