Book ‘Em Vol. 41

May 5, 2014 - by J. Patrick O'Connor - 0 Comments

Crime Magazine's Choice of True Crime Books 

by J. Patrick O’Connor

The Yoga Store Murder: The Shocking True Account of the Lululemon Athletica Killing by Dan Morse (Berkeley Books, 2013). Jayna Murray, the 30-year-old manager of the trendy lululemon athletica store in upscale Bethesda, Maryland, was found murdered in the store on October 12, 2001. She had been slashed, stabbed and struck more than 300 times. Her assistant, 28-year-old Brittany Norwood, was found alive, tied up on the bathroom floor. Her clothing was ripped and she had facial lacerations. She told the police that two masked men had entered the store just after closing and attacked them. To veteran homicide detective Jim Drewry the story Norwood told and her lack of serious wounds didn’t add up. Morse, a crime reporter for the Washington Post since 2008, reported on the case from start to finish. The book goes step-by-step through the meticulous police investigation that leads to Norwood’s conviction of first-degree murder and a sentence of life.

Hauptmann’s Ladder: A Step-by-Step Analysis of the Lindbergh Kidnapping by Richard T. Cahill Jr. (Kent State University Press, 2014). No kidnapping in U.S. history has generated more public interest than that of the Lindbergh baby in 1932. Over the years numerous books have advanced various contradictory theories about the celebrated case. Some have gone as far as positing that Charles Lindbergh himself killed his own son and fabricated the kidnapping to cover his tracks. For many of those authors the composition of the ladder used in the kidnapping has been at the center the controversy over Bruno Hauptmann’s conviction. Hauptmann’s many defenders contend the police planted the slats on the ladder to frame him, ignoring the other pieces of evidence, such as the ransom money in his possession, to make their case. Richard Cahill, a former assistant district attorney and criminal defense lawyer, debunks each claim that points to a police conspiracy, using the slats on the ladder as the centerpiece of his case against the German carpenter who had illegally entered the United States in 1923.

The Mob and the City: The Hidden History of How the Mafia Captured New York by C. Alexander Hortis (Prometheus Books, 2014). A definitive examination of how the Mafia came to dominate organized crime in New York City during the 1930s through 1950s. Gaining control of the Port of New York was the key element in the Mafia’s rise to power. In 1880, 95 percent of the longshoremen were Irish; 20 years later one-third were Italian, usually of Sicilian origin. By 1930, the Sicilians were in the majority on the docks.  From there Costa Nostra took root and the Five Families became embedded in all forms of organized crime throughout the city. Hortis finds that it was the mob’s foot soldiers rather than its godfathers who forged Cosa Nostra, capturing New York by becoming part of it. By the 1950s the Mafia families had grown to include 2,000 “made men” and thousands more criminal associates entrenched throughout the economy, neighborhoods, and nightlife of New York. The book covers such topics as: Who founded the modern Mafia? Who shot Albert Anastasia at the Park Sheraton barbershop? And who was present at the infamous meeting of the Mafia in Apalachin, New York?

Hunting the President: Threats, Plots, and Assassination Attempts from FDR to Obama by Mel Ayton (Regnery Publishing, 2014). Mel Ayton chronicles the scores of assassination attempts made against U.S. presidents since the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. Taking one president at a time, the book presents a series of case studies of presidential attackers, plotters and threateners. As with all of his other books, Ayton's research is wide and deep. This book is based on archived interviews with Secret Service agents, U.S. presidents and their family members; oral histories from presidential libraries; congressional reports; the published memoirs of Secret Service agents; police profiles; FBI files; government agency reports, newspaper archives, and court records. The book is an amazing and disturbing account of a subset of U.S. citizens who, regardless of who happens to be president, desire to kill the incumbent. Almost all of these people are lonely and alienated -- not moved by political fervor -- who see assassination as a way to settle a score for a real or imagined grievance. Another major motivator is fame or at least infamy. In his research, Ayton discovered an extraordinary array of cases that did not gain public attention even as they rang alarm bells at the highest levels of the government. In many cases the threat was quite real but the Secret Service, wary of "copycat" perpetrators, kept many of these attempts under wraps. Such was the case in the spring of 1963 when President Kennedy was approached by a man with a gun during a stop at a high school in Nashville. Secret Service agents tackled the man before he could take a shot. Back in 1954, when war hero Dwight Eisenhower was president, the Secret Service estimated that "every six hours someone in the United States made a threat against the president or his family." FDR, in particular, stirred deep resentment. Of the 40,000 letters a month sent to him at the White House each month, 5,000 of them contained threats on his life. In the period between 1949-1950, the Secret Service investigated 1,925 threats against President Truman's life. During the first year of the Korean War, the threats doubled. By his last year in office, the threats had grown to 3,000. President Nixon evaded six extremely serious assassination attempts, including one from Arthur Bremer who stalked Nixon in Ottawa, Canada in April of 1972 for three days. Foiled there, Bremer attempted to assassinate Gov. George Wallace the next month. By 1978, when Jimmy Carter was president, the Secret Service was processing more than 14,000 cases of threats against him. Of the 406 arrests that resulted, 311 led to convictions and prison time for the offenders.

One potential assassin was sentenced to 40 years for trying to kill President Clinton. After 9/11, George W. Bush became the most-guarded president in U.S. history. The election in 2008 of Barack Obama brought an unprecedented level of threats against the nation's first black president both at home and abroad. Anders Breivik, who would go on a mass-murdering spree at a summer camp in Norway, plotted to assassinate President Obama at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo in 2009. For U.S. history buffs, Hunting the President will open an entirely new area of
Americana.

The Great Heist: The Story of the Biggest Bank Robbery in History by Jeff McArthur (Bandwagon Books, 2014). Two minutes after the Lincoln National Bank opened for business at 10 a.m. on September 17, 1930 five men wearing dark business suits, carrying red and white sacks in one hand and guns in the other, entered. They ordered the dozen customers already in the bank and the bank’s employees to lie down on the lobby’s floor. Eight minutes later the men emerged with more than $2.7 million in cash and securities – the largest take of any bank heist in history. The book covers the search for the bandits, the trials that followed, and the incredible story of how authorities – with an assist from Al Capone – got almost all of the money back.

Villains, Scoundrels, and Rogues: Incredible True Tales of Mischief and Mayhem by Paul Martin (Prometheus Books, 2014). This is a fun read with a lot of interesting, generally unknown or forgotten characters. Here you’ll meet President Lincoln’s missing bodyguard; Maggie and Kate Fox, the celebrated founders in the mid 19th century of the Spiritualism movement who were finally found to be frauds; Hetty Green, the value investor who became the first woman to earn a fortune on the stock market and who came to be known in the late 19th century as the “Witch of Wall Street”; Herbert Bridgman, a Brooklyn newspaperman who accompanied Robert E. Perry on several expeditions to Greenland and who would champion that cause that Perry, not Dr. Frederick A. Cook, was the first to reach the North Pole when the great explorer made it there in 1909; Peggy Hopkins Joyce, the consummate gold digger of the Roaring 20s.; and best of all Titanic Thompson, hustler par excellence, the man who would wager on anything and won millions doing so only to die broke at age 81, but what a run of notoriety he had from the 1920s through the 1940s.

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