An accessible, marvelously rigorous account of a bygone legal era.



A historical study of the often dysfunctional judicial system in late-19th-century New York City.

In the last third of the 1800s, Manhattan was a hotbed of crime, and its courts were often hamstrung by a toxic combination of unscrupulous law enforcement personnel and crude investigative techniques. In this book, Underwood (Law/Univ. of Kentucky; Crimesong, 2016) furnishes a series of journalistically rendered vignettes meant to capture the essence of that legal milieu. Much of the work is devoted to larger-than-life legal figures: William “Big Bill” Howe, for instance, was a cinematically dramatic defense lawyer known for his courtroom histrionics; he kept reporters on the payroll to advertise his triumphs and was among the first to rely upon a client’s claim of insanity as a defense. William Travers Jerome, known as “The Reformer,” was a prosecutor who made his reputation sending corrupt attorneys to jail. But he was no angel; he once used an affidavit in a case from a crooked lawyer he’d once prosecuted for suborning perjured affidavits. Over the course of two chapters, the author follows the case of Ameer Ben Ali, nicknamed “Frenchy,” who was tried and convicted for the murder of a woman in 1891. The prosecution was particularly devious and suggested that Ali might also be London’s Jack the Ripper, but he was eventually pardoned. Underwood is a masterful researcher, and he combs diligently through newspapers and trial transcripts to reconstruct these historical snapshots. He meticulously describes a judicial cosmos that’s largely unfamiliar now—one without Miranda warnings or scientifically sophisticated forensic tools. Trials instead relied heavily on eyewitness testimony and lawyerly skill, which generated unequal outcomes: “Because crime science was in its infancy, the guilty actually had a shot at acquittal with the right lawyer; but the innocent were often at the mercy of unscrupulous prosecutors, corrupt police, and hanging judges.”

An accessible, marvelously rigorous account of a bygone legal era.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-945049-01-9

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Shadelandhouse Modern Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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