April 18, 2011
A dismembered corpse and rival newspapers squabbling for headlines fuel Collins's intriguing look at the birth of "yellow journalism" in lateâ19th-century New York. On June 26, 1897, the first of several gory bundles was discovered: a man's chest and arms floating in the East River. The legs and midsection were found separately and "assembled" at the morgue for identification. The two most popular newspapersâWilliam Randolph Hearst's New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer's New York Worldâdevoted entire issues to the corpse, sending reporters out to shadow police and offering dueling rewards for identifying the man. Hearst even formed the "Murder Squad," reporters who were often one step ahead of the cops. Eventually identified as William Guldensuppe, the Danish immigrant had been caught between his landlady (and lover) Augusta Nack and her new suitor, Martin Thorn. Though both were suspects, only Thorn was tried and executed, after Nack cut a deal. Collins (The Book of William), founder of McSweeney's Collins Library imprint, gives an in-depth account of the exponential growth of lurid news and the public's (continuing) insatiable appetite for it. B&w illus.