counter create hit Satan's Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption, and New York's Trial of the Century - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

Satan's Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption, and New York's Trial of the Century

Availability: Ready to download

They called it Satan’s Circus—a square mile of Midtown Manhattan where vice ruled, sin flourished, and depravity danced in every doorway. At the turn of the twentieth century, it was a place where everyone from the chorus girls to the beat cops was on the take and where bad boys became wicked men; a place where an upstanding young policeman such as Charley Becker could bec They called it Satan’s Circus—a square mile of Midtown Manhattan where vice ruled, sin flourished, and depravity danced in every doorway. At the turn of the twentieth century, it was a place where everyone from the chorus girls to the beat cops was on the take and where bad boys became wicked men; a place where an upstanding young policeman such as Charley Becker could become the crookedest cop who ever stood behind a shield. Murder was so common in the vice district that few people were surprised when the loudmouthed owner of a shabby casino was gunned down on the steps of its best hotel. But when, two weeks later, an ambitious district attorney charged Becker with ordering the murder, even the denizens of Satan’s Circus were surprised. The handsome lieutenant was a decorated hero, the renowned leader of New York’s vice-busting Special Squad. Was he a bad cop leading a double life, or a pawn felled by the sinister rogues who ran Manhattan’s underworld? With appearances by the legendary and the notorious—including Big Tim Sullivan, the election-rigging vice lord of Tammany Hall; future president Theodore Roosevelt; beloved gangster Jack Zelig; and the newly famous author Stephen Crane—Satan’s Circus brings to life an almost-forgotten Gotham. Chronicling Charley Becker’s rise and fall, the book tells of the raucous, gaudy, and utterly corrupt city that made him, and recounts not one but two sensational murder trials that landed him in the electric chair. From the Hardcover edition.


Compare
Ads Banner

They called it Satan’s Circus—a square mile of Midtown Manhattan where vice ruled, sin flourished, and depravity danced in every doorway. At the turn of the twentieth century, it was a place where everyone from the chorus girls to the beat cops was on the take and where bad boys became wicked men; a place where an upstanding young policeman such as Charley Becker could bec They called it Satan’s Circus—a square mile of Midtown Manhattan where vice ruled, sin flourished, and depravity danced in every doorway. At the turn of the twentieth century, it was a place where everyone from the chorus girls to the beat cops was on the take and where bad boys became wicked men; a place where an upstanding young policeman such as Charley Becker could become the crookedest cop who ever stood behind a shield. Murder was so common in the vice district that few people were surprised when the loudmouthed owner of a shabby casino was gunned down on the steps of its best hotel. But when, two weeks later, an ambitious district attorney charged Becker with ordering the murder, even the denizens of Satan’s Circus were surprised. The handsome lieutenant was a decorated hero, the renowned leader of New York’s vice-busting Special Squad. Was he a bad cop leading a double life, or a pawn felled by the sinister rogues who ran Manhattan’s underworld? With appearances by the legendary and the notorious—including Big Tim Sullivan, the election-rigging vice lord of Tammany Hall; future president Theodore Roosevelt; beloved gangster Jack Zelig; and the newly famous author Stephen Crane—Satan’s Circus brings to life an almost-forgotten Gotham. Chronicling Charley Becker’s rise and fall, the book tells of the raucous, gaudy, and utterly corrupt city that made him, and recounts not one but two sensational murder trials that landed him in the electric chair. From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for Satan's Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption, and New York's Trial of the Century

  1. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    As I said earlier, there is just too much information in this book. Not that it isn't interesting, there's just too much of it. The title included something about the Trial of The Century but I read up to about page 127 and as far as I could tell, the trial of the century wasn't covered. (I'm assuming it wasn't the OJ Simpson trial) The book centers around a police officer named Charles Becker, but everyone from ward bosses, to police commissioners to the mayor of New York City is described at l As I said earlier, there is just too much information in this book. Not that it isn't interesting, there's just too much of it. The title included something about the Trial of The Century but I read up to about page 127 and as far as I could tell, the trial of the century wasn't covered. (I'm assuming it wasn't the OJ Simpson trial) The book centers around a police officer named Charles Becker, but everyone from ward bosses, to police commissioners to the mayor of New York City is described at length. You need a score card to keep track of them all. When you put it down and pick it up a day or two later, you have to ask yourself, "Now, who is this guy he's talking about?" I did learn a lot about the machinations of graft and corruption in New York in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And there definitely was an interesting cast of characters. I just wish Dash had whittled the cast down a bit so I could follow the story.

