The daring cleverness of both Wild and Sheppard makes for fun historical reading.

How the beginnings of true crime reporting and the birth of tabloid journalism can be tagged to Daniel Defoe’s years in prison for libelous sedition.

Generally eschewing troublesome political writing after his imprisonment, Defoe instead investigated and wrote about the lower orders, providing Skirboll (The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven: How a Ragtag Group of Fans Took the Fall for Major League Baseball, 2010) with wonderful resources for this story of criminal Jonathan Wild (1682-1725) and escape artist Jack Sheppard (1702-1724). Wild learned the fine art of thievery while serving in debtors prison, and he learned it so well that he became the man thieves turned to for advice. It wasn’t long before Wild incorporated and set up his “Lost Property Office” advertising and selling stolen items back to their owners. Thieves who didn’t bring their goods to him, like Sheppard, were “apprehended” and often hanged, with Wild taking the reward; thus his title of “Thief-Taker.” Eventually, he broke up London’s largest gangs and had hundreds of thieves on his own list. Skirboll shows the lives and trials of Londoners from all classes. In the 18th century, the city had no official police department, and it was up to the victim to initiate the prosecution of wrongdoers. Defendants often received no counsel, and they also had to worry about the straw men, professional perjurers and unpunished crime. Though this is not a Defoe biography, his background and career producing pamphlets and newspapers are vital. “His writing propelled journalism into the future and gave us,” writes the author, “the celebrity criminal, the gossip column, investigative reporting, tabloid journalism, and the true crime drama.” His exclusive interviews of felons in Newgate and other London prisons truly changed the face of journalism.

The daring cleverness of both Wild and Sheppard makes for fun historical reading.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7627-9148-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006


"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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