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The Midnight Assassin : Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America's First Serial Killer
by Skip Hollandsworth


Overview -

A sweeping narrative history of a terrifying serial killer--America's first--who stalked Austin, Texas in 1885

In the late 1800s, the city of Austin, Texas was on the cusp of emerging from an isolated western outpost into a truly cosmopolitan metropolis.  Read more...


 
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More About The Midnight Assassin by Skip Hollandsworth
 
 
 
Overview

A sweeping narrative history of a terrifying serial killer--America's first--who stalked Austin, Texas in 1885

In the late 1800s, the city of Austin, Texas was on the cusp of emerging from an isolated western outpost into a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. But beginning in December 1884, Austin was terrorized by someone equally as vicious and, in some ways, far more diabolical than London's infamous Jack the Ripper. For almost exactly one year, the Midnight Assassin crisscrossed the entire city, striking on moonlit nights, using axes, knives, and long steel rods to rip apart women from every race and class. At the time the concept of a serial killer was unthinkable, but the murders continued, the killer became more brazen, and the citizens' panic reached a fever pitch.

Before it was all over, at least a dozen men would be arrested in connection with the murders, and the crimes would expose what a newspaper described as "the most extensive and profound scandal ever known in Austin." And yes, when Jack the Ripper began his attacks in 1888, London police investigators did wonder if the killer from Austin had crossed the ocean to terrorize their own city.

With vivid historical detail and novelistic flair, Texas Monthly journalist Skip Hollandsworth brings this terrifying saga to life.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780805097672
  • ISBN-10: 0805097678
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
  • Publish Date: April 2016
  • Page Count: 336
  • Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds


Related Categories

Books > True Crime > Murder - Serial Killers
Books > History > United States - State & Local - Southwest (AZ, NM, OK, TX)
Books > History > United States - 19th Century

 
BookPage Reviews

Terror in Texas

In 1885, Austin, Texas, was terrorized by a series of murders so seemingly random and brutal they’re considered the work of the first American serial killer. People were reluctant to pay attention when the victims were servant girls or young women of color, ascribing the crimes to a gang of “bad blacks,” in part because Austin was prosperous and growing; murders in the news were bad publicity. In The Midnight Assassin, Texas Monthly editor Skip Hollandsworth tells the little-known story in riveting fashion, presenting this historical page-turner in spellbinding detail. 

The violence of the killer’s attacks is genuinely horrifying—bodies were slashed so brutally they couldn’t be properly collected for autopsy. When a similar series of crimes began in London, some speculated that Jack the Ripper had used Austin as a training ground, though there’s ample evidence to discount that theory. 

Hollandsworth balances the grim realities—once the citizens of Austin were sufficiently motivated to act, they asked for the right to make “citizen’s arrests,” which in this case would amount to nothing more than lynching on the spot (the request was thankfully denied)—with unexpected humor. The press sensationalized the story, but as the murders continued, one reporter, spelling his name “Frank Einstein” in the rush to print, went so far as to speculate that a real-life equivalent of Mary Shelley’s monster was roaming the streets in a murderous rage. Detectives with highly tenuous relations to the famed Pinkerton agency lived high on the city’s dollar while accomplishing next to nothing. 

The crimes of The Midnight Assassin were never solved, largely owing to the paucity of investigative tools available to law enforcement at the time. Hollandsworth hopes that new evidence may yet come to light and identify the killer, but even left unsolved, this is a case that will leave you freshly grateful for electric lights, fingerprinting and CSI.
 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our interview with Skip Hollandsworth about The Midnight Assassin.
 

This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews