Review of The Murder of The Century by Paul Collins
This book involves a murder that took place in 1897. It’s not so much a mystery. Two people were arrested and charged with the murder, with both pointing the finger at the other. What makes this story so interesting are the parallels of how the press and public reacted then compared to now. The answer. Exactly the same. The only difference was the time period and technology.
The murder of William Guldensuppe occurred in New York City at a time when the only souce of news were newspapers. Thus this story, which involved a woman as a suspect, drew a great deal of attention. For it’s time, it was the Casey Anthony trial.
Much like the Casey Anthony trial, women were especially drawn to this story. People fought for the few spots available to wittness the two trials. And when the trials ended, with one suspect coping a plea for testifying against the other, everyone involved tried to cash in on the notoriety of the case. Books. Plays. It all sounds so familiar.
I’ve covered other notorius crimes around the same time period. There was the book For The Thrill of It about a 1924 muder in Chicago by two well-to-do teens. Then there is the book The Suspicions of Mr Whicher about the murder of a child in 1860. All of these books cover a period where crime solving was in its infancy and the press created an atmosphere where ordinary citizens were able to follow the case from start to finish. And like the other books mentioned, because this crime took place so long ago, the writer had the opportunity to give the reader the full arc of the story updating what happened to the many participants, in some cases many years later after they had spent decades in prison.
The writer, Paul Collins, did his homework and transports the reader back to 1897. He tells a compelling story. I happened to read the book on my Kindle. One feature missing from most nonfiction books converted to digital is an easy way to jump back and forth between source notes and the text. Publishers used to handle this using end note numbering within the text. Along the way someone decided that it was unnecessary to have those numbers populating every page of text, so they removed them. The problem, though, is that those numbers provided a convenient way for readers of eBooks to simply highlight and select an end note reference, read the source note, and then jump immediately back to the text. Without this, it’s practically impossible to read the source notes along with the text on an eReader. And in the case of this book, the source notes take up a fairly large section of the book. While there are those who prefer to not have their reading interrupted by referring to source notes, there are plenty of other readers who find a lot of useful information from end notes. They’re a lot like having an audio commentary to a film.
One other note on the Kindle version. The Kindle price for this book was $12.99. I’ve said before in my article My Personal Stance on eBook pricing that I wouldn’t pay more than $9.99 for an eBook. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder to find quality books at $9.99, and that’s a shame. If I’m interested in two books and one is $9.99 and the other is higher, I will always go with the lower priced book. The same is true between two books where one is priced $12.99 and the other $14.99. I think it is unwise for publishers to try to ring more money from eBooks. I think they would sell more copies at the lower price, enough to outweigh any gain from a higher price.