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It was a crime that shocked the nation: the 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 were intellectual--too smart, they believed, for the police to catch them. When they were apprehended, state's attorney Robert Crowe was certain that no defense could save It was a crime that shocked the nation: the 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 were intellectual--too smart, they believed, for the police to catch them. When they were apprehended, state's attorney Robert Crowe was certain that no defense could save the ruthless killers from the gallows. But the families of the confessed murderers hired Clarence Darrow, entrusting the lives of their sons to the most famous lawyer in America in what would be one of the most sensational criminal trials in the history of American justice. Set against the backdrop of the 1920s--a time of prosperity, self-indulgence, and hedonistic excess in a lawless city on the brink of anarchy—For the Thrill of It draws the reader into a world of speakeasies and flappers, of gangsters and gin parties, with a spellbinding narrative of Jazz Age murder and mystery.


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It was a crime that shocked the nation: the 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 were intellectual--too smart, they believed, for the police to catch them. When they were apprehended, state's attorney Robert Crowe was certain that no defense could save It was a crime that shocked the nation: the 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 were intellectual--too smart, they believed, for the police to catch them. When they were apprehended, state's attorney Robert Crowe was certain that no defense could save the ruthless killers from the gallows. But the families of the confessed murderers hired Clarence Darrow, entrusting the lives of their sons to the most famous lawyer in America in what would be one of the most sensational criminal trials in the history of American justice. Set against the backdrop of the 1920s--a time of prosperity, self-indulgence, and hedonistic excess in a lawless city on the brink of anarchy—For the Thrill of It draws the reader into a world of speakeasies and flappers, of gangsters and gin parties, with a spellbinding narrative of Jazz Age murder and mystery.

30 review for For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Chicago

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    “Tony Minke lived nearby, on the edge of the Forest Preserve, but he did not usually take this route home. That morning, Thursday, 22 May, he was coming from the factory where he had worked the night shift. Now he was on the way to Hegewisch to pick up his watch from a repair shop before returning home to sleep. The sun was at his back, and as he passed a large ditch on his left, he looked down momentarily. The sun’s rays shone into the ditch, and Minke looked more closely: was that a foot pokin “Tony Minke lived nearby, on the edge of the Forest Preserve, but he did not usually take this route home. That morning, Thursday, 22 May, he was coming from the factory where he had worked the night shift. Now he was on the way to Hegewisch to pick up his watch from a repair shop before returning home to sleep. The sun was at his back, and as he passed a large ditch on his left, he looked down momentarily. The sun’s rays shone into the ditch, and Minke looked more closely: was that a foot poking out of the drainage pipe? Minke stopped and looked closer – he peered into the pipe. Inside, he could see a child’s body, naked and lying face downward in a foot of muddy water…” - Simon Baatz, For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder that Shocked Jazz Age Chicago Like most of you, I’ve spent a fair amount of time plotting the perfect murder. There’s the old icicle gambit, of course, with a weapon that would transform into another state of matter, once the temperature rises. Or the ancient pillow trick, where you smother someone with a pillow and then put a double-cheeseburger in both their hands, so that it looks like cardiac arrest. The advent of technology has created new angles, so maybe you’ve thought about putting your cellphone on your dog and having him run wild while you commit your deed, pinging off various cell towers while you are… Wait, you’ve never spent a moment of your life thinking such dastardly thoughts? Well, me neither! I was talking about a friend. Also, I need to stop watching Dateline. Anyway, while life can sometimes turn our noonday fantasies rather dark, there is comfort in the notion that thoughts alone do not constitute first-degree murder. Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold have gone down in infamy because they took the next step. These two youngers, who have gone down to history as the alliterative tandem of Leopold & Loeb, put their purported “genius” to work in one of the most infamous crimes in American history (which is a rather long list). No doubt you’ve heard of this illustrious case, even if only by cultural osmosis. I certainly had, but until reading Simon Baatz’s For the Thrill of It, I had no idea how little I actually knew. On May 21, 1924, fourteen year-old Bobby Franks was abducted on his way home from school. His family received a demand for $10,000 in ransom. Shortly thereafter, Franks’ corpse was discovered in a drainage culvert. A distinctive pair of spectacles left at the scene led detectives to nineteen year-old Nathan Leopold. Like his victim, Leopold came from a prominent and wealthy family. He was extremely intelligent and had never lacked for anything. Nevertheless, it soon came about that he and Richard Loeb – who were lovers – had plotted and executed the crime with a precision that belied how quickly the plan unraveled. Their motives were opaque. They didn’t really need the money, after all. Was the murder an act of sexual deviancy? Did it have something to do with the killers’ uncertain grasp of Nietzsche? Were the killers mentally ill? Or did it come down – as it was suggested by Loeb – to a thrill killing? Were, the killers, in fact, simply attempting an exercise at the perfect crime? Baatz does not have answer. Nor does he really try for one. Instead, he attempts to present this whole sordid tale of wealth and privilege, sexuality and bloodlust in the context of its times. He covers the role of science in the law; capital punishment in civilized societies; and the debate between determinism and individual responsibility when it comes to apportioning culpability. Unfortunately, For the Thrill of It starts rather poorly, in a disorganized and disjointed fashion. This is a function of Baatz starting his narrative with the kidnapping, proceeding with the discovery of the body, and only then circling back to introduce the killers, sketch out their relationship, and describe their homicidal exertions. I don’t want to sound like an old man on his porch, throwing rocks at kids passing by on the sidewalk, but enough with the fractured narratives. They’re not always necessary. Sometimes you should just stick to chronology, because chronology works. It is an efficient way of telling a coherent story. Life is messy and filled with enough zigs and zags; there is no need in nonfiction – beyond literary pretension – to compound this reality by structuring it like the movie Inception. Eventually, once Baatz locks onto a timeline, the narrative gets a whole lot better. Because there is a lot of research material to work with, including newspaper articles, court transcripts, and the defendants’ lengthy confessions, Baatz is able to provide a level of detail that is almost novelistic. Baatz also strives for comprehensiveness, covering the victim’s family, the killers, the killers’ family, and the attorneys. The attorneys, especially, are a focal point here. Loeb’s family hired famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow, whose up-and-down career is given a decent retelling in a chapter devoted solely to him. (Baatz is rather skeptical of Darrow’s reputation, and makes sure you know that). Another chapter is given to Robert Crowe, the State’s Attorney, who was a creature of machine politics, but also a good litigator. The biggest drawback to For the Thrill of It has nothing to do with Baatz’s abilities as a writer or researcher (he is good at both) or his needlessly convoluted early chapters. Rather, the historical reality of the Leopold and Loeb case does not offer much legal drama. This is not a whodunit. We know exactly who did it. Both Leopold and Loeb gave detailed confessions that were actually taken down by a stenographer. As far as the evidence shows, neither man had those confessions beaten out of him, which is more than a lot of Cook County defendants could ever say. This is also not a courtroom fight. Leopold and Loeb, you see, pled guilty right off the bat. Thus, the central performance in any great true crime story is missing. Instead, the story of Leopold and Loeb is the story of early 20th century psychiatry. Darrow’s ploy was to have his client plead guilty (Leopold did the same, following the advice of his attorney), avoid a jury, and then argue to the judge (who seemed sympathetic to the ploy) that Loeb should not be hanged. Thus, the big middle section of For the Thrill of It is not a set-piece legal showdown, but a tedious battle of experts. Darrow brought in a bunch of psychiatrists who gave various, sometimes contradictory theories about why Leopold and Loeb did what they did. The State did the same, countering with their own experts. The loser was psychiatry, which came off looking like something conjured from thin air. There was no winner. Baatz does a credible job in explaining all these different theories, and their likely impact on the judge. Nothing he does as an author, however, can necessarily make this interesting. It just kind of drags. Then, when it comes time for Darrow’s famous closing argument, Baatz sort of just dismisses it as disorganized and ineffectual, and he’s probably right. Leopold and Loeb have claimed a powerful afterlife on stage, in novels, and in movie theaters. For the Thrill of It is – at least according to Baatz – one of the few full-length nonfiction books to explore it. I have no reason to doubt that claim, though I have reason to doubt its necessity. Any true crime junkie must grapple with the fact that their interest is a bit sordid, and the morality of consuming such tragedies a bit murky. Often, when I finish a book about this or that murder, I end up questioning myself. I think of Russell Crowe in Gladiator, screaming: “Are you not entertained?” A lot of the time, I can rationalize my interest in a gruesome crime because it is a mystery to be solved, a riddle to be cracked, a knot to be untied. It’s not about the transgression itself, but about who did it, and the proper apportionment of justice. That aspect is missing here. Instead we are left only with a life lost, and other lives squandered.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kavita

