Friday, July 12, 2019

PanicPanic by Harold Schechter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Was there an epidemic of child predators in America. Men driven to horrible desires by listening to swing music. As usual in these situations politicians, the media and others seeking a platform try to.find someone or something to blame for events that are often hard to explain.

One of the more disturbing books in this
series of historical crimes. The author focused on a brutal number of child murders that caused a panic until the more enormous issued taking place around the world in the lead up to WWII drove the issue from the headlines.

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Friday, July 05, 2019

The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of TrumpThe Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump by Michiko Kakutani
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book by Pulitzer prize winning critic Michiko Kakutani could, in a way, be seen as a companion piece to Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen. While Anderson's book looked at a history of America and our countries susceptibility to showman and con artists, from our very beginnings, this book centers on the later part of the Twentieth Century and the early decades of this one that have brought us to where we are. The books subtitle, Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump, sums up where the author is coming from and she does it quite well.

Kakutani looks back, as does Anderson, on how critical thought and the bending of "reality" began during the cultural and social turmoil of the Sixties. How did many Americans begin the split into two very separate cultures, both unaccepting of what the other felt were legitimate concerns. Social critics as far back as Orwell and Huxley predicted some of the very things that we are seeing taking place. The anti-establishment rhetoric of the Sixties radicals was taken up by the Right and used to turn even more citizens against the institutions that were meant to protect us.

The author examines the writings of folks on both the Right and Left, plus a close look at the individuals Russia who developed the techniques there that were used successfully here in 2016, and continue.

This book probably won't change minds, but it is fascinating in allowing the reader to see how we have gotten here. What we can do about it, and if we can regain the civility and unity we once had, remains to be seen.

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Thursday, July 04, 2019

The Pirate (Bloodlands collection)The Pirate by Harold Schechter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Harold Schechter is one of my favorite True Crime writers. His focus is mainly American serial killers of the 19th & 20th century. This is the first of a series of shorter works that focus on little known murders that were major events at the time, but have been forgotten.

This deals with the event leading to the conviction and execution of Albert W. Hicks, who was charged with "piracy on the high seas", despite the murders taking place in the waters off New York on an oyster boat. Hired as a mate, Hicks killed the other three members of the crew, for what amounted to less than two hundred dollars, a pocket watch and several items of clothing. As the bodies were never recovered the prosecutor went with the piracy charge.

P.T. Barnum even makes an appearance here as he paid to be allowed to make a 'life mask' of Hicks and purchased from him the clothes he wore while imprisoned. These Barnum put on exhibit in his NY hall for public display. I found it also interesting that in earlier years Hicks moved to my hometown of Norwich, CT where he was arrested and confined for a series of robberies.

Shechter also spends time discussing not only the rise of the oyster industry in NY, but the social and political tone of the era, which helped to make what Hicks did into a huge event. His execution being witnessed by thousands along the shore of what would one day be the island where the Statue of Liberty now stands.

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