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

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Mike Dash

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 … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Mike Dash
Genre: History
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
1 review about Satan's Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption,...

The rise and fall of Charlie Becker

  • Jun 28, 2010
In this book the reader is introduced to the seamy side of New York City life at the turn of the 20th century, and how the police force at that time was intimately connected with the many types of vice in the city. There were payoffs and rigged arrests, and also murders, for this was serious business to those folks.

The book eventually concerns itself with a police lieutenant named Charlie Becker, who is accused of murder (the author doesn't believe he was involved) and after two trials was eventually executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing. Around this tale the author weaves a story of such corruption that it seems almost unbelieveable, and yet it happened.

It's fascinating to read about how "the system" operated back then, and how the police, and the vice lords, interacted to see that vice was left alone for the most part, and many police, particularly the higher ranks, made an extreme amount of money for the time, and eventually retired to a life of near luxury. Perhaps they were not so different from many happenings today, except that its not as well reported as it was then, when many newspapers in New York fought out circulation wars by trying to "dig up the dirt" first, and thus sell more papers than the competition.Read this book. I feel sure that you will enjoy it as much as I did.

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