Steve Huff is turning into a historic true crime junkie. It's official -- he sent me this link to a terrific new addition to Google's Complete Classic True Crime Library.
The latest book to appear magically on our top shelf is Celebrated Criminal Cases of America by Thomas Samuel Duke. Until now, you'd pay $50 - $250 plus shipping or more to lay your hands on it.
Coincidently, I once read this exact book in a glorious afternoon long ago at the University of Michigan's historic crime library. My notes are lost. Silly me! I only had to wait a bit and save myself the trip. A lot of Google's crime classics are coming from U of M and from the New York Public Library, where Edmund Pearson donated his personal crime library.
Celebrated Criminal Cases was a bestseller then and is a classic in this genre now. Dashiell Hammett was famously in love with this book. It was his enchiridion, his vade mecum.
In Celebrated Criminal Cases of America, the author claims the book is "the first history published of the celebrated criminal cases in America, [and] includes the most important cases during the past eighty years." Well. Considering it was published in 1910, that claim can be completely disregarded.
But this book is chock full of 110 of the most shocking, sensational, mesmerizing duels, stranglings, lynchings and murder mysteries of the stated period, concentrating on San Francisco and California particularly.
The student of true crime will recognize many of the dozens of cases described and illustrated in this one volume. Ones you might recognize from the index -- Alfred Packer, the Dalton Brothers, Mountain Meadows Massacre, the Bender's Tavern, Quantrill, James Gang (with photo of the bandits), Haymarket Riot, Belle Gunness, Dr. Holmes, the kidnapping of Charley Ross, the Harry Thaw-Stanford White case, the McFarland-Richardson Trial, Dr. Parkman & Dr. Webster, Jesse Pomeroy, Helen Jewett, Mary Rogers, the murders of Blanche Lamont and Minnie Williams in a Church by Durrant (San Francisco), and Cordelia Botkin, "Who Murdered Mrs. Dunning and Mrs. Deane in Delaware With Poisoned Candy Sent Through the Mail."
Some others are new to me and sound interesting as well: Jacob Oppenheimer, the "Human Tiger," and "The Remarkable Case of Circumstantial Evidence Against Charles Mortimer, Who Murdered Mrs. Gibson in Sacramento, Cal. And I can't wait to read "Mysterious Murder of Dr. Burdell in New York and Mrs. Cunningham's Remarkable Scheme to Procure the Estate." And this sounds like a good one: "The Killing of Harry Poole by Truly Shattuck's Mother" -- something tells me Harry Poole had it coming.
Must stop blogging and find my box of paper.