Litercurious Book Review
|Title||Nothing But The Night|
|Author||Greg King and Penny Wilson|
|Publisher||St. Martin’s Press (September 20, 2022)|
|Format||Kindle, Hardcover, and Audiobook|
|Genre||True Crime, Murder & Mayhem, United States History|
Greg King is the author of many internationally published works of history, including The Last Voyage of the Andrea Doria. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Majesty Magazine, Royalty Magazine and Royalty Digest. He lives in the Seattle area.
Greg King bio source: Macmillan
Penny Wilson is the author of Lusitania and The Last Voyage of the Andrea Doria with Greg King and several internationally published works of history on late Imperial Russia. Her historical work has appeared in Majesty Magazine, Atlantis Magazine, and Royalty Digest. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three Huskies.
Penny Wilson bio source: Macmillan
On 21 May, 1924, 14-year-old Robert “Bobby” Franks was found brutally murdered. Bobby was the son of a millionaire business owner. Although murders were commonplace, Bobby Franks killing was, arguably, the first of its kind for America; its first “thrill killing.”
The two accused, both teenagers, viewed themselves as Übermensch; a phrase meaning Supermen as described by nihilist and philosopher Frederick Nietzsche in his book1 Thus Spake Zarathustra. Übermensch is a term to describe men for whom the normal rules do not apply. The grim truth of the crime was even more vomitus than anyone could ever imagine.
Dubbed “the crime of the century,” the court case proved to reveal more than the details of a crime, but introduced America to a sickening new criminal trend; the thrill killers! In the dock were the two accused: 18-year-old Richard “Dick” Loeb and 19-year-old Nathan “Babe” Leopold Junior.
Richard Loeb was the son of a wealthy lawyer who became a senior executive at Sears, Roebuck & Company. He was handsome, well-healed, charming and liked by his peers. Next to Loeb sat his co-conspirator, Nathan Leopold Jr. In contrast to Loeb, Leopold was described as “sinister.” He was once admired for his prodigious intelligence and yet he appeared to some of his cohorts to be “peculiar” because of his haughty attitude and aloof nature; preferring book-learning to social situations.
Due to the nature of the crime, the two teenagers faced a charge of murder in the first degree. Their legal counsel was the highly esteemed defense attorney, 67-year-old, Clarence Darrow Esquire. Who was arguably the most feared attorney in America at the time.
Their case was infamous for being the first recognized case of a ‘thrill kill.’ It was also noteworthy due to the fact that it was extensively planned and coordinated for the sole purpose of committing the ‘perfect’ crime and escaping subsequent justice. You can probably appreciate by now that the latter part of the plan failed, or we would not be here analyzing it today. A crime committed not by the usual suspects, but exceptional because of the social status of the individuals, their education and their religious/national identity.
The horrendous crime that Leopold and Loeb committed was so complex, notorious and shocking to the world, that it inspired Alfred Hitchcock to write the 1948 movie Rope starring James Stewart.
In a carefully crafted narrative, King and Wilson breathe new life into an old case of murder and mayhem with this, their latest literary masterpiece. Nothing But The Night is a high quality detailed accounting of ‘the murder of the century,’ as it was labeled at the time. The authors provide an unocculted view into the devious nature of the two murderers covering how they conspired together to kill without risk of capture. They guide us through the comprehensive, elaborate, and intricate planning that preceded the crime; to the actual murder, their eventual apprehension and their subsequent trial.
The trial is the end of the book, but the beginning of the conundrum. It is a view into the minds of men who believe that they were outside the norm, superior in every way, exceptional, special and entitled. They believed they held dominion over the life of their chosen, hapless victim.
King and Wilson avoid the trap of focusing on the deviancy of the two men, Leopold and Loeb. Hints of sexual indiscretion are implied but not explicit. Some things are obvious without reference, and this technique adds to the power of the work overall.
There are some books that one reads and discards without a second thought, and then there are others that resonate with us. Well, this is a work that you will contemplate for some time. You will find yourself dwelling on some aspect of the story, and weeks or months later still remember the contents and imagery of this book.
Nothing But The Night is written with consummate skill and unrivaled clarity. It is an exceptional work of its kind, and an absolute must have for true crime aficionados, students of psychology, law, or criminal justice.
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1Nietzsche F. Thomas Common (trans.), New York: The Modern Library Press, 2017 (1883–5).
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