- Hardcover: 560 pages
- Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (August 5, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060781009
- ISBN-13: 978-0060781002
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 97 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #402,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Chicago Hardcover – August 5, 2008
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*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
Top customer reviews
There have been a few books and movies based on the Leopold and Loeb "thrill murder", but Simon Baatz's "For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Chicago" is one of the better ones. I've read them all, beginning with Meyer Levin's, "Compulsion", a fictional accounting of the relationship between the two killers and the murder and subsequent trial. Levin writes his novel in the first person, as a fellow student at the University of Chicago and an acquaintance of the Nathan Leopold character. Baatz's book, is a straight non-fiction account and he goes into great detail about the boys' families, the twisted relationship between the boys, the crime, the psychiatric findings, and the trial. Baatz also highlights the lawyers, law officers, and doctors involved. His writing is non-sensational and the book includes plenty of pictures of the people involved in the case and maps of the area.
One of the previous reviews I read states that Simon Baatz was wrong about the number of children in the Franks' family. Baatz writes there were four, including Bobby, and the reviewer says there were only three. I was intrigued by that error - if it was indeed an error - and started checking in on-line genealogical sites and I can't find anything that says there were four children. So I think you might read this book with a bit of caution.
In this rich, action-filled book, Baatz brilliantly conveys the emotionless way that the two men think. His writing style contains a detachment from emotion that mirrors the coldness of Leopold’s and Loeb’s emotionless personalities. Baatz skillfully conjures up the contradictory and conflicting question that persists throughout the book: Were Leopold and Loeb mentally ill or not? Readers will wonder how such privileged young men could be mentally ill. At the same time, they wonder how they could be anything but mentally disturbed or defective to have committed such a horrific crime with no apparent remorse.
The book intrigues readers with graphic imagery that lacks emotion. Baatz seems to channel the voice of Richard Loeb, as the murder takes place inside a rental car: “It was inexplicable, that Bobby was still conscious. Surely those four blows would have knocked him out?” (84). The thought reveals an intellectual and objective approach to a dramatic and horrific scene. Through his objective style, Baatz articulates the lack of emotion of Leopold and Loeb, but also penetrates the minds of all the characters so the reader can experience the story from multiple perspectives.
For the Thrill of It divides the story into two sections: the events surrounding the murder and the legal aftermath of the crime. The story first conducts a forensic analysis of the characters of Leopold and Loeb, their childhoods, their seemingly enviable lives, and their orchestration of a brutal murder. The reader’s confusion about why two privileged young men would kill a boy is reinforced by defense attorney Clarence Darrow’s philosophy that oppressive social conditions like poverty, racism, broken families and lack of education cause criminal behavior. However, Baatz’s uncovering of the childhoods of Leopold and Loeb show that they are plagued by a different kind of dysfunction; even though they enjoyed wealth, privilege, comfort and education, they lacked close nurturing from their parents, and they were pushed to leave childhood early in order to achieve academically.
In the second part of the book, these questions of why they committed the murder and whether they suffered mental illness resound in the courtroom. The account of the legal strategies and of the psychological investigation draws the readers in so they feel as if they are witnessing the legal proceedings. Defense attorney Clarence Darrow’s legal brilliance and conviction shine through Baatz’s account. Readers will find themselves swayed and impassioned by perspectives about the causes of crime and the psychology of those who commit crime. Caught in the middle, readers must reconcile the testimony of psychologists and the actual quotes of Leopold and Loeb, with their suspicion that the two young men must be psychologically ill. On one hand, “[t]he witnesses for the state were unanimous in their verdict: the defendants displayed no signs of mental illness” (347). But readers also hear the resounding questions:
[f]ew criminologists had as extensive experience as Healy in the treatment of adolescents, yet even he was surprised by the emotional detachment of Nathan and Richard. They could discuss the murder casually, in a matter-of-fact, without any apparent emotion or feeling…Could the dichotomy between their intellectual ability and their emotional retardation provide evidence for a psychological interpretation of the crime? Was the boys’ affective incapacity one of the factors that had provoked the killing? (261)
This story will haunt readers and leave lingering questions long after they finish the book due to its complex examination of emotional and legal chaos. People will remember the murder that shocked Chicago.