  2. 4 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    True Crime Commemoration # 32 Setting: 1890s and early 1900s New York City

  3. 5 out of 5

    Harold

    I'm impressed by Mike Dash. This is the second book I've read by him. Both were turn of the century (19th to 2oth) non-fiction set in NYC, Both dealt with figures I have heard of but for the most part glancing references in a narrative that took place a little later than these did. Thus I knew little of these issues and assumed they were in the dim past and not much was known. Boy! Was I wrong. Dash brought to life the personalities he wrote of. Both books were extremely well researched. The fir I'm impressed by Mike Dash. This is the second book I've read by him. Both were turn of the century (19th to 2oth) non-fiction set in NYC, Both dealt with figures I have heard of but for the most part glancing references in a narrative that took place a little later than these did. Thus I knew little of these issues and assumed they were in the dim past and not much was known. Boy! Was I wrong. Dash brought to life the personalities he wrote of. Both books were extremely well researched. The first was "The First Family" and it was the life and times of Giuseppe Morello, who ran the first mafia family in this country. This book is the life and times of Charles Becker and the story of the murder of Herman Rosenthal, a ne'er do well gambler. It's a story I had only seen passing references to in other books. The basic narrative was Rosenthal is shot to death on the orders of corrupt cop Charlie Becker. Becker eventually goes to the electric chair for the crime in 1914. Knowing just these peripheral glimpses popping up in several books, my assumption was corrupt cop Becker was guilty. By the time I finished this book I believed that it was pretty obvious Becker was framed. Though corrupt, Becker was innocent of the murder of Herman Rosenthal. Nash doesn't take a position on this, He just lays out the facts; and that is admirable.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    I really enjoyed this but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who is looking for a "Law and Order"-type narrative. The murder doesn't happen until almost half-way through the book (and the "order" is anything but). However, I think the back story is necessary to understand the crime and the subsequent trials. I wish I'd have read this before my trip to NYC, as the history of the city was the most interesting part of the book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    The only police officer to ever be executed for crimes committed as an officer--and still debated if Charley Becker was the one ultimately responsible for the death of Herman Rosenthal. I think the author presents enough evidence to suggest that no, but Becker was certainly taking advantage of the uniform, terrorizing prostitutes in particular, to the end where he was collecting 20 times his annual take home pay in protection money, and even if he had nothing to do with the murder, the catalyst The only police officer to ever be executed for crimes committed as an officer--and still debated if Charley Becker was the one ultimately responsible for the death of Herman Rosenthal. I think the author presents enough evidence to suggest that no, but Becker was certainly taking advantage of the uniform, terrorizing prostitutes in particular, to the end where he was collecting 20 times his annual take home pay in protection money, and even if he had nothing to do with the murder, the catalyst of the whole affair was him. That graft was so endemic in the police culture was interesting--from the bribe to get hired to begin with, to all the money you had to pay as outlay to just BE a police officer, because it was quietly winked at by the Tammany politician, since besides "policing" the real job was as bag men for the politicians. This book hops from one subject to the next, which I enjoy--so you'll get detailed explanations about the different gambling games popular (I had no idea that faro was the #1 game in the US and still survives in idiom with "keeping tabs," "broke even," and "stringing along.") I liked the attention the author had in this book--saying that there is no quote in this book or description not backed up by newspapers and eyewitness statements, which is nice because far too many history books lately have fallen into pseudo fiction lately. The reformers that brought the whole Satan's Circus down were no better than the criminals really. The judge was a lunatic and it's amazing that those court room shenanigans and blatant violations were permitted. And the DA resposible, Charles Whitman (NJ Gov Christine Todd Whtiman's grandfather-in-law) definitely put aside his principles for power. The important of Charles Becker dying for his political ambitions took precedence in whatever the truth was--hence bribes and payoffs for witnesses to perjure themselves--but then a hopeless alcoholic haunted by the men he killed (there were 4 others who got the electric chair for this). Crooked cops, self-serving politicans, colorful gangsters (Gyp the Blood for example)--Rothstein makes a pretty big character in the story. One thing that did bother me though was the insistence that this was the biggest trial of all time and unparalleled, but the Stanford White murder trial was in 1906 and probably more people remember that one than the Becker trial of 1912. Overall a very interesting book and beyond the trial, describes the genesis of organized crime in America.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tony Heyl

