A bold attempt to understand a tormented genius, to examine a grisly crime and to explain the latter’s effects both on...

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THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL

MARY ROGERS, EDGAR ALLAN POE, AND THE INVENTION OF MURDER

An informative, swift-moving account of how Edgar Allan Poe transformed a sensational 1841 New York City murder into “The Mystery of Marie Roget” (published in three installments in the winter of 1842–3).

Stashower knows murder, and he knows the craft of biography. He has written mystery novels (Elephants in the Distance, 1989) and an Edgar-winning life of Arthur Conan Doyle (Teller of Tales, 1999) and brings to this current, complex task both considerable intelligence and wide-ranging research (he scoured Poe scholarship, 19th-century newspapers and Poe’s letters and fiction). For a while, chapters alternate between the murder investigation and the life of Poe. But eventually, the two converge. Mary Rogers, by universal assent, was a beautiful young woman who worked in a cigar shop. Men—not all of them smokers—flocked to the store. But Mary’s life was not untroubled. In 1838, she wrote a suicide note, disappeared, then returned to work. She had at least two serious suitors (both would soon be murder suspects). On a summer Sunday, she left home, supposedly to visit her aunt and attend church. A few days later, her body was found floating in the surf. The initial examination revealed signs of rape and strangulation. Local newspapers—both Horace Greeley and James Gordon Bennett were involved—fanned the flames of the investigation, printing ever more lurid speculations. Some men were arrested, but all were eventually released. And the case gradually fell from the front pages. Enter struggling writer E.A. Poe, who had already written his first detective story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and believed his fictional detective, C. Auguste Dupin, could solve the Rogers case. Poe had published two installments of “Roget” when alarming new evidence suggested that Mary had died during an abortion. Poe had to modify his final installment.

A bold attempt to understand a tormented genius, to examine a grisly crime and to explain the latter’s effects both on Gotham’s system of law enforcement and on abortion legislation.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2006

ISBN: 0-525-94981-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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THE BRETHREN

INSIDE THE SUPREME COURT

More than 170 former law clerks—and at least some of the Justices—have broken the Supreme Court's traditional silence; and the result is a searing account of the Court's inner workings from 1967 to 1975 that shows the Chief Justice to be a fool and quite possibly a scoundrel, that exposes the other Justices to ridicule and contempt, that casts doubt on the highest court as a judicious arbiter of anything. Whether or not this wholesale disrobing is a good thing, it was probably inevitable once Burger, newly installed as Chief, attempted to muzzle his law clerks and went on to flout the Court's rules of procedure—withholding his vote so he could join the majority and assign himself the writing of the opinion. In rebuttal, the other Brethren ganged up on him—determined not to let his unrepresentative views pass as the majority opinion, not to let his ineptly drafted opinions go on public record and become legal precedent. Ultimately they succeeded in stealing his majority: a dissent draft-opinion became the 7-1 choice. Its announcement stands, here, as the book's dramatic peak. What the reader sees, then, is a lawless court, ruled by the vanities and proclivities of men. Woodward and Armstrong would not, however, call it a Burger Court: with the ends increasingly polarized (Brennan and Marshall vs. Burger and Rehnquist), with the Chief a legal featherweight and a flagrant usurper, the nonideological craftsmen of the center—they contend—took control. This assessment is not entirely borne out by post-1975 rulings, many of them written by Rehnquist for the majority; but it is incidental to the book's impact. With every legal and extra-legal mo, explicated, with comings-and-goings and conversations recounted in creepy de tail ("The door to Stewart's inner office was open, and they heard someone come into the outer office. There was a moment of silence. . ."), it makes compulsive, unnerving, electric reading. Here is an elderly, intractable Hugo Black invoking a technicality to thwart the majority and bar innumerable Blackmun was dumbfounded. . . now he was a petitioners from the courts ("justice and had the same power"); here is Douglas, "never a man to procrastinate before wreaking havoc," sending a savage memo to the Chief (text provided); here is Stewart, haunted by the Sherlock Holmes case of "the dog that didn't bark," suspecting the Chief of "purposely leaving unanswered some crucial, but hidden, question." And, for comic relief, here are the annual (blue) "movie days." But only once, apropos of Douglas and two put-upon clerks, does the account become truly petty, and only very infrequently are thoughts imputed for which there is no plausible source. Dirty linen or not, most of this has to be believed—and it's dynamite.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0743274024

Page Count: 596

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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A hilarious, collectively appealing index of words and pictures drawn with wry exuberance and a head-nodding relevancy.

WHAT I HATE

FROM A TO Z

Beloved New Yorker cartoonist shares an alphabetized listing of life’s little irritants.

Veteran illustrator and humorist Chast (Too Busy Marco, 2010, etc.) has crafted a colorful career from parodying unsavory situations and maladies alongside the happenstances of the human condition. To truly enjoy her nimble pen and watercolor sketches, readers must be willing to laugh at their own harmless foibles. In the charming introduction, the author admits to being a life-long “anxious person,” a chronic insomniac who is “genetically inclined to worry,” and she brilliantly plays this personal shortcoming to maximum comical effect with the jagged line-drawing style and ironical wit that have become her trademarks. From the unsettling possibility of waking up during general anesthesia to the offbeat catastrophes of “Jell-O 1-2-3” and spontaneous human combustion, the author presents an A-to-Z catalog of distressing concerns and her unique take on “what might funny about them.” Chast prefaces each pictorial with a short, personal preamble describing what it is about each subject that has become so bothersome for the apprehensive author. She lightheartedly exposes the inconvenient nuisance of nightmares and beach undertows, the unknown consequences of Ouija boards and the wincing “imminent explosion” of annoying balloons. Chast doesn’t have much use for assumptive doctors, quicksand or carnivals, either (they’re “particularly awful at night”). Her takes on vision loss (“the girl who sat too close to the TV”), “mysterious” dental tools and the dark sides of the color yellow are sure to elicit knowing chuckles. With realistic, tongue-in-cheek foresight, the author spotlights a selection of the most commonplace, phobia-inducing situations (elevators, air travel, heights, etc.) and defuses them with brilliantly dry, flippant humor.

A hilarious, collectively appealing index of words and pictures drawn with wry exuberance and a head-nodding relevancy.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60819-689-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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