    This is one of the most boring true crime books I have read. When I read a book of this sort, I want to know about the crime, the criminals, the victims, and even the way a particular crime resulted in changing the law or society. What I DO NOT want is a biography of the lawyers involved in the trial. What I am not looking for in a book of this sort is a list of cases and personal beliefs of the lawyers. Moreover, what I certainly don’t want is judging these lawyers for doing their job. This boo This is one of the most boring true crime books I have read. When I read a book of this sort, I want to know about the crime, the criminals, the victims, and even the way a particular crime resulted in changing the law or society. What I DO NOT want is a biography of the lawyers involved in the trial. What I am not looking for in a book of this sort is a list of cases and personal beliefs of the lawyers. Moreover, what I certainly don’t want is judging these lawyers for doing their job. This book is a complete fail and could not keep me interested at all. I just skimmed through the entire book, except during the interrogations of Loeb and Leopold. Frankly, I still don’t understand this murder and the author has put forward no theory regarding the various reasons this murder could have taken place. No psychological analysis, no checking the background of either victim or perpetrator, nothing. In fact, the poor victim and his family were completely forgotten in the author’s enthusiasm to write a biography on the lawyers. Really, who wants to read that? I am sure there are biographies of both Clarence Darrow (he participated in the Scopes trial) and Robert Crowe (he was very active in trying to bring famous gamblers and gangsters to justice) for those who really want to know more about them. And WHY are there descriptions of OTHER criminal cases that have nothing to do Leopold, Loeb or Franks? Very often, the ‘story’ veers away from its focus and starts discussing aspects of other murder cases in detail. It makes really no sense and in the end, all you get is a hotchpotch of different cases, the details of which are difficult to keep apart because of the writing style. This was not the only diversion from the relevant topics. There were actually a couple of pages on the functions of the thyroid and pituitary glands. I kid you not! There were also lengthy discussions on mental health organisations and their functions. Richard Loeb’s blood pressure was systolic, 100; diastolic, 65; blood pressure, 35; pulse rate, 88 to 92. Very illuminating. I am sure it is of great interest – TO A DOCTOR! And OMG, there was excessive non-protein nitrogen in his blood. This is exactly what I was looking forward to read. NOT. I shall simply buy a biology textbook next time. Do we really need these unnecessary details which do not add anything to the story in hand? In the small first part where this book actually dealt with the crime, it was highly fictionalised. There was no indication of where the author got his information from. The characters were given thoughts and emotions but again, there is no indication why the author has done so. Were these emotions described by a witness or is there some kind of source he is using? Or did he just write in whatever he thought would the right emotions for someone? How does the author know that Darrow first met Leopold looking dishevelled with yellow stains on his shirt and his tie askew? Equally, would the author please explain how he knows that Nathan speculated whether they (the yellow stains on the lawyer’s shirt) were egg stains left over from Darrow’s breakfast? Did Nathan tell the author that this was what he thought? Did Nathan write it down in his diary? Did Nathan ask the lawyer about it and then the lawyer wrote it down somewhere? The book is full of similar thoughts and descriptions which are not just irrelevant, but also probably false. The research of the trial is detailed and cannot be faulted. It is however presented as court transcripts interspersed with embellishments from the author’s own mind. For example, he claims that “Ruby Darrow had also bought Clarence a new powder-blue shirt”. How does he know? Did Ruby tell him SHE bought this shirt? Did Clarence tell him? Did Clarence mention it in a press conference? It could have been bought by Clarence himself, or a present from his mother or even a Christmas present from a close friend or relative. Or Ruby could have bought it for him for some OTHER occasion. There is just no evidence that Ruby bought that powder blue shirt for this occasion. Or did the author go around visiting the shops and checking their records and found out that Ruby Darrow had purchased a shirt for the trial of Leopold and Loeb? Because of course, this is the kind of thing that is entered in shop records. Is this even relevant? This kind of stupid embellishment made this book boring and false. The court transcripts are presented as they are (other than the false embellishments) and one wonders why bother to write a book at all. I can look up the transcripts on the net myself and don’t need to read a book for it. I would recommend people to give this book a miss unless you are really interested in the intricacies of the legal case or the medical evidence. For those who are looking for a general discussion of crime during the times or of the psychological or human aspects of the crime, this book is a fail

