The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars (Paul Collins)

Now this was a good read.

The true story of the gruesome murder of masseuse William Guldensuppe, in 1890s New York City, The Murder of the Century tracks both the murder investigation and the surrounding media circus that presaged today’s tabloid culture.  I don’t usually read true-crime novels, although I very much enjoy programs like 48 Hours Mystery.  (Spoiler – it was the victim’s husband/wife/lover!!)

Author Paul Collins draws from primary sources, quoting liberally from the day’s newspapers, and paints a vivid picture of turn-of-the-century NYC, as well as the burgeoning tabloid industry.  He describes the trial of suspect Martin Thorn (a barber), in the courts, and the parallel media trial of Mrs. Augusta Nack (“licensed midwife”), who was the lover of both the accused and the victim.  The carnival of Thorn’s trial makes O.J. Simpson’s look like a flea circus.  Collins paints the madcap competition between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, who is reported to have asked,

Why just cover news when you could make it? *

Collins tackles the subject with dark humor, describing flamboyant defense attorney William F. Howe as

the lawyer who had once scotched a murder case by secretly paying a witness to move to Japan. This was the lawyer who’d once gotten another murderer acquitted by blaming a stabbing on the man’s four-year-old daughter. **

I feel a true-crime spree coming on.  (Reading, not committing!)

_________

* Collins, Paul (2011-06-14). The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars (p. 143). Crown. Kindle Edition.
** Id. at p. 152.Done

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