    I got this for my eReader because the story of police corruption and the sentencing of a New York police officer to death row seemed interesting, but I had read some iffy reviews. Thankfully, it was really engrossing and interesting. Dash doesn't so much write a story with one plot point after another, but instead puts the pieces into place like dominoes and lets you watch it all unfold. Nobody is a saint and the devils in the story are more gray than dark. The main story is about Charley Becke I got this for my eReader because the story of police corruption and the sentencing of a New York police officer to death row seemed interesting, but I had read some iffy reviews. Thankfully, it was really engrossing and interesting. Dash doesn't so much write a story with one plot point after another, but instead puts the pieces into place like dominoes and lets you watch it all unfold. Nobody is a saint and the devils in the story are more gray than dark. The main story is about Charley Becker, a New York police officer at the turn of the 20th century, who is involved in graft in Satan's Circus, the section of New York that houses many illegal gaming halls and other vices. Corruption is rampant in New York City because of the influence of Tammany Hall, and if anyone wants to move up in a career in law enforcement, they have to play the game. In that vein, it is hard to look down on Becker, who is no more corrupt than anybody else and is pretty much thrust into a world where graft is the norm, not the exception. Police officers get paid well by the standards of the day, but when you put into consideration how much they have to pay to advance in their careers, they have tough lives, with working conditions being incredibly unreasonable. The corruption of the day is mostly run by the Democratic machine, but the Republicans in office aid and abet it as well, just to a lesser extent because of having less power. In the end, there really aren't any "good guys" to be found, or at least nobody without some sort of character flaw. Becker is implicated in the murder of somebody involved in graft and the story of an overzealous district attorney prosecuting it, compounded by a media and city biased against what they saw as a corrupt and abusive police force, throws doubt into Becker's guilt. What follows is a peak behind the curtain of the motivations of politicians at all levels and an eye opening story of the real runnings of New York in the early 1900's.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    This feels like the work of a good writer who was in too much of a hurry. The historical context he provides on city culture in general, and police culture specifically, in turn of the century New York is quite interesting and relevant to Dash's subject matter; the strongest part of the book is Dash's knack for conveying the integral role of corruption in every level of New York City's basic functioning. But these discussions do not feel fully integrated with the basic story Dash is telling, sof This feels like the work of a good writer who was in too much of a hurry. The historical context he provides on city culture in general, and police culture specifically, in turn of the century New York is quite interesting and relevant to Dash's subject matter; the strongest part of the book is Dash's knack for conveying the integral role of corruption in every level of New York City's basic functioning. But these discussions do not feel fully integrated with the basic story Dash is telling, softening their effect. The stephen crane anecdote with which he opens, for example, could have been a really effective way to introduce Charles Becker as a person. One can see Dash approaching that a few times in the discussion, but instead he never quite gets there, so the story feels more like an attention getting anecdote in which Dash includes his subject's run-in with a celebrity just because he can. All in all, a worthwhile read, but more than anything it makes me want to read some of Dash's earlier stuff, to see if he's better when not working on a deadline.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Deanne

    Interesting story in a time period where corruption within the NYPD was rampant. Becker the man at the centre of the story wasn't a straight cop, he's involved in making false arrests to make money and works his way up. The crime for which he is on trial for seems shaky at best and eventually seems to be a travesty of justice. Nobody in the whole mess seems to be honest except maybe Mrs Becker. However it's also a very long very dense book which have to agree with others seems over long.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Haydee

    It was soooo dense. Another reader put it down PERFECTLY: "if you put it down for two days, you'll come back wondering who so and so is." It was just over packed with details that seemed so irrelevant that it was hard to feel invested in the history being told. The growth of the different boroughs was really interesting to me, but other then that...my heart wasn't into it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Paul

