Crime and Punishment in American History

Lawrence M. Friedman

Crime grows and mutates in an ongoing race with our country’s ability to name it and tame it. “In a panoramic history of our criminal system from colonial times to today, one of our foremost legal thinkers shows how America fashioned a system of crime and punishment in its own image.” How crimes change: “About three and a half centuries ago, there was a stir in the colony of New Haven, Connecticut. A sow had given birth to a ‘monstrous’ piglet. In the minds of the colonists, this was no accident… Specifically, it had to be a sign of sin, a sign of a revolting, deadly crime: carnal intercourse with the mother pig… The finger of suspicion pointed to Thomas Hogg (unfortunate name)… The magistrates put him to the test: They took him to a pigsty, and forced him to scratch at two sows in the enclosure. One sow, the mother of the monster-piglet, reacted with a show of ‘lust’ when Hogg touched her… Hogg’s guilt was crystal clear.” GR

Publisher: Basic
Paperback: 592 pages

Cruelty and Civilization: The Roman Games

Roland Auguet

Imagine a daily diet of bone-crunching slaughter, provided for your amusement, and free to all. “In the Arena,” “The Hunts of the Amphitheater,” “Purveyors to the Carnage” and “The Reign of the Star” are chapters in the cruel story of ancient Roman entertainment. Colorful, exciting and violent shows that grew more exotic over the years—Elephants! Tigers! Alligators! Bears! A re-creation of the fall of Icarus!—but never lost their sadistic appeal. Stardom could come to anyone: “‘I was no longer thin and disfigured,’ says a young man of good family captured at sea and sold to a lanista, ‘as I was when in the hands of the pirates; the good cheer that I found there was more intolerable to me than hunger; I was being fattened up like a sacrificial victim; and, scum among condemned slaves, I was a raw gladiator learning every day how to commit murder.’” GR

Publisher: Routledge
Paperback: 222 pages


Luc Sante

“Photography, like murder, interrupts life,” says the author, who also wrote Low Life. “The pictures would not leave me alone.” Presents an amazing documentation of NYPD crime photography between 1914 and 1918. Saved only by accident, it’s the “true record of the texture and grain of a lost New York, laid bare by the circumstance of murder.” Most taken with a wide-angle lens, and many taken from high above a sprawled corpse, the photos compare to a nightmare journey through a surrealistic city, always lonely, always night, and always death in every room. “Time in its passing casts off particles of itself in the form of images, documents, relics, junk.” Some can be forgotten, some cannot. GR

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Paperback: 99 pages

Gunfighters, Highwaymen and Vigilantes: Violence on the Frontier

Roger D. McGrath

Barbecues our Western heritage over the mesquite pit of mythology. “Suggests that violence in modern America is rooted less in the conquest of the frontier than in the formation of the modern city… research produces evidence of a powerful set of shared values that rigorously limited violence to consenting adults.” It wasn’t the West that was wild, it was us. Two frontier mining towns—Bodie and Aurora, California—are exhaustively researched, and the surprising and keen-eyed result “yields valuable insights into lives of the men and women who lived—and died—in them.” Chapters include: “The Esmerelda Excitement,” “Robbery, Rowdyism and Combat,” “In Illegal Pursuit of Wealth,” “Violence and the Minorities,” and “No Goodee Cow Man.” Lots of violence—funny, sad, dirty and stupid. GR

Publisher: University of California
Paperback: 333 pages

Hit Men

Edited by Rose G. Mandelsberg

Twenty-five killers-for-hire from the files of True Detective magazine. “Life is cheap! Driven by greed and revenge, passion and profit, they act as judge, jury and executioner, risking all to stab, slash, torch and shoot down their victims in cold blood. Some do it for love. They all do it for money!… Read about: Oregon’s Jon Patrick Thompson, the trigger-happy stud who killed to satisfy his vengeful she-devil lover; Texas drug dealer Andrew Cantu, who savagely stabbed three senior citizens to death for quick cash; Geraldine Parrish, Baltimore’s greedy queen of crime (how did John Waters miss this one?) who schooled her bloodthirsty brood in the art and profit of murder! From career killers to professional assassins and disturbed sociopaths…” they’re all here. GR

