by Kate Winkler Dawson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 4, 2022
Another darkly compelling work from an engrossing storyteller.
A crime historian’s account of a Jekyll-and-Hyde savant who stunned 19th-century America with a series of murders.
By all outward appearances, Edward Rulloff (1819-1871) was highly intelligent and cultured. When he died, his enormous brain—which scientists preserved for study—earned notoriety as belonging to a killer whose gruesome exploits put him in the same league as Jack the Ripper. In her latest page-turning book of historical true crime, Dawson, the author of American Sherlock and Death Is in the Air, examines the life of this “once-lauded scholar, a nineteenth-century polymath who charmed his way to the upper echelons of intellectual society,” all while living the secret, violent life of a serial murderer. After an introductory section, the author begins in 1871, a few weeks before Rulloff’s death, which found him in jail awaiting final word on his proposed execution. Writers, scholars, and alienists (psychiatrists) fascinated with the murderer’s story came to visit him, each for different reasons. “After his past was unmasked,” writes the author, “Rulloff was tantalizing fodder for journalists—a murderer cloaked as an intellectual savant anonymously roaming the streets of 1800s Manhattan.” Journalist Ham Freeman empathized with Rulloff’s hardscrabble past and approached the killer with hopes of gaining “a career-making opportunity” for himself. Greek and Latin scholar George Sawyer sought to disprove Rulloff’s work as a philologist and reveal the killer as nothing more than a clever phony. Many experts believe Rulloff was a high-level psychopath like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy. As Dawson chillingly demonstrates, he was remarkably skilled at manipulating people into getting what he wanted; he was able to convince many scholars, for example, that he was completely innocent of his crimes. As the author memorably portrays an unrepentant killer, she engagingly grapples with the still-unresolved question of whether psychopathic evil emerges from brain anomalies or nurture and the environment—or some combination thereof.Another darkly compelling work from an engrossing storyteller.
Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022
Page Count: 320
Review Posted Online: July 25, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022
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by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Winner
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.
Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Pub Date: July 8, 2015
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
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by Truman Capote ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 7, 1965
"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
Page Count: 343
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965
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