    In February, 1894, Charley Becker put on the uniform of a New York City police officer. Twenty one years later, the state of New York executed him for murder. In 1894 the NYC police department was completely corrupt. The department was designed to make it impossible for a police officer to live on his salary, forcing him to accept bribes. Officers who gave trouble to their superiors were sent to outlying parts of the city where access to bribes from gamblers, pimps, and prostitutes was hard to f In February, 1894, Charley Becker put on the uniform of a New York City police officer. Twenty one years later, the state of New York executed him for murder. In 1894 the NYC police department was completely corrupt. The department was designed to make it impossible for a police officer to live on his salary, forcing him to accept bribes. Officers who gave trouble to their superiors were sent to outlying parts of the city where access to bribes from gamblers, pimps, and prostitutes was hard to find. Officers who maximized their bribes and passed a percentage of the money up the line to their superiors found themselves in the best parts of the city. Charley Becker found himself in the Tenderloin District of the city, an area called Satan’s Circus because of the gambling, prostitution, and all-night bars that provided plenty of money to a corrupt police officer. Becker maximized his money and slowly moved up the line, eventually becoming the head of the Strong Arm Squad responsible for raiding gambling houses. Becker filled his bank accounts using his position to protect those who paid him off. This part of the book was amazing to me as I was unaware of how corrupt the New York City Police Department was even less than 100 years ago. Dash does a good job of showing what the city was like and how a police officer could make a fortune in this world. He keeps the story flowing well as we near the murder of Herman Rosenthal, the gambler who was the partner of Charley Becker. But it is with the murder that the story starts to drag and become unfocused. Dash does a poor job of describing the two trials of Becker and relating it to what was going on in the city at the time. The description of the trials is confusing as he fails to focus on the key witnesses or give a good description of how the trials unfolded. He doesn’t make it easy on us as he uses the first name, last name, and nickname of the same character sometimes on the same page. The last 80 pages of the book seem almost tacked on. Since we know how the story ends, Dash needs to find other ways to make the end of the book interesting but he isn’t able to do it. Overall, the book is a fairly good read although it does drag in parts and the end could have used some help. If you are interested in the story of Charley Becker and the NYC police department and want to find out if he really was guilty (at least as well as can be found out 100 years later) then this book is well worth picking up.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Charles Becker was the first police officer in the United States arrested, convicted, and executed for murder. I find it interesting that the controversy surrounding his conviction is so enduring, particularly given the state of the modern police. Becker, convicted for enlisting a crew of gangsters to kill a man who'd accused him of graft, probably could have handled his problem more directly and with less consequences. The shaky evidence, unreliable witnesses, and obvious partiality of the juri Charles Becker was the first police officer in the United States arrested, convicted, and executed for murder. I find it interesting that the controversy surrounding his conviction is so enduring, particularly given the state of the modern police. Becker, convicted for enlisting a crew of gangsters to kill a man who'd accused him of graft, probably could have handled his problem more directly and with less consequences. The shaky evidence, unreliable witnesses, and obvious partiality of the jurists that Dash presents lead the reader to conclude that the controversy was probably too much to justify execution. I appreciate the way Dash allows the reader to come to her own conclusion, though. Beyond Becker, Dash paints an incredibly detailed picture of corruption in turn of the century New York City that is difficult to completely countenance. Charming, horrifying, and completely immoral, the city bosses and purchased politicians come alive on the page. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good historical controversy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    I'm a sucker for historical true crime, especially that of Gilded Age New York. That said, I enjoyed this book immensely. Despite the author giving away the ending on the first page of the introduction (really?!), I found myself thinking of alternate endings as I read. That's a testament to the writing skills. My only issue with the book was it could have used a Cast of Characters. With so many people named Lefty, Red Phil, Bridgey, Big Tim, Little Jim, and such--not to mention a cameo by two gu I'm a sucker for historical true crime, especially that of Gilded Age New York. That said, I enjoyed this book immensely. Despite the author giving away the ending on the first page of the introduction (really?!), I found myself thinking of alternate endings as I read. That's a testament to the writing skills. My only issue with the book was it could have used a Cast of Characters. With so many people named Lefty, Red Phil, Bridgey, Big Tim, Little Jim, and such--not to mention a cameo by two guys called Mole and Itch--it became muddled at time as to who did what. And I have a very definite opinion on What happened and Guilt or Innocence.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Hanson