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lord Beardsley

    *Okay this is when I press up my MwyTotal mNyuERD glasses up with my middle finger and let loose a giant rant* I am quite disappointed with this book. I have been fascinated with the Leopold and Loeb case for many years now, and have read a considerable amount on the subject matter to be pretty well-versed in it. That being said, I found some major flaws of the factual kind running throughout this book, which makes me highly doubt the validity of it. This book is marketed in a very sensationalis *Okay this is when I press up my MwyTotal mNyuERD glasses up with my middle finger and let loose a giant rant* I am quite disappointed with this book. I have been fascinated with the Leopold and Loeb case for many years now, and have read a considerable amount on the subject matter to be pretty well-versed in it. That being said, I found some major flaws of the factual kind running throughout this book, which makes me highly doubt the validity of it. This book is marketed in a very sensationalistic manner. The cover implies Jazz! Sex! Murder! Mayhem. However, the majority of it is basically hammered out in dry, vague details of the murder without really going into much about Richard Loeb or Nathan Leopold. In fact, this book is actually a strange Anti-Clarence Darrow Agenda from the get go. The author goes into great details about the lawyers for the Defence and the State as well as every crime that could be compared at all to Leopold and Loeb. More is spent discussing previous court cases than is actually spent on the subjects. Fail. A Couple Examples of the Questionable/False Statements Passed Off As Facts: -Sam was the OLDER brother of Nathan Leopold, not the younger. Nathan Leopold's nickname was "Babe" because he was the BABY of the family -There is absolutely NO documented evidence that Richard Loeb propositioned Day with sexual blackmail (which Baatz used as a motive for the murder of Loeb). Besides this, the victim-blaming of Richard Loeb's murder is heavily implied. -Richard Loeb stated when he was 18 that he was highly indifferent to sex of any kind, that also makes it difficult to believe this fabrication of Loeb as "asking for it" in regards to Days' violent act. If you really want to read a fantastic and (imho) definitive, thoughtful, and incredibly moving account of the Leopold and Loeb case, read "Leopold and Loeb: The Crime of the Century" by Hal Higdon. Don't waste your time with this. I started wondering (see The Curious Case of the autobiography of Lord Alfred Douglas by Douglas Murray) at one point, "Is the guy who wrote this some kind of Neo-Con?". If I start wondering things like that about a book, then chances are, the book is (to quote The God Warrior from TV's 'Trading Spouses') "Dark-sided." Nerd Alert, signing off.

  4. 4 out of 5

    BAM Endlessly Booked

    The narration of the audiobook does not improve the story. The physical book is much better, which I read in 2016.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eric_W

    I suppose that anyone who has read about the career of Clarence Darrow is familiar with his famous defense of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold. In short, a little Jewish boy (Richard’s cousin!) from a wealthy Chicago family, Bobby Franks, was kidnapped after school and murdered by two intelligent and wealthy college students, both also Jewish. Suspicion initially fell on teachers at the school Bobby attended, the Harvard School, and despite lots of exculpatory evidence several of them were held b I suppose that anyone who has read about the career of Clarence Darrow is familiar with his famous defense of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold. In short, a little Jewish boy (Richard’s cousin!) from a wealthy Chicago family, Bobby Franks, was kidnapped after school and murdered by two intelligent and wealthy college students, both also Jewish. Suspicion initially fell on teachers at the school Bobby attended, the Harvard School, and despite lots of exculpatory evidence several of them were held by the police and beaten severely to try to get them to confess. They didn’t and finally their lawyers convinced a judge to release them Then there was an eyewitness who saw a gray Winton car right by the school at the time Bobby was kidnapped. Soon every person in Chicago with a gray Winton was being reported to the police. One owner parked his car in the garage and walked to work rather than having to face the police almost every day as people reported seeing him in his gray Winton. (The car they actually used was a dark green Willys-Knight.) Pedophiles, homosexuals, anyone the police considered a “sexual deviant” were rounded up for questioning, although even the district attorney noted that it would be a rare event indeed for a pedophile to ask for a ransom and set up such an elaborate mechanism to collect it. The story is horrifying in its depiction of the two psychopaths. Convinced they were smarter than everyone else (Richard was the youngest graduate of the University of Michigan,) they had successfully embarked on a series of petty vandalism before deciding to commit the “perfect murder.” They almost succeeded, except for Nathan’s glasses. There was no question as to their guilt. They had confessed and revealed all the details to the police. They were perhaps lucky that they committed their crimes at a time when research in genetics and animal instinct was being popularized. Darrow, who had engaged in a “lifelong campaign on behalf of the defenseless” had read Altgeld’s book, Our Penal Machinery, which argued that “criminal behavior... was less a consequence of free will and deliberation and more a matter of education, upbringing, and environment. The majority of criminals—the overwhelming majority, Altgeld stressed—had grown up in circumstances of dire poverty, in families where one or both parents were absent, and without the benefits of education, schooling, or discipline.” Darrow was also determined to rid society of capital punishment. He had defended numerous people who faced the death penalty. The Loeb/Leopold case was perfect “not because the defendants were deserving... the trial of Leopold and Loeb would capture the attention of the nation. … "The importance of instinct in the animal world, Darrow stated, provided a clue to its significance in higher forms of life. Human beings believe that they act rationally, but might they not also be subject to instinctual drives? …”human beings were no more capable of free agency than the mason bee or the red ant." The trial provided a forum for the relatively new field of psychiatry (even then occasionally called “alienists”) that wanted to impress upon the rapt audience their “belief that criminal behavior was a medical phenomenon best interpreted by scientific experts.” That is, if they could avoid an adversarial battle between experts (each getting $1,000 a day - a huge amount of money in those days,) which would require the cooperation of the state’s attorney. The facts might not be at issue but the interpretations could very well be, and that would be embarrassing to the new profession. Darrow countered with the argument that no one wanted to see the boys freed by claiming insanity; they were trying to avoid the death penalty. Interestingly, efforts to broadcast the trial --a first -- were nixed after opposition from religious and social groups worried about their children being exposed to the filth (homosexuality) that would come out during testimony. To explain Darrow’s brilliant strategy would be to reveal too much. Excellent read for anyone interested in Darrow, criminal motivations, and the justice system not to mention early nineteenth century culture.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Joey R.

