Simon Baatz to read at New Dominion Bookshop June 2

Reading and book-signing at New Dominion Bookshop

Simon Baatz

For the Thrill of It—Leopold, Loeb and the Murder

that Shocked Chicago

Tuesday, June 2 at 12:15 PM

It was a crime that shocked the nation, a brutal murder in Chicago in 1924 of a child, by two wealthy college students who killed solely for the thrill of the experience. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb had first met several years earlier, and their friendship had blossomed into a love affair. Both were intellectuals—too smart, they believed, for the police to catch them. However, the police had recovered an important clue at the scene of the crime—a pair of eyeglasses—and soon both Leopold and Loeb were in the custody of Cook County. They confessed, and Robert Crowe, the state’s attorney, announced to newspaper reporters that he had a hanging case. No defense, he believed, would save the two ruthless killers from the gallows.

Set against the backdrop of the 1920s, a time of prosperity, self-indulgence, and hedonistic excess, For the Thrill of It draws the reader into a lost world, a world of speakeasies and flappers, of gangsters and gin parties, that existed when Chicago was a lawless city on the brink of anarchy. The rejection of morality, the worship of youth, and the obsession with sex had seemingly found their expression in this callous murder.

But the murder is only half the story. After Leopold and Loeb were arrested, their families hired Clarence Darrow to defend their sons. Darrow, the most famous lawyer in America, aimed to save Leopold and Loeb from the death penalty by showing that the crime was the inevitable consequence of sexual and psychological abuse that each defendant had suffered during childhood at the hands of adults. Both boys, Darrow claimed, had experienced a compulsion to kill, and therefore, he appealed to the judge, they should be spared capital punishment. However, Darrow faced a worthy adversary in his prosecuting attorney: Robert Crowe was clever, cunning, and charismatic, with ambitions of becoming Chicago’s next mayor—and he was determined to send Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb to their deaths.

A masterful storyteller, Simon Baatz has written a gripping account of the infamous Leopold and Loeb case. Using court records and recently discovered transcripts, Baatz shows how the pathological relationship between Leopold and Loeb inexorably led to their crime.

This thrilling narrative of murder and mystery in the Jazz Age will keep the reader in a continual state of suspense as the story twists and turns its way to an unexpected conclusion.

· New York Times Bestseller (Four weeks on the New York Times extended bestseller list – reached # 18)

· Finalist for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for the Best Non-Fiction Crime Book of 2008

· USA Today: Best Ten Books for 2008

· Washington Post Book World: Best Fifteen Books for 2008

· Sacramento News & Review: Best Five Books for 2008

“[Leopold and Loeb] had the world on a string in 1924: rich, smart, good looking, well connected and with the brightest of futures ahead of them. So why did they murder a 14-year-old schoolboy, stuff his naked body in a drainage pipe and send his parents a ransom note demanding $10,000? The answer is in the title of Simon Baatz’s altogether absorbing history of the case For the Thrill of It. It was that, and they wanted to prove to themselves they were smart enough quite literally to get away with murder. Mr. Baatz … has done meticulous research, and he writes extremely well. As a result he brings to vivid life the major characters. Not just the two murderers, but also the judges and lawyers … [A] page-turner of a book …Simon Baatz’s book on the Leopold and Loeb case is the best we’ll have for a long, long time.” — New York Times

Simon Baatz received his undergraduate degree in physics and philosophy from the University of York in England, a master’s degree in the history of science from Imperial College, University of London, and a PhD in the history of science from the University of Pennsylvania.

He presently holds a joint appointment as an Associate Professor of History at John Jay College and at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

He has taught American history and the history of science at universities in Britain and the United States. In Britain, he taught at the University of Sussex and the University of Exeter. In the United States, he has taught at the University of Maryland, George Mason University, the University of Pennsylvania, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.

His most recent book, For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb and the Murder that Shocked Chicago (HarperCollins, 2008) is a study of the infamous 1924 murder by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb of a fourteen-year-old child, a murder committed solely to experience the sensation of killing another human being. Clarence Darrow defended both Leopold and Loeb in the courtroom and succeeded in avoiding the death penalty. Richard Loeb dies in Stateville Prison in 1936 after an attack by another prisoner and Nathan Leopold won his parole in 1958.

Simon has previously published two books: a study of agricultural innovation in eastern Pennsylvania and a history of the New York Academy of Sciences. He has written many scholarly articles and reviews in the history of American science and medicine. His work has appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, Journal of American History, Times Literary Supplement, Science, and many other publications.

He has received many awards for his teaching and research. These awards include the Canadian Council Teaching Award, Wellcome Trust Research Grant, British Academy Research Grant, and a Research Fellowship at the American Philosophical Society.

Simon has presented his work at conferences and venues in the United States, Central America, and Europe. He has spoken at the University of Westminster (London, UK), Catholic University of Louvain (Leuven, Belgium), Universidad del Sagrado Corazon (Puerto Rico), University of Trento (Trento, Italy), University College (London, UK) and the Ecole Polytechnique (Paris, France). In the United States, he has spoken at Harvard, Cornell, Penn, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, New York University, Johns Hopkins, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Institutes of Health.

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