    This book had some focus issues for me. It has TONS of insight on the New York City area known as Satan's Circus and the atmosphere surrounding it. Bottom line, corruption was everywhere and extremely common-place. However, as interesting as all this is, it makes it difficult to keep track of the many details of the case.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Drew Zagorski

    Satan's Circus was a very colorful, interesting read. Mike Dash's style and prose were excellent and very much reminded me of David McCullough's style. It had that rhythm. More than that, this book was an interesting story, and one I'd not really ever heard about. Charles Becker, the main character, was the first American police officer sentenced to death and executed for his crime. The story was full of interesting personalities of the time, and really pulled me in. Becker had always maintained Satan's Circus was a very colorful, interesting read. Mike Dash's style and prose were excellent and very much reminded me of David McCullough's style. It had that rhythm. More than that, this book was an interesting story, and one I'd not really ever heard about. Charles Becker, the main character, was the first American police officer sentenced to death and executed for his crime. The story was full of interesting personalities of the time, and really pulled me in. Becker had always maintained his innocence. While he was certainly corrupt and there was compelling evidence that he was behind the murder he was accused of, the author does an excellent job of laying out the story in such a way, that I do have my doubts, however minor, that he actually called for the murder himself. Anyway, without giving more away, this was an excellent true crime story that readers of the genre will be sure to find very interesting and well told.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kevin A.

    Dash does an excellent job of unraveling the shooting death of gambler Herman Rosenthal on a street in midtown Manhattan in 1912. Charles Becker, who was convicted and ultimately executed for the crime, was a crooked NYC cop who had been reaping protection money from a number of illegal gambling establishments for years. Dash argues that Becker was certainly on the take, and was wrapped up with the gangsters who committed the crime, but had nothing to do with Rosenthal’s death. Instead he was ra Dash does an excellent job of unraveling the shooting death of gambler Herman Rosenthal on a street in midtown Manhattan in 1912. Charles Becker, who was convicted and ultimately executed for the crime, was a crooked NYC cop who had been reaping protection money from a number of illegal gambling establishments for years. Dash argues that Becker was certainly on the take, and was wrapped up with the gangsters who committed the crime, but had nothing to do with Rosenthal’s death. Instead he was railroaded by an ambitious DA who was urged on by an ambitious newspaper reporter, Herbert Bayard Swope, who happened to be my great great uncle. (Nobody ever said he lacked for chutzpah.) Dash is convincing that old great great uncle Herbert got it wrong, but Becker’s extensive underworld connections are what ultimately dragged him down and made him the fall guy.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    This is a fascinating tale describing the only instance of an NYPD officer being convicted and executed for murder in the first degree. Dash does a great job detailing the political and societal problems existing in NYC at the turn of the 20th century which led to such widespread corruption in the police department. While the focus is on Lt. Charlie Becker (convicted and sentenced to death for ordering the murder of a gambler who was going to turn state's evidence), the book is most interesting This is a fascinating tale describing the only instance of an NYPD officer being convicted and executed for murder in the first degree. Dash does a great job detailing the political and societal problems existing in NYC at the turn of the 20th century which led to such widespread corruption in the police department. While the focus is on Lt. Charlie Becker (convicted and sentenced to death for ordering the murder of a gambler who was going to turn state's evidence), the book is most interesting when detailing the history of the city itself. The book overstays its welcome just a little, but sheds light on what was (in 1912) "The Trial of the Century", but is virtually unknown in 2017.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    For the most part, this book seemed about as exciting as jury duty, to me. I wouldn't have finished it had I not listened to it on audiobook. The narrator did have a great deep voice, which added to the fact that I mostly just decided to stick this through to the end for a sense of atmosphere while I did other things. I will say it did pick up a little toward the end, though, and I felt my first tinge of emotional attachment to any of the characters. There were way too many names in this book fo For the most part, this book seemed about as exciting as jury duty, to me. I wouldn't have finished it had I not listened to it on audiobook. The narrator did have a great deep voice, which added to the fact that I mostly just decided to stick this through to the end for a sense of atmosphere while I did other things. I will say it did pick up a little toward the end, though, and I felt my first tinge of emotional attachment to any of the characters. There were way too many names in this book for it to be followable, in my mind. It is definitely more of a historical account than a very engaging emotional story.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Darel Krieger