Publisher: Pinnacle
Paperback: 432 pages

Holy Killers: True Stories of Murderous Clerics, Priests and Religious Leaders

Brian McConnell

Nine commandments are all they can remember. “Delves into the archives to tell the extraordinary and gripping stories of over 20 clerics, priests and cult leaders who resorted to murder to resolve their personal or collective obsessions. Father Matthew Peiris, Anglican faith-healer from Letchworth, untruthfully diagnosed diabetes in his wife and his lover’s husband and gave them both fatal doses of insulin. Rev. George Dyson, Methodist minister from Westminster, gave comfort to a lovelorn grocer’s wife and liquid chloroform to put in her husband’s final brandy nightcap.” And Anglican Michael Taylor, who killed “the devil” in his wife: “With his bare hands, he tore her eyes out. He tore her tongue out. He tore her face almost from the bones and she died choking on her own blood.” GR

Publisher: Trafalgar Square
Paperback: 378 pages

Human Monsters: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the World’s Most Vicious Murderers

David Everitt

One hundred crazed executioners, presented chronologically in time, starting with 15th-century Scottish cannibal killer Sawney Beane, and ending up with the Russian “mad beast” Andrei Chikatilo. All the favorites are here: de Rais, the Ripper, Panzram, Fish, Gein, DeSalvo, Manson, Zodiac, Bundy, Gacy and Dahmer. Plus dozens of others, not so notorious but equally monstrous. GR

Publisher: Contemporary
Paperback: 272 pages

Hunting Humans: An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers

Michael Newton

Compendium of 20th-century serial killers, from Atlanta to Zodiac. “We are caught up in the midst of what one expert calls an ‘epidemic of homicidal mania,’ victimized by a new breed of ‘recreational killers’ who slaughter their victims at random, for the sheer sport of killing.” Statistics: 13 victims each day are dispatched by motiveless murderers throughout in the world. The United States boasts 74 percent of the world’s total serial killers. They are grouped in three general categories: territorial (the Night Stalker, the Hillside Stranglers), who stake out a town or county; nomads (Ted Bundy and Henry Lee Lucas), who travel in stalk of their prey; and stationary (Ed Gein, John Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer), who attend to their killing from one central location. Brief case histories, some photos. GR

Publisher: Loompanics
Hardback: 353 pages

Iron House: Stories From the Yard

Jerome Washington

Hard-edged series of vignettes about life behind bars penned by one who has been there. “‘Hard-Luck Henry’ was busted on Friday the 13th by an off-duty cop. ‘Bitedown’ bit his lover’s cock off. ‘Boxhead Mike’’s name speaks for itself. ‘Wizard’ can make wine out of Kool Aid.” “Ain’t nothing cryptic or subtle about this place. Everything is up front. Direct. To the point and for real.” GR

Publisher: QED
Hardback: 160 pages

The Jack the Ripper A to Z

Paul Begg, Martin Fido and Keith Skinner

Solve the crime of the century in your spare time! “Compiled in encyclopedic form by three of the world’s leading experts on the subject,” this revised edition brings together “all that is known on the subject… and provides a compelling insight into the enigma which still exerts such a fascination more than a century later.” Fresh info on: Dr. Tumblety, the subject of the “little child letter,” which discloses that “the head of Special Branch’s preferred suspect was arrested but escaped to the United States. The theory of Joseph Barnett, the lover of the last victim, who closely matches the FBI’s psychological profile of the Ripper.” And “the sensational ongoing story of the alleged diary confession of James Maybrick.” Hoaxes and bogus information are debunked; autopsy reports are supplied; newspaper accounts are furnished; people involved are profiled; theories and clues abound. GR

Publisher: Trafalgar Square
Paperback: 560 pages