    Very well researched from beginning to end. I was impressed with the detailed chapters on the prosecutor and the lead defense attorney. Also, the author did great work on detailing the crime and prior history of Leopold and Loeb. The only drawback was the beyond boring history of mental health in the courts and too much information about Darrow’s viewpoints on criminal responsibility

  7. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Addison

    (Most over-used words in the genre of true crime: "shocked" and "shocking.") For the Thrill of It suffers from a number of problems, the first and probably worst of which is that Leopold and Loeb just aren't that interesting. Or, perhaps, the ways in which they are interesting are things that this book failed to illuminate. Baatz is an academic historian deliberately trying to write a "popular" book, which is not an auspicious combination. He says in his author's note that he wanted to write about (Most over-used words in the genre of true crime: "shocked" and "shocking.") For the Thrill of It suffers from a number of problems, the first and probably worst of which is that Leopold and Loeb just aren't that interesting. Or, perhaps, the ways in which they are interesting are things that this book failed to illuminate. Baatz is an academic historian deliberately trying to write a "popular" book, which is not an auspicious combination. He says in his author's note that he wanted to write about the competing scientific paradigms/understandings of mental illness and crime duking it out in the Leopold and Loeb trial (i.e., in a nutshell, free will vs. determinism), but it's not clear from the actual text of the actual book that this was his goal. In fact, what the book is most signally lacking is a thesis of any kind. He's not making an argument about anything, just collecting and sorting the mountain of primary source material. (Apparently, there are great wodges of transcript which have been neither stolen nor written about already; see above re: L&L not being interesting.) And he's not even particularly good at organizing--he never seems to be sure where he thinks the story starts. And there are two problems with source material. The first is that, while Baatz clearly dislikes Nathan Leopold and distrusts his autobiography as a source (for neither of which, let me be clear, I blame him), he (a.) uses Leopold's autobiography as a source anyway and (b.) never offers explicit evidence that Leopold is lying. The second is that, although he's careful to assure readers that all dialogue is taken from transcripts, he has an awful, awful habit of describing the thoughts and feelings of murder victims--for which he can have no reliable source. I got the feeling, as I read, that Baatz wasn't very interested in L&L either. He doesn't follow up even very obvious contradictions, e.g. the contradiction between Loeb not being interested in sex (as he himself said in interviews with psychiatrists) and the claims that he extorted sex out of other inmates at Stateville. (I'm not saying that Baatz should have an answer, because there may not be one; I just want him to point out the problem.) And there are plenty of others. Baatz doesn't provide any kind of analysis, even of the psychological/psychiatric questions he says he's interested in, and he makes no effort even to articulate the parameters of the question that underlies the whole trial (and what continuing interest in the case there is): Why did they do it? Or, the other way around, why did they fail not to do it?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stabitha

    This book was pretty disappointing because it provides no real historical context. The jacket and all of the positive reviews refer to the book's backdrop of hedonistic 1920s Chicago, but this is hardly explored. Instead the author (Baatz) chooses to focus on the tiniest details of the case and never gives the reader the bigger picture. While the book disappoints as a history, it also lacks the intrigue endemic to the more sensationalist true crime genre. It's as if Baatz intentionally sucked al This book was pretty disappointing because it provides no real historical context. The jacket and all of the positive reviews refer to the book's backdrop of hedonistic 1920s Chicago, but this is hardly explored. Instead the author (Baatz) chooses to focus on the tiniest details of the case and never gives the reader the bigger picture. While the book disappoints as a history, it also lacks the intrigue endemic to the more sensationalist true crime genre. It's as if Baatz intentionally sucked all the juice from the details in order to avoid being labeled as a true crime author. So it fails on both counts: it's neither an interesting history OR an exciting crime thriller. It's pretty dull, which is crazy considering the subject matter and the setting.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Arnie Harris

