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For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Chicago Hardcover – August 5, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
In 1924, Nathan Leopold, 19, and Richard Loeb, 18, both intellectually precocious scions of wealthy Jewish Chicago families, kidnapped and brutally murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks in an attempt to commit the perfect crime. Historian Baatz, of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, replays the crime (on which Meyer Levin's 1956 novel Compulsion was based) from the killers' point of view, detailing their intense, often sexual, relationship that culminated in the murder. But they left a crucial piece of evidence and eventually confessed to the murder. Clarence Darrow cleverly had the boys plead guilty to avoid a trial, and the legendary defense attorney went head to head with State's Attorney Robert Crowe in a sentencing hearing before Judge John Caverly. Both sides trotted out psychiatrists to testify whether Leopold and Loeb were mentally ill. Darrow's gamble paid off in life sentences. Loeb was murdered in prison in 1936; Leopold was eventually paroled in 1958. Baatz gives an acute portrait of the two murderers bound together in a web of fantasy, but his heavy reliance on novelistic techniques (there!—he had done it) and meandering pacing prevent this from being as convincing as his exhaustive research deserves. B&w photos. (Aug.)
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*Starred Review* Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb have been the objects of derision and curiosity ever since the sensational murder they committed on Chicago’s South Side in 1924. These two privileged teenagers, who killed little Bobby Franks, a neighbor, also from a privileged family, just for the thrill of achieving the perfect crime (“a murder that would never be solved”), have become almost legendary “bad boys.” Baatz’s comprehensive account of the case succeeds in identifying their peculiar personality traits as well as what it was in the nature of their relationship that made them believe in their infallibility in performing the ultimate crime. All of Leopold and Loeb’s intense planning quickly unraveled, however, when the victim’s body was discovered soon after the murder; the murderers had counted on the body never being located. The second strong point of this exhaustively researched and rivetingly presented account is the thoroughness with which the author reconstructs the police investigation and the trial itself; a vivid portrait of the famous lawyer Clarence Darrow, who defended Leopold and Loeb, is a fascinating by-product. One of the best true-crime books of this or any other season. --Brad Hooper
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Top Customer Reviews
Simon Baatz does a good job in explaining the intricate case in easy to read and understand prose. This is a fine book which will keep you flipping the pages. Fascinating reading!
I personally grew up in the are of the killing and where they lived, so that was something for me to read. I remember my father talking about it, and it was just something that the world thought was horrendous at that time. The book tells you that reporters came from every country around the world to report from the trial. In that day and age, it had to be something....there was only radio.