An entertaining recital of a notorious scandal.




The history of a crime of passion that revealed the sordid underside of the Gilded Age.

In 1906, millionaire Harry Thaw strode up to Stanford White (b. 1853), who was seated at a theater production in Madison Square Garden, and shot and killed him. Thaw claimed he was avenging the rape of his wife, actress Evelyn Nesbit, which had occurred in 1901, when Nesbit was a 16-year-old chorus girl. The shocking murder and the titillating details disclosed by Thaw’s two trials have been chronicled many times by historians as well as by the two protagonists in their gossipy memoirs. Baatz (History/John Jay Coll., CUNY; For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder that Shocked Chicago, 2008, etc.) takes a fresh—though groundbreaking—look at the scandal, drawing mostly on newspaper reports to create a fast-paced narrative. At the time of his murder, White was one of the most esteemed architects in New York, the designer, in fact, of Madison Square Garden. Although married, he was known for his liaisons with pretty young actresses and models, upon whom he bestowed pricey gifts. Anthony Comstock, in his campaign to suppress vice, claimed that White, along with other wealthy men, participated in orgies with young, vulnerable girls. Baatz questions just how vulnerable Nesbit was: even after the alleged rape, she benefited from White’s largesse. Thaw was astonishingly wealthy, too, and Nesbit overlooked his often strange behavior to marry him. During a European trip, Nesbit apparently—the author questions the veracity of some testimony—confided details of the rape, which incensed Thaw. Apparently, his anger fomented for years before the killing. Baatz recounts Thaw’s trials and testimony, including evidence of Thaw’s violent treatment of women. Finally, Thaw was deemed insane and incarcerated in a mental asylum. By the time he escaped, he “had achieved an almost mythic status as the heroic individual who had succeeded against the odds and had emerged victorious.” Nesbit, who continued to perform on stage and film, overcame drug addiction to live a quiet life.

An entertaining recital of a notorious scandal.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-39665-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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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

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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