Books by Bryn Freedman

Released: Nov. 1, 1999

This debut collaboration from journalists Knoedelseder (Stiffed, 1993) and Freedman is a comprehensive portrait of the horrific teen-mob murder of Philadelphia youth Eddie Polec and its aftermath, portraying the Polecs— grief and recovery against a complex tapestry of urban issues with acuity and sensitivity. Polec's murder was shocking by any measure of modern mayhem. A gang of teens from neighboring Abington, responding to disrespect from Fox Chase kids, hunted down the ill-starred bystander and methodically beat him to death with baseball bats. The tragedy became national news following the revelation that the city's beleaguered 911 system had logged dozens of calls during the melee which were handled ineptly or rudely during a crucial 40-minute period that might have saved Polec's life. Opposing factions within a tumultuous city were soon involved, including Mayor Rendell and the operators— union; though the principal suspects were quickly arrested, the case threatened to descend into urban sideshow dissonance. The authors wisely focus on the trauma suffered by the Polec family, and their bravery in rising above it. Their approach lends grace to a decidedly wrenching subject. Especially compelling is the tale of John Polec, an average man suddenly thrust under scrutiny, who channels his grief into exhortations against extralegal retribution and efforts to compel the city towards meaningful reform of 911 procedures and technology (ultimately achieved only after the threat of a lawsuit). Finally, the book's finely tuned emotional nuance cloaks a gripping courtroom drama, in which a galvanized prosecutor must contend with a skilled criminal defense team that has few scruples in confounding evidence of heinous culpability. In a disquieting coda, six perpetrators are convicted of third-degree murder and lesser crimes; the book avoids speculation regarding their youthful embrace of evil, an omission that darkens an otherwise tonic narrative. Still, this incisive portrayal of the Polec murder and Philadelphia's 911 crisis provides a sobering account of personal tragedy as the crucible of social change. (8 pages b&w photos) Read full book review >