Deadly Duo

The sentence was delivered in the famous Leopold and Loeb murder trial on this day in 1924. Having convinced teen-aged Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb to plead guilty to the ‘thrill murder’ of another Chicago teen, Clarence Darrow managed to get life in prison for his defendants rather than execution. Darrow’s closing argument is regarded as one of the finest in his career, and the crime and trial have inspired books, movies, operas and more — reporters, for example. Both criminals were bright, accomplished students, and when Loeb was murdered by a fellow prisoner in 1936 for allegedly making sexual advances, Ed Lahey of the Chicago Daily News offered a lead sentence which has gone down in journalism history: “Richard Loeb, despite his erudition, today ended his sentence with a proposition.” In The Story of My Life, Darrow targets the media circus which surrounded the trial, and the lynching mentality: “When the populace clamors for a victim it wants no facts, theories, doctors, lawyers or scientists to stand in the way. …It also feels that “if ’t is to be done, ’t were well it were done quickly.”


The trial was still big news as Richard Wright was writing Native Son, set in Chicago’s South Side. Wright’s biographers say that he was fascinated with the case, keeping a copy of Darrow’s Plea in Defense of Loeb and Leopold on his writing desk. Darrow’s argument stressed family and social factors, and though Bigger Thomas is a long way from being a wealthy, advantaged Jew, his lawyer casts the same wide net:


There is guilt in the rage that demands that this man’s life be snuffed out quickly! There is fear in the hate and impatience which impels the action of the mob congregated upon the streets beyond that window! All of them — the mob and the mob-masters; the wire-pullers and the frightened; the leaders and their pet vassals — know and feel that their lives are built upon a historical deed of wrong against many people, people from whose lives they have bled their leisure and their luxury!



Wright’s newspapermen also get enthusiastic about their opportunities: “This is better than Loeb and Leopold,” one says to the other.


Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).