Madness, Mayhem, and Murder

I’m a sucker for an awesome book title, and historical nonfiction books have some of the most attention-grabbing titles I’ve ever seen, hinting at untold stories of scandal, intrigue, murder, and insanity.  If you’re like me in that you tend to judge a book by its title, take a look at these entirely true historical tales.  If only our history teachers taught us these stories in high school…

Sin in the Second City : Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle For America’s Soul by Karen Abbott
306.74 ABBOTT

“Step into the perfumed parlors of the Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history–and the catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation. Operating in Chicago at the dawn of the 20th century, the Club welcomed moguls and actors, senators and athletes, foreign dignitaries and literary icons into a stately double mansion, and the Everleigh sisters treated their girls far better than most madams. But not everyone appreciated their attempts to elevate the industry. Their most daunting foes were the Progressive Era reformers, who sent the country into a frenzy with lurid tales of “white slavery”–the allegedly rampant practice of kidnapping young girls and forcing them into brothels. This furor shaped America’s sexual culture and had repercussions all the way to the White House, including the formation of the FBI.”


The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber
364.1523 GRAEBER

“After his December 2003 arrest, registered nurse Charlie Cullen was quickly dubbed “The Angel of Death” by the media. But Cullen was no mercy killer, nor was he a simple monster. He was a favorite son, husband, beloved father, best friend, and celebrated caregiver. Implicated in the deaths of as many as 300 patients, he was also perhaps the most prolific serial killer in American history. Cullen’s murderous career in the world’s most trusted profession spanned sixteen years and nine hospitals across New Jersey and Pennsylvania. When, in March of 2006, Charles Cullen was marched from his final sentencing in an Allentown, Pennsylvania, courthouse into a waiting police van, it seemed certain that the chilling secrets of his life, career, and capture would disappear with him. Now, in a riveting piece of investigative journalism nearly ten years in the making, journalist Charles Graeber presents the whole story for the first time.”


The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt For America’s First Serial Killer by Skip Hollandsworth
364.1523 HOLLANDS

“In the late 1800s, the city of Austin, Texas was on the cusp of emerging from an isolated Western outpost into a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. But beginning in December 1884, Austin was terrorized by someone equally as vicious and, in some ways, far more diabolical than London’s infamous Jack the Ripper. For almost exactly one year, the Midnight Assassin crisscrossed the entire city, striking on moonlit nights, using axes, knives, and long steel rods to rip apart women from every race and class. At the time the concept of a serial killer was unthinkable, but the murders continued, the killer became more brazen, and the citizens’ panic reached a fever pitch. Before it was all over, at least a dozen men would be arrested in connection with the murders. And yes, when Jack the Ripper began his attacks in 1888, London police investigators did wonder if the killer from Austin had crossed the ocean to terrorize their own city.”


The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
364.1523 LARSON

“An account of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 relates the stories of two men who shaped the history of the event–architect Daniel H. Burnham, who coordinated its construction, and serial killer Herman Mudgett.”

 

 

 

 


Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William Mann
364.1523 MANN

“Hollywood chronicler William J. Mann draws on a rich host of sources, including recently released FBI files, to unpack the story of the enigmatic William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, and the diverse cast that surrounded him before he was murdered in 1922–including three beautiful, ambitious actresses, the ruthless founder of Paramount locked in a struggle for control of the film industry, a grasping stage mother, a devoted valet, and a gang of two-bit thugs, any of whom might have fired the fatal bullet.”

 


The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt for America’s Youngest Serial Killer by Roseanne Montillo
364.1523 MONTILLO

“Documents a series of child abductions against the backdrop of the Great Boston Fire of 1872, and the discovery of the teenaged killer that sparked a system-changing investigation and influential debates among the world’s most revered medical minds.”

 

 

 


The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who InspiredChicago” by Douglas Perry
364.1523 PERRY

“The true story of the murderesses who became media sensations and inspired the musical Chicago. There was nothing surprising about men turning up dead in Jazz Age Chicago. But two murders that spring were special, or so believed Maurine Watkins, a “girl reporter” for the Chicago Tribune, the city’s “hanging paper.” Newspaperwomen were supposed to write about clubs, cooking and clothes, but the intrepid Miss Watkins zeroed in on murderers instead. She made “Stylish Belva” Gaertner and “Beautiful Beulah” Annan–both of whom had brazenly shot down their lovers–the talk of the town. Soon more than a dozen women preened and strutted on “Murderesses’ Row” as they awaited trial, desperate for the same attention that was being lavished on Maurine Watkins’s favorites.”


The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean
546 KEAN

“The periodic table of the elements is a crowning scientific achievement, but it’s also a treasure trove of passion, adventure, obsession, and betrayal. These tales follow carbon, neon, silicon, gold, and all the elements in the table as they play out their parts in human history. The usual suspects are here, like Marie Curie (and her radioactive journey to the discovery of polonium and radium) and William Shockley (who is credited, not exactly justly, with the discovery of the silicon transistor)–but the more obscure characters provide some of the best stories, like Paul Emile François Lecoq de Boisbaudran, whose discovery of gallium, a metal with a low melting point, gives this book its title: a spoon made of gallium will melt in a cup of tea.”


The Beautiful Cigar Girl : Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder by Daniel Stashower
813.3 STASHOWE

“Daniel Stashower, the Edgar Award-winning author of the highly acclaimed Arthur Conan Doyle biography Teller of Tales, delivers a gripping true story of murder and media mania–including the controversial involvement of Edgar Allan Poe–in 1840s New York.”

 

 

 


Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
973.8409 MILLARD

“A narrative account of the twentieth president’s political career offers insight into his background as a scholar and Civil War hero, his battles against the corrupt establishment, and Alexander Graham Bell’s failed attempt to save him from an assassin’s bullet.”

 

 

 

 

Happy reading!

—Katie, Adult Reference