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Simon Baatz's "For the the Thrill of It" must be considered the most authoritative account of the sensational crime of 1924, Nathan Leoplold and Richard Loeb's murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks. Almost by default, since, as the puzzled author points out in his afterword, his book is only the second to be written about the case in 30 years. As such, a reading of "For the Thrill of It" results in not a little bit of ambivalence. Baatz's research and detail,are impressive---but may perhaps be c Simon Baatz's "For the the Thrill of It" must be considered the most authoritative account of the sensational crime of 1924, Nathan Leoplold and Richard Loeb's murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks. Almost by default, since, as the puzzled author points out in his afterword, his book is only the second to be written about the case in 30 years. As such, a reading of "For the Thrill of It" results in not a little bit of ambivalence. Baatz's research and detail,are impressive---but may perhaps be considered as alittle bit too much of a good thing. One feels that the author tells us more about the then state of endocrinology than one nees to know. He also spends an inordinate time delving in detail into the lives and cases of the prosecutor, Robert Crowe and defense attorney Clarence Darrow. In the latter's case,however, perhaps this serves as a valuable primer for younger readers unfamiiar with the legendary attorney. Baatz also goes into great detail presenting the testimony of the numerous psychiatrists who testify to the mental illness they found in the two defendants. As it turns out, all of this was anti-climactic as we learn that the judge in the case had already chosen to ignore that testimony and was resolved to make his decision of a life sentences or the death penalty minus all that clinical testimony. On feels that Baatz may have spent more time on the defendants themselves. We learn precious little about how they spent their time in jail, both during the trial and in their years in prison. To one's amazement, Baatz just gives cursory mention of the theories of the philosopher Nietzsche and their reportedly profound effect on the two boys and its role in their personality development and in leading them to the 'perfect murder committed by super-intellects.' (Almost comically , these 'super geniuses'' perfect crime was botched from beginning to end to the point that they were already being held as serious suspects within three days of the murder). Also Baatz tends not to tie up some important loose ends. His book alludes to some other serious crimes committed by the pair prior to the Franks murder--crimes which Loeb feared Leopold would hold over his head in his bid for a lighter sentence--but the matter is never pursued or resolved. Nonetheless, this book is well worth reading for anyone wanting to learn about one of the first of many "Trials of the Century."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Derek Davis

    This one deserves at least 6 stars for effort and completeness, about 2 or 3 for the telling. Could anyone make the Leopold-Loeb case boring? Baatz, a history prof, manages it for much of the book. There's no doubt that this is and will probably remain the definitive study of the case, and it brings out in horrific detail the socially abandoned minds of the killers. In today's terms, they would certainly be called psychopaths, but even within that category they seem unique. Garrulous, confident, This one deserves at least 6 stars for effort and completeness, about 2 or 3 for the telling. Could anyone make the Leopold-Loeb case boring? Baatz, a history prof, manages it for much of the book. There's no doubt that this is and will probably remain the definitive study of the case, and it brings out in horrific detail the socially abandoned minds of the killers. In today's terms, they would certainly be called psychopaths, but even within that category they seem unique. Garrulous, confident, unconcerned with human feeling, Leopold and Loeb described, almost with glee and in minute detail, the six-month-plus preparation and execution of their kidnapping and murder of Bobby Franks – a random victim chosen simply to prove that they could carry out a perfect, vicious crime (which they bungled at every step). Where Baatz, possibly because of his academic background, falls flat is in his inability to separate significant from trivial detail. To set a scene, he describes every piece of clothing worn by every character. To support the place of scientific testimony in the trial, he provides the complete academic history of each witness. To document the reaction of the press and public, he reproduces page after verbatim page of redundant comment. He prefigures testimony that will be given later, repeats this summing up when the testimony is given – then quotes the actual words which echo almost precisely what he has just said. Whole chapters are read-down-the-middle-of-the-page-and-hope-there's-something-in-here-somewhere. However, if, like me, you've always been fascinated by this case and what to know all, all is definitely what you get.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder that Shocked Chicago by Simon Baatz is a remarkable read in that Baatz’s research for a book of non-fiction ultimately paces as fiction. The novel is a lot of things but mostly it is a commentary on the criminal justice system of the United States (especially Chicago and the State of Illinois) and capital punishment. Clarence Darrow leads as the most recognizable member of the defense team. His career as a defender is outlined to the extent that For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder that Shocked Chicago by Simon Baatz is a remarkable read in that Baatz’s research for a book of non-fiction ultimately paces as fiction. The novel is a lot of things but mostly it is a commentary on the criminal justice system of the United States (especially Chicago and the State of Illinois) and capital punishment. Clarence Darrow leads as the most recognizable member of the defense team. His career as a defender is outlined to the extent that he is credited from being a defender of the people willing to take on any oppressed client to focusing on high profile cases more to do with his ego and financial rewards. Without crediting him entirely, he no doubt was influential in the movement against capital punishment in the United States. As an aside, I should mention that I have been an opponent of capital punishment for as long as I remember. Four reasons for my opposition stand out: 1. Capital punishment is cruel and unusual punishment under the US Constitution 8th Amendment (Bill of Rights). 2. Capital punishment is absurdly expensive and should be eliminated for practical reasons. 3. It has been proven that innocent persons have been executed via capital punishment. 4. Capital punishment is an ineffective deterrent. That being said, I most wholeheartedly support life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (except in unusual circumstances). In Thrill, such a circumstances would be the age of the perpetrators of the crimes. In Thrill, Loeb dies in prison (is murdered for trying to press his homosexuality on another prisoner) relatively soon after he is incarcerated. Leopold is confined over 30 years in prison before he is paroled. Other complexities of criminal justice that are touched upon in Thrill are: 1. A high percentage of criminality comes from poverty. Poverty breeds criminality which breeds poverty which breeds criminality in an endless cycle. 2. Crimes of passion are some of the most difficult to understand and evaluate. 3. Of course, crimes purely for financial reward (white collar) are oftentimes overlooked particularly in the absence of a victim (so-called victimless crimes). 4. Criminals with lots of money don’t get convicted as often or given terms as long as criminals without money. Interesting comments/quotes 1. Clarence Darrow – “There is a single admissible argument in favor of capital punishment”. It should no longer be part of the penal code. In the 21st century, they will look back and very our practices as barbaric. 2. Very interesting commentary on insanity. As used for legal purposes, it is the ability of a person to distinguish right from wrong. Leopold and Loeb both knew that what they did was wrong. But how should their mental health be considered in determining their guilt or the severity of the punishment? There is a high correlation between mental health and criminal acts. 3. The seemingly imbedded violence in the City of Chicago was discussed. From my limited perspective, why is it the Chicago has the same problems with extraordinary amounts of violence almost 100 years later? Bottom line of Thrill, it is a good read if you have an interest in our criminal justice system from the past and in comparison to the present. We seem to have the same problems way back when; not much progress has been achieved. PS I have had Thrill on my "To Read" list for 8 years! Glad I can finally clear it off.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Wegner

