H.H. HOLMES

THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE WHITE CITY DEVIL

A passion for Holmes lore will lead to appreciation for the depth of background and lesser criminal exploits described in...

An attempt to unmask an infamous mass murderer.

In this occasionally thrilling new biography of H.H. Holmes (1861-1896), who received renewed attention in 2003 when Erik Larson published The Devil in the White City, Mysterious Chicago tour guide and author Selzer (Just Kill Me, 2016, etc.) recharacterizes Holmes as a small-time con man who was likely guilty of a series of murders in Chicago. In his introduction, the author makes his argument clear. Holmes, he writes, is said to have killed more than 200 people in his “murder castle,” but he was only actually accused of killing one person at that location. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t make clear from the beginning that he believes Holmes killed many more people, with the other crimes occurring elsewhere. Immediately, Selzer launches into a history of Holmes the con man, and it is only a third of the way into the book that he begins to explore the other murders he suspects Holmes is guilty of committing. Selzer’s attempt to understand Holmes by delving deep into his early history of insurance and mortgage fraud and bigamy is initially intriguing on a psychoanalytical level, but it keeps the later portions of the story, which focus on the murders, from feeling like a natural part of the narrative. The author’s research is unquestionably impressive, and he effectively exposes how the Holmes legend became what it is today based mostly on conjecture and gossip. But for all the new information Selzer brings to light, large chunks of the story are plodding and confusing. Few readers will argue with the author’s assertion that it is the unfounded nature of the legends surrounding him for which Holmes is an intriguing figure, but a combination of disjointed storytelling and unnecessary minutiae slows the pace.

A passion for Holmes lore will lead to appreciation for the depth of background and lesser criminal exploits described in great detail, but the audience will remain limited.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-1343-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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