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Leopold and Loeb: The Crime of the Century Paperback – April 1, 1999
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"There have been many spectacular murders in America since 1924, including a presidential assassination, but for the first half of the century, it was the murder of Bobby Franks that most shocked the public. Hal Higdon has superbly re-created the crime, combining painstaking documentation with an absorbing, often suspenseful narrative."-Newsday "Hal Higdon's book ... may be the definitive nonfiction history of this 1920s 'crime of the century.' Higdon recounts every rumor surrounding the case and every detail of the sensational trial, amassing some provocative portraits along the way."-Publishers Weekly "The best factual account of the case yet turned out."-Chicago Sun- Times "Higdon's book outdoes anything Alfred Hitchcock ever filmed. It is a masterpiece of suspense."-Oakland Tribune "A well-researched book that tells a fascinating story." - T. C. Samford, The Ohioana Quarterly "The 1990s was an important decade for the republication of major works on the 1920s... This reprint ... should be considered among these important republications... [Higdon] manages to tell a well-known story and somehow keep even the knowledgeable reader in a state of suspense. This is a remarkable feat and one that historians - who are so prone to offering their conclusions at the outset and then filling a book-length narrative with evidence to support those conclusions - should take note of." - David M. Wrobel, Michigan Historical Review
Top customer reviews
I felt the author Hal Higdon did a wonderful job in bringing out the personalities of the two murderers, attorney Clarence Darrow, and other major characters in addition to what Chicago was like during the reign of Al Capone. This was the first "crime of the century" for the 20th century, and the fact that we have had two recent books in addition to this 1975 effort amply illustrates the continued fascination with this case.
During the month of June I had the chance to visit Ellis Avenue between 47th and 50th street in Chicago where this crime took place. A friend of mine and I walked from the former Harvard School on 47th street to Bobby Franks' home on 50th street and visualized what things were like in May of 1924 when the crime was committed. The Franks' home stands, but is now empty and in disrepair. Incidentally, the home of President Barack Obama is one street over and one block down from where Bobby Franks lived.
When I went on my search for a book about the case, I originally was looking for "Compulsion" by Meyer Levin, as that was the title I remembered from my class. However, it seems that work is out of print, and so I went with "Leopold and Loeb: The Crime of the Century" by Hal Higdon. I think this was, in the long run, probably the better choice, more firmly rooted in the world of fact than the based-on-true-events stylings of Levin's work. That is not, however, to say that Higdon's piece does not have its own issues.
I found this book to be very hard to work through, despite being interested in the subject matter. While it did, for the most part, provide a very complete picture of all of the pertinent details, I felt that the narrative was very disjointed. Higdon would often seem to switch thoughts mid-paragraph, including details seemingly unrelated to the topic being discussed. I also found it maddening that the book would often seem to be working up to a comclusion regarding some particular point, and then would abruptly stop. Names of various persons and locations were thrown around with abandon, with no hint as to whether or not the reader should recognize the name from earlier in the tale or if this was a new, separate non-sequiter. It was a very frustrating way to read a book, and this jarring writing style would often derail me from my interest in the book.
But, despite the distracting writing style, the tale told remains fascinating. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb seemed to have every advantage. They were both from well-off and well-respected families, they never wanted for any material good, they were even - in their own ways - well-liked. Combined with their superior intellects (Leopold had an IQ of 210, Loeb of 160), these two young men should have been able to achieve anything they wanted... and apparently, they felt the same way. Unfortunately, what they set their sights on was the kidnapping and murder of a neighborhood youth. The investigation and the trial to follow would hold Chicago in its thrall for months on end, with the media doing their best to spur on the public's fervor for anything to do with the case.
This tale does not lack for interesting characters. At the core, of course, are Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. Why would two young men, just 19 and 18 years old respectively, take it upon themselves to perform this bizarre act? What possible motive could they have had? But in addition to these two young men who would find themselves at the center of the "Crime of the Century," there was also Clarence Darrow, one of the pre-eminent attorneys of his day. Darrow's staunch opposition to the death penalty would play an enormous role in the course the trial would take. There were any number of other players in the game that would have roles of varying importance, and many of them proved to be quite interesting in their own rights.
All in all, I would say that this book is very interesting... despite the writing. There may be other works out there that tell the tale of Leopold and Loeb with a more readable writing style, but I do give Higdon credit for completeness. I learned a great deal about the primary participants in this sad tale as well as much about what was historical fact and what was simply myth that had been built up around the case over the years.
Most recent customer reviews
If you came to this book because you want a neutral, detailed account of what happened before, during, and after the murder of Bobby...Read more