    Being a retired LEO I was naturally drawn to reading this book. I read some of the reviews before hand and one person said that she was somewhat frustrated by the amount of information that the author bestows on the reader. After reading the book I am inclined to agree. Mr. Dash cannot be faulted for failure to research this book as the reader is buried under an extreme amount of information surrounding the who, what, where, why, when & how! I found myself struggling to get through it. I found t Being a retired LEO I was naturally drawn to reading this book. I read some of the reviews before hand and one person said that she was somewhat frustrated by the amount of information that the author bestows on the reader. After reading the book I am inclined to agree. Mr. Dash cannot be faulted for failure to research this book as the reader is buried under an extreme amount of information surrounding the who, what, where, why, when & how! I found myself struggling to get through it. I found the story itself very interesting but the amount of other information was a bit much.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Peter Talbot

    Superb history: best treatment of the Croker/Murphy era in Tammany's New York bar none. The extensive footnotes are more fascinating than most other historical treatments of the gilded age and beyond. History of the most criminal trial of the 20th century. You'll learn a bunch, and be thrilled doing so.

  20. 5 out of 5

    DD

    Very dry historical read. If you like reading about different eras of city life, you might like this book. The murder doesn't happen until about page 180 or so - so you do get a lot of NYC background before that. Book is more about the times than about the individual characters.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jess Honey

    DNF at 50%. Remarkably boring for being set in such a colourful time-period.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cristobal

    New York sure was a wild place.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elliemae

    Reading the blurb I thought this would be an interesting read but it was a very slow book, wish I had not purchased it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mary Beth

    Very well researched. A lot of details. Not a quick read but an easy read. A good book for anyone interested in any New York City history.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    The depths to which powerful law enforcement and political types will go to cover up their skullduggery makes for interesting readig.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathi

    Interesting book - lots of names and although the actual names themselves were a lot of fun, it was hard to keep track of all the players.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bill Greer

    Excellent nonfiction crime drama of New York at the turn of the 20th century

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bev

    Satan's Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption, and New York's Trial of the Century by Mike Dash does exactly what you'd expect that long title to do....try to cover way too much material in one book. Er, wait, no. That's not what I expected the book to do, actually--although that's what I got. When I picked it up and read the book flap, I expected the book to tell the story of Charley Becker, a NY cop at the turn of the century (turn of last century, that is). Charley Becker was a handsome lie Satan's Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption, and New York's Trial of the Century by Mike Dash does exactly what you'd expect that long title to do....try to cover way too much material in one book. Er, wait, no. That's not what I expected the book to do, actually--although that's what I got. When I picked it up and read the book flap, I expected the book to tell the story of Charley Becker, a NY cop at the turn of the century (turn of last century, that is). Charley Becker was a handsome lieutenant who had been decorated as a hero, had led the department's vice-busting Special Squad, and who wound up on trial for his life--accused of arranging the murder of one of the members of Manhattan's underworld. Becker was also, at the time of the writing of this book, the only police officer in the United State to be executed for murder. It does tell that story. But Dash doesn't just stick to that story. He's gives great detail on the history of the police department and the history of vice in the city--everything from prostitution to gambling to gang warfare. It tells us all about Tammany Hall and Teddy Roosevelt's efforts to clean it up. It, in fact, tells way too many stories in one book. By the time we get to the "Trial of the Century" we're pretty weary. We've slogged through so much information that working our way through the ins-and-outs of the evidence and the DA's all-out determination to send Becker to the chair, we're kind of over-whelmed. Dash had a great central story. Was Becker a good cop gone bad? Was he just a normal guy--normal by the standards of the times he grew up in--who had taken advantage of the same opportunities for graft that his fellow policeman had taken and somehow become the fall guy for an overly ambitious DA? That is a story worth telling. If I stick to just that story--then this is a very interesting book. Having finished it, I can't tell you if Becker was guilty or not. He, like so many public officials at the time, was definitely on the take. So, he was no saint. But a murderer--or the man behind the murder? I just don't know. What I can say is, given the evidence and details that Dash recounts, Becker did not get a fair trial. It becomes obvious that the DA, who was a publicity-seeker looking for a way to rise in politics, was absolutely intent on getting a conviction and didn't much care how he got it. Witnesses were allowed free rein to collaborate on stories. The judge, who was very anti-police, put every obstruction possible in the way of the defense. This could have been a great book. I wish that Dash had stayed more closely tied to his central story. And I wish that, rather than rattling off fact after fact--especially when it came to the trial--he had given us more human interest. By the end of the book, I felt like I should be feeling a lot more invested in some of these people. I should feel more when Helen Becker, Charley's wife, pleads for the Governor (who just happens to have been the prosecuting DA at the time of the trial) to issue a stay of execution for her husband. But I didn't. My first thought was "Hurray, I'm done!" Three stars for the story itself and detailed information. Better execution, please pardon the pun, would have put it in the four- or maybe even five-star range.