    This was a super interesting read on many levels. Two boys in their teens committed the "perfect crime" or so they thought. They spent the better part of a year planning to murder someone, anyone...as long as they could get away with it, just "For the Thrill of It." On a personal level, I found this book to be fascinating, because the crime happens just blocks away from where my Grandparents and Great Grandparents were living at the time in the 1920's. All of the streets and places discussed in t This was a super interesting read on many levels. Two boys in their teens committed the "perfect crime" or so they thought. They spent the better part of a year planning to murder someone, anyone...as long as they could get away with it, just "For the Thrill of It." On a personal level, I found this book to be fascinating, because the crime happens just blocks away from where my Grandparents and Great Grandparents were living at the time in the 1920's. All of the streets and places discussed in the book were familiar to me. I tried to read it from the point of view of my family--such a horrific crime had not been seen in Chicago in their recent history. The body of the child who was murdered was found in the same place that my Dad had taken me and my brothers fishing when I was young. Because of all these ties to the story, it made the whole thing seem more real and horriffic to me than to the typical reader, I would guess. The callousness of the boys who committed the crime is another reason I had to keep reading when the story got a little mundane in the middle. I had to find out why, why and how could they have done this. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is studying law or psychology, or anyone who simply loves to read about history or the nature of criminals.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    An account of the Leopold and Loeb thrill killing of Bobby Franks in 1924, this book examines not only the killers but also the political environment of Chicago and the attorneys with special focus on Clarence Darrow for the defense. The author quotes from court transcripts and some recently discovered interviews to weave a fairly complete picture of the trial that enthralled the nation. It was, in fact, not a trial but a penalty phase hearing since the defendants had pled guilty. In popular myth An account of the Leopold and Loeb thrill killing of Bobby Franks in 1924, this book examines not only the killers but also the political environment of Chicago and the attorneys with special focus on Clarence Darrow for the defense. The author quotes from court transcripts and some recently discovered interviews to weave a fairly complete picture of the trial that enthralled the nation. It was, in fact, not a trial but a penalty phase hearing since the defendants had pled guilty. In popular myth, Darrow's defense which saved Leopold and Loeb from the gallows was brilliant; however the book and transcripts do not support this and it was the presiding judge, hearing the case without a jury, who was really responsible for the decision based on his own values. I read, as a teenager, "Compulsion" by Meyer Levin, the fictionalized version of the trial and was totally engrossed by it. That book played fast and loose with the facts of the case as did the subsequent film with Orson Welles in the role of a lifetime as Darrow. This is the real thing and is just as readable. It provides facts surrounding the crime that were previously unknown to the public. Highly recommended.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    I lived three blocks from the Franks' family mausoleum and never knew it.... wish I could leash up Buddy and walk over there now. I suppose in the 20's killing for the sake of killing was a horrifically novel idea then. Perhaps in our time we are numb to the concept. I lived three blocks from the Franks' family mausoleum and never knew it.... wish I could leash up Buddy and walk over there now. I suppose in the 20's killing for the sake of killing was a horrifically novel idea then. Perhaps in our time we are numb to the concept.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kc Giannini

    Definitely a detailed look into one of the most infamous cases in Chicago history. This book combined my favorite things...Chicago history, the 20s and a murder mystery. SCORE.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bill reilly

    Clarence Darrow’s most famous case remains the Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee in 1925. Irving Stone’s excellent biography covered it in detail. Another case in the book is the Leopold-Loeb murder in Chicago in 1924. Fourteen year-old Bobby Franks went missing and the family received a phone call followed by a letter demanding $10,000 ransom for the boys’ safe return. A day and a half later, the badly beaten body of Bobby Franks was found in a culvert. The teacher’s at Bobby’s school were round Clarence Darrow’s most famous case remains the Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee in 1925. Irving Stone’s excellent biography covered it in detail. Another case in the book is the Leopold-Loeb murder in Chicago in 1924. Fourteen year-old Bobby Franks went missing and the family received a phone call followed by a letter demanding $10,000 ransom for the boys’ safe return. A day and a half later, the badly beaten body of Bobby Franks was found in a culvert. The teacher’s at Bobby’s school were rounded up and interviewed. This was pre-Miranda Chicago style Q & A with rubber hoses used as a lie detector. A pair of eyeglasses found at the scene was matched to a nineteen year-old student, Nathan Leopold, The boy had been bullied by classmates at school due to his slight build. Nate’s German governess (Isla, She Wolf of the SS??), apparently had a sexual relationship with her charge when he was twelve years-old. At fifteen, the boy met his counterpart, Richard Loeb. The two boys were from extremely wealthy families. Nathan’s passion was for birds, whereas Richard’s was crime novels. Leopold was an introvert and Loeb was an extrovert who liked to drink at local speakeasies. The pair began a homosexual relationship and committed petty crimes together; some arsons, a robbery, and vandalism. Loeb was bored by the insignificance of the crime and suggested the kidnapping of a boy. Nietzsche’s writings convinced the young psychopath they were supermen, above any man made laws. Bobby Franks was picked up and as Leopold drove the car, Loeb smashed the boy’s skull with a chisel. They then poured hydrochloric acid on his face to disguise his identity. Leopold was questioned by cops and explained that the eyeglasses fell out of his pocket while he was bird watching in the area. A typewriter matched the ransom note and the perfect crime fell apart. Piece by piece, Richard Loeb broke first, blaming his lover. In return, Leopold, claimed his partner killed the boy. Nathan told reporters that, as an atheist, he had no remorse for the murder and that it was an experiment to experience the sensation of killing another human being. The D.A. and three state psychiatrists interviewed the suspects without counsel, and both admitted to knowing the difference between right and wrong at the time of the crime. The D.A, Robert Crowe was sure of an easy trial with a verdict of death by hanging. A major obstacle would be the greatest lawyer in America, Clarence Darrow. His reputation was well deserved; from the Hay Market riots to the railroad strike against George Pullman, his courtroom victories were often miraculous. A grand jury heard seventy-two witnesses in one week and returned indictments for kidnap and murder. A slew of medical experts were retained by the defense to examine the boys. Darrow entered guilty pleas, realizing that the newspaper coverage made it impossible to impanel an impartial jury sympathetic to his client. The judge, John Caverly, would impose the sentence after listening to the testimony of three psychiatrists. Although the boys were not legally insane, they had emotionally infantile and paranoid personalities. An endocrinologist gave complex and esoteric testimony, citing glandular abnormalities contributing to the boys’ lack of judgment. Darrow gave his usual twelve hour philosophical closing argument. We are all just machines who occasionally malfunction. His final hour mesmerized the courtroom. The legendary oratorical skills were unsurpassed. The D.A. had the law but Darrow used emotion like a skilled playwright, with an audience moved to tears. Judge Caverly would decide in ten days; life in prison or death by hanging. I will leave the decision for the reader to uncover. Although a bit too long with too much unnecessary political detail, For the Thrill of It is a good read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    A compelling and impeccably-researched account that delves into such related topics as the wide-spread political machinations in early 20th Century Chicago and the development of criminal psychology. My only qualm is that the writer sometimes takes artist liberties in the small details, describing people's actions, feelings, or thoughts that he could not possibly know. The instances are minor ("The maid watched the dust motes in the air" or "He felt a thrill" or "He thought it was unfair"); this A compelling and impeccably-researched account that delves into such related topics as the wide-spread political machinations in early 20th Century Chicago and the development of criminal psychology. My only qualm is that the writer sometimes takes artist liberties in the small details, describing people's actions, feelings, or thoughts that he could not possibly know. The instances are minor ("The maid watched the dust motes in the air" or "He felt a thrill" or "He thought it was unfair"); this is just a pet peeve of mine in narrative nonfiction. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Thoroughly researched and a very cool look at Chicago in the 1920's. I was surprised that the book was so focused on the competing scientific evidence used to explain the crime at that time. Thoroughly researched and a very cool look at Chicago in the 1920's. I was surprised that the book was so focused on the competing scientific evidence used to explain the crime at that time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Karen Barbieri

