Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White (Magill's Literary Annual 1977)
On June 25, 1906, during a performance at the roof garden of Madison Square Garden, Harry K. Thaw shot and killed Stanford White. Locale, motive, and the characters involved made the murder one of the great sensations of the early century. White was among the leading architects of the time, a prominent figure in the arts and in society; Thaw was a widely known, though eccentric, figure, with Pittsburgh millions. The woman in the case, Thaw’s wife and White’s former mistress, had been a stage personality (there is no claim she was an actress). Headline material in its own day, the story retains its fascination; newspapers and magazines regularly revive it, and at least one recent book and motion picture have retold it.
Michael Macdonald Mooney has retold the story once again. But his is more than a new account of a cause celébre. He has tried to use the Nesbit-Thaw-White affair as a hook on which to hang a view of New York City and of the world of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
“Hook” may be the proper metaphor. As Mooney tells it, the story is not so much a result, or symbol, or sign, of the society, as something attached, but distinct. In places, the two themes—crime story and social history—seem to come compartmentalized in alternating chapters.
The story itself loses none of its lurid fascination in Mooney’s retelling. Evelyn Nesbit came from Pittsburgh to New York to make her fortune at...
(The entire section is 1752 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1977)
Booklist. LXXIII, September 15, 1976, p. 103.
Kirkus Reviews. XLIV, July 15, 1976, p. 831.
Los Angeles Times. October 11, 1976, Books, p. 4.
New York Times Book Review. October 10, 1976, p. 4.
Publisher’s Weekly. CCX, July 12, 1976, p. 67.
(The entire section is 28 words.)