I have not a felonious bone in my body. Except maybe sometimes speeding. Except that probably barely counts, right? RIGHT??
Anyway, at the same time, I am fascinated with true crime stories from the past. A while ago, I was way into the “Gangster” era of crime books….John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, etc. Fascinating. The book “Public Enemies” was high on my list of things read during that time. Later turned into a pretty forgettable Johnny Depp movie, this book charts the rise and fall of the most notorious criminals of that time period:
From there I fell into several other books, most notably ones about John Dillinger and of course, Bonnie & Clyde. Nothing remotely redeeming about any of these people, but fascinating to read about.
Which brings me to the latest book I’m reading…..whilst “working”….
This tells the story of a case during the late 1800’s of a young boy who was found to be a serial abuser and killer. Set in Boston, it takes the reader from Chelsea, Charlestown, and finally South Boston where the young boy’s murders happen.
Not only about that case specifically (although it is the main narrative in the book), it also includes brief looks at history of crime reporting, the insanity defense, the rise of newspapers, and, weirdly, Herman Melville.
I didn’t know anything about this story….not even a little bit. It’s a shocking crime, and the book takes you into the mind/life of the young killer. Just 12 years old when his crime spree started, Jesse Pomeroy was considered the youngest criminal in this type of torture and murder. There was a lots of arguments about his sanity, his childhood, and how “dime store novels” might have influenced his crimes. Interspersed during this time is the great fire of Boston. Another thing I didn’t know about. It’s one of the main reasons the Trinity Church is now in the Copley Square area.
What I found most interesting about this book is the lessons on how the criminal insanity defense came about and how it was used on several cases of the era. As someone obsessed with pretty much all the “Law and Order” iterations, this gave a background on some of the stuff I had no idea about. Initially, it was considered “moral insanity” rather than a mental health issue. It’s fascinating to read this part of history and then look at what we have in society today.
I bought this book on an ebook sale….which I love. But now, I can’t put it down. Or, turn off my Kindle app rather. (This is one I’m reading during the downtime at work). For those interested in the crimes and criminal justice in this country, this book is a great introduction.