Axeman of New Orleans: The True Story

Chicago Review Press
Free sample

From 1910 to 1919, New Orleans suffered at the hands of a serial killer. The story has been the subject of short stories, novels, and the television series American Horror Story. But the full story of gruesome murders, accused innocents, public panic, the New Orleans Mafia, and a mysterious killer has never been written—until now. The Axeman broke into the homes of Italian grocers in the dead of night, leaving his victims in a pool of blood. Iorlando Jordano and his son Frank were wrongly accused of one of those murders; corrupt officials convicted them with coerced testimony. Miriam C. Davis here expertly tells the story of the search for the Axeman and of the exoneration of the Jordanos. She proves that the person suspected of being the Axeman was not the killer—and that the Axeman continued killing after leaving New Orleans in 1919.
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About the author

Miriam C. Davis has a PhD in history and is the author of Dame Kathleen Kenyon, a life of the most important female archeologist of the twentieth century. She lectures for Smithsonian Journeys and lives in Montgomery, Alabama.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Chicago Review Press
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Published on
Mar 1, 2017
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9781613748718
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / 20th Century
True Crime / Murder / Serial Killers
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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From renowned true-crime historian Harold Schechter, whom The Boston Book Review hails as “America’s principal chronicler of its greatest psychopathic killers,” comes the riveting exploration of a notorious, sensational New York City murder in the 1890s, the fascinating forensic science of an earlier age, and the explosively dramatic trial that became a tabloid sensation at the turn of the century.

Death was by poison and came in the mail: A package of Bromo Seltzer had been anonymously sent to Harry Cornish, the popular athletic director of Manhattan’s elite Knickerbocker Athletic Club. Cornish barely survived swallowing a small dose; his cousin Mrs. Katherine Adams died in agony after ingesting the toxic brew. Scandal sheets owned by Hearst and Pulitzer eagerly jumped on this story of fatal high-society intrigue, speculating that the devious killer was a chemist, a woman, or “an effeminate man.” Forensic studies suggested cyanide as the cause of death; handwriting on the deadly package and the vestige of a label glued to the bottle pointed to a handsome, athletic society scamp, Roland Molineux.

The wayward son of a revered Civil War general, Molineux had clashed bitterly with Cornish before. He had even furiously denounced Cornish when penning his resignation from the Knickerbocker Club, a letter that later proved a major clue. Bon vivant Molineux had recently wed the sensuous Blanche Chesebrough, an opera singer whose former lover, Henry Barnet, had also recently died . . . after taking medicine sent to him through the mail. Molineux’s subsequent indictment for murder led to two explosive trials, a sex-infused scandal that shocked the nation, and a lurid print-media circus that ended in madness and a proud family’s disgrace.
In bold, brilliant strokes, Schechter captures all the colors of the tumultuous legal case, gathering his own evidence and tackling subjects no one dared address at the time–all in hopes of answering the tantalizing question: What powerfully dark motives could drive the wealthy scion of an eminent New York family to foul murder?

Schechter vividly portrays the case’s fascinating cast of characters, including Julian Hawthorne, son of Nathaniel Hawthorne, a prolific yellow journalist who covered the story, and proud General Edward Leslie Molineux, whose son’s ignoble deeds besmirched a dignified national hero’s final years. All the while Schechter brings alive Manhattan’s Gilded Age: a gaslit world of elegant town houses and hidden bordellos, chic restaurants and shabby opium dens, a city peopled by men and women fighting and losing the battle against urges an upright era had ordered suppressed.

Superbly researched and powerfully written, The Devil’s Gentleman is an insightful, gripping work, a true-crime historian’s crowning achievement.
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