Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

A cop whose beat was a notorious patch of early 1900s Manhattan called Satan's Circus, Charley Becker is the only U.S. police officer executed for murder. But was he really guilty? (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Journalist and historian Dash (Batavia's Graveyard) proves that truth is often stranger than fiction with this monograph on Charles Becker (1870-1915), the only New York City police officer to be executed for murder. A Republican of German descent who stood out in a predominantly Irish and Democratic police force, Becker presided over Satan's Circus (a.k.a. the Tenderloin), midtown Manhattan's entertainment, gambling, and prostitution zone. His indictment and conviction for conspiracy to murder gambler Herman Rosenthal resulted in what the contemporary press called the "trial of the century" in 1912, followed by a retrial in 1914 and Becker's subsequent electrocution. Drawing from legal documents, newspapers, magazines, detective reports found in the Municipal Archives, the private Becker family collections, and Sullivan County (NY) repositories, Dash crisply traces the descent of a "crooked cop" in the context of a corrupt and crime-ridden metropolis. He augments his tale with appearances by characters like Tammany politico "Big Tim" Sullivan, writer Stephen Crane, and Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt. Using colloquialisms he freely explains-e.g., "sporting men" frequenting "blind tigers" (unlicensed drinking dens)-Dash serves up an intriguing story that will interest social historians and general readers alike. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/07.]-Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library of Congress (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

The sole police officer to be executed in U.S. history, NYPD lieutenant Charles Becker died in the electric chair in 1915 for the murder of a lowlife gambler who pimped his own wife. Set apart from other, mostly Irish, New York policemen by his German ancestry and "markedly intelligent," Becker bribed his way in 1894 onto a force infected by Tammany Hall and worked undercover patrolling the crime-riddled midtown Manhattan district called Satan's Circus, the city's center of entertainment and vice. Acquitted in 1896 of charges of falsely arresting a woman for prostitution, a charge testified to by novelist Stephen Crane, Becker went on to commit graft, perjury and theft, but by 1911 he headed his own vice squad and by 1912 he had built up a vast extortion racket. Gambler Herman Rosenthal, one of Becker's victims, exposed him to the media and the DA, and when Rosenthal was shot to death, Becker became the notorious prime suspect although some doubted his guilt. Peopled by mobsters and crooked cops and politicians, and chronicling the early years of the NYPD as well as Becker's ruin and comeuppance, this engrossing, well-researched history by the author of Batavia's Graveyard immerses readers in the corrupt hurly-burly that was old New York. Map. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In the New York City of 1912, the area called Satan's Circus was a slice of midtown Manhattan known for numerous saloons, dance halls, and vice. Into this toxic milieu stepped a young police officer, Charles Becker. Despite his inexperience, Becker stood out from the rank-and-file officers on the force. He was of German descent on an Irish-dominated force; he was tall, handsome, articulate, and intelligent. He seemed destined for larger things, and, indeed, he was. Becker quickly earned a reputation for extreme corruption and brutality. He was accused of orchestrating the murder of a local casino owner, and he was tried and executed for the crime. Becker's trial transfixed and divided the city, with many of Becker's sympathizers viewing him as a dupe of more powerful forces. In his chronicle of the crime, the trial, and the city, Dash paints an irresistible tableau that both fascinates and repels. This is a juicy but ultimately tragic tale that effectively captures a bygone era of a great city. --Jay Freeman Copyright 2007 Booklist