    A detailed book about the murder of a young boy in Chicago by two friends. A bit boring at times.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marti

    Prior to reading this, I knew Leopold and Loeb as one of the most sensational crimes of the 1920s. However I did not know much beyond the fact that they killed a young boy and were caught because one of them accidentally dropped a pair of unusual prescription eye-glasses next to the body. Therefore, it was a little surprising that a couple of supposed geniuses could be so stupid. Of course the crime itself may not have been indicative of terribly good judgment; but considering that it had been p Prior to reading this, I knew Leopold and Loeb as one of the most sensational crimes of the 1920s. However I did not know much beyond the fact that they killed a young boy and were caught because one of them accidentally dropped a pair of unusual prescription eye-glasses next to the body. Therefore, it was a little surprising that a couple of supposed geniuses could be so stupid. Of course the crime itself may not have been indicative of terribly good judgment; but considering that it had been planned for months, one would think the murderers would have had enough sense not to stab the victim repeatedly in the rental car. Nor would they be seen furiously scrubbing out the back seat in the driveway of Leopold's family estate where they could easily be spotted by their chauffeur. Where I got a little bogged down was in the middle where the author takes great pains to explain the field of endocrinology as it related to a 1920s understanding of psychology which viewed homosexuality as a mental illness. An overview would have been sufficient to understand Clarence Darrow's defense which hinged on avoiding the death penalty in favor of life in prison. To accomplish this, he had to prove that both boys were insane. Although they had zero remorse, they seemed rational, intelligent and articulate; hence it's pretty clear that they were sociopaths (a term that did not seem to be in use at the time although narcissistic personality disorder was cited). Much more interesting to me were things like the mob storming the courthouse for Clarence Darrow's summation and the broadcast of the verdict over the radio, during which all the business of the city of Chicago came to a complete stop. In addition to having no remorse, it seems that both Leopold and Loeb enjoyed their celebrity as they were constantly making dumb statements to the press and, while waiting for the verdict at the county jail, were visited by local celebrities like the Chicago Cubs baseball team. This carried over to Joliet Prison where they were incarcerated after they were sentenced to life in prison. While they were not able to hold court there like Pashas, they were able to buy special treatment from the guards because of their wealth.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David