  29. 4 out of 5

    J.

    Satan's Circus by Mike Dash is a little hard to get into. It is a complicated story and Mr. Dash uses the first hundred pages to introduce us to the characters who played a part in the trial of Officer Charles Becker of the NYPD, who in 1915 was executed for the murder of a low level gambler who was making his life difficult. Everything I have ever read on Becker pointed him to be guilty and to have received his just desserts. As Mike Dask's biography of the events and trial begin, it appears th Satan's Circus by Mike Dash is a little hard to get into. It is a complicated story and Mr. Dash uses the first hundred pages to introduce us to the characters who played a part in the trial of Officer Charles Becker of the NYPD, who in 1915 was executed for the murder of a low level gambler who was making his life difficult. Everything I have ever read on Becker pointed him to be guilty and to have received his just desserts. As Mike Dask's biography of the events and trial begin, it appears that this would be a retelling of the same story. The story becomes very complicated and I had to pull out a yellow legal pad to keep track of the characters and their interactions. Nobody is innocent and whether Becker is guilty or not, now I am not so sure. The one thing that is sure is that Mike Dash paints a very vivid picture of political corruption and police misbehavior that was the norm for this time period in NYC. He accuses D.A. Charles Whitman and Judge John Goff of judicial misbehavior and none of the men who testify about Becker seems to be trustworthy. We live in a time, especially in NYC, where political favors and manipulation of the masses seemingly upset any possible appeal to the vision of the founders of this country. When the public are lead like sheep by political branding and false information recited by News media, acting as yellow dog journalist, we see that this behavior is no different than it was at the turn of the nineteenth century, when Newsmen helped to allow Whitman send a man to his death on very suspicious testimony. Eventually things changed in NYC and the politicians of Tammany Hall where thrown out of office by a society who had had enough. Perhaps, now, we will also have enough of this similar nonsense...

  30. 5 out of 5

    James Rada Jr.

    Satan’s Circus had a cover and title that caught my eye in Border’s. They made me think about The Devil in the White City, which is a favorite book of mine. The book is also set around the same time that The Devil in the White City is set. The book is specifically about the New York City Police Officer Charley Becker’s rise, fall and eventual execution. However, it also does a great job of drawing a picture of a corrupt city and corrupt police department. It’s a dark story about an area of Manhat Satan’s Circus had a cover and title that caught my eye in Border’s. They made me think about The Devil in the White City, which is a favorite book of mine. The book is also set around the same time that The Devil in the White City is set. The book is specifically about the New York City Police Officer Charley Becker’s rise, fall and eventual execution. However, it also does a great job of drawing a picture of a corrupt city and corrupt police department. It’s a dark story about an area of Manhattan called Satan’s Circus where vice and crime ruled. Becker began as an honest cop who came from a farming community. However, his years on the force surrounded by cops who were nearly as bad as the men they arrested changed him into one of them. As bad a Becker was, once the trial started, I felt somewhat sorry for him. Overzealous prosecutors and judges needed a scapegoat for an embarrassing murder and it seems like they found one with Becker. I think that’s what I found sad about this book. It had no heroes. Still, I liked it for the most part. It was a fascinating story, though it got bogged down in some areas with side stories that held no interest for me and little connection to the main story. At one point, I found myself wondering when the book would come back to Becker’s story because it strayed into other territory for long. Reading the book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Caleb Carr’s novels, The Alienist and the The Angel of Darkness. They share the same setting and take the reader into a different world that is governed by a different set of rules.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.