    One Sentence Summary - The true story of two sociopathic lovers, their murder plot, and how their ensuing trial showcases the legal perception of mental illness during the 1920’s. Full Review: In the world of notorious, romantic criminal duos, most of us are likely to recall figures like “Bonnie and Clyde,” but we would be remiss to forget about those infamous clandestine lovers and Jazz Age murders: Nathaniel Leopold and Richard Loeb. Simon Baatz’s novel, For the Thrill of It, provides us with an One Sentence Summary - The true story of two sociopathic lovers, their murder plot, and how their ensuing trial showcases the legal perception of mental illness during the 1920’s. Full Review: In the world of notorious, romantic criminal duos, most of us are likely to recall figures like “Bonnie and Clyde,” but we would be remiss to forget about those infamous clandestine lovers and Jazz Age murders: Nathaniel Leopold and Richard Loeb. Simon Baatz’s novel, For the Thrill of It, provides us with an exciting examination of the murder case with a heavy emphasis on the legal rigmarole involved therein. The murder plot, trial, and aftermath of this novel are all riveting, but the moments in between leave something to be desired. Baatz has a comprehensive knowledgeable of legal history and the evolution of psychiatry as it relates to the case. He shares much of that knowledge to provide helpful historical context so that we better understand the proceedings, but being bombarded with so much ancillary information does, occasionally, become tiresome for the reader. For example, if there is some sort of legal precedent for a specific element of the case, the Baatz goes into (often agonizing) detail about that case. While this is mostly informative, it does have the unfortunate consequence of ruining the pacing of the novel. Likewise, whole chapters are dedicated to the legal professional history of secondary “characters” Clarence Darrow and Robert Crowe (attorneys for the defense and prosecution respectively). We learn almost as much about them as we do Nathaniel and Leopold. This book will probably not be a page turner for most people, but if you’re interested in either the killers or the legal history behind their case, this is likely the most thrilling/engaging novel that you’ll find on the subject. BONUS FUN FACT: If the name Clarence Darrow (the attorney for the defense) looks familiar, it’s probably because you know him for another famous American trial, the infamous “Scopes Trial” (aka The Monkey Trial), in which a Tennessee biology teacher was indicted for teaching the theory of evolution in school.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    Proclaimed "The Crime of the Century" - until sadly superseded by more heinous murders as the 20th century progressed - the "Thrill Killing of Bobby Franks" shocked Chicago and the country in May, 1924. The 14 year old son of wealthy parents was kidnapped and murdered near his home and school on Chicago's South Side. When his murderers were caught, they turned out to be 19 year old boys, from the same social milieu as the victim. When asked why they committed the murder, Richard Loeb and Nathan Proclaimed "The Crime of the Century" - until sadly superseded by more heinous murders as the 20th century progressed - the "Thrill Killing of Bobby Franks" shocked Chicago and the country in May, 1924. The 14 year old son of wealthy parents was kidnapped and murdered near his home and school on Chicago's South Side. When his murderers were caught, they turned out to be 19 year old boys, from the same social milieu as the victim. When asked why they committed the murder, Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold answered, "For the trill of it". There have been a few books and movies based on the Leopold and Loeb "thrill murder", but Simon Baatz's "For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Chicago" is one of the better ones. I've read them all, beginning with Meyer Levin's, "Compulsion", a fictional accounting of the relationship between the two killers and the murder and subsequent trial. Levin writes his novel in the first person, as a fellow student at the University of Chicago and an acquaintance of the Nathan Leopold character. Baatz's book, is a straight non-fiction account and he goes into great detail about the boys' families, the twisted relationship between the boys, the crime, the psychiatric findings, and the trial. Baatz also highlights the lawyers, law officers, and doctors involved. His writing is non-sensational and the book includes plenty of pictures of the people involved in the case and maps of the area. One of the previous reviews I read states that Simon Baatz was wrong about the number of children in the Franks' family. Baatz writes there were four, including Bobby, and the reviewer says there were only three. I was intrigued by that error - if it was indeed an error - and started checking in on-line genealogical sites and I can't find anything that says there were four children. So I think you might read this book with a bit of caution.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Most people are probably familiar with the infamous Leopold and Loeb case: two teenagers in 1924 Chicago kill a 14-year-old boy, Robert Franks, for no reason other than the thrill of it (Ladies and gentlemen, we have a title!). They're quickly caught and jailed; their wealthy families hire lawyer extraordinaire Clarence Darrow to save them from the gallows, where pretty much every convicted murderer was sent in those days. Even if you've seen Alfred Hitchcock's Rope around 542 times, as I have, S Most people are probably familiar with the infamous Leopold and Loeb case: two teenagers in 1924 Chicago kill a 14-year-old boy, Robert Franks, for no reason other than the thrill of it (Ladies and gentlemen, we have a title!). They're quickly caught and jailed; their wealthy families hire lawyer extraordinaire Clarence Darrow to save them from the gallows, where pretty much every convicted murderer was sent in those days. Even if you've seen Alfred Hitchcock's Rope around 542 times, as I have, Simon Baatz's account is worth reading, if only to correct the misconceptions that you probably have about the case. (Oddly, Baatz, a professor of history who appears to be in his 40s, says in an author's note that he'd never heard of the case until a year or two before he began writing the book. Go figure.) For example: Leopold and Loeb were teenagers when the committed the crime (18 and 17, respectively), and didn't come from simply privileged backgrounds, but extremely wealthy ones. And Darrow actually didn't manage to spare the two from the death penalty through any particularly cunning wiles. Instead, much to the consternation of newspaper editorial writers, the trial judge basically ignored both Darrow and prosecutor Robert Crowe and declined to impose the death penalty because of the murderers' youth. People who are looking for a thrilling true crime page-turner should probably stick to watching Rope or Compulsion, as this is a more scholarly account of the crime. If scholarly histories are your thing, though, this well-researched and generally well-written account is worth picking up. (Just one note to the author: serious writers have a lifetime quota of three exclamation points, and you exceeded yours by about five. Really, save the exclamation points for e-mails or Twitter posts.)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    A masterful, well-researched engrossing book primarily about the murder and sentencing of Leopold and Loeb. While the murder and court case are thoroughly covered (some details like the psychological profiles and tests run a bit too much maybe), I was interested more in the implications of what the public's reaction was to the case. This was alluded to in many spots but never directly addressed in a chapter format (which because of the title I was sort of expecting). In the age of Court TV and mu A masterful, well-researched engrossing book primarily about the murder and sentencing of Leopold and Loeb. While the murder and court case are thoroughly covered (some details like the psychological profiles and tests run a bit too much maybe), I was interested more in the implications of what the public's reaction was to the case. This was alluded to in many spots but never directly addressed in a chapter format (which because of the title I was sort of expecting). In the age of Court TV and multiple channels devoted to grisly murders, I found it shocking that there was public uproar even at the thought of a playing bits of the trial on the radio--since that would sensationalize and trivialize the murder. For a moment I was touched at how public minded people were back in the day, but when I read on about how thousands stampeded the court room for news, injuring many, and the hundreds of death threats directed to the parents of the murdered child and the hordes of gawkers outside their house, maybe the old days weren't so great after all. The many theories on why they did it were also interesting--I don't think that this is largely a part of a public debate anymore--Was it overproducing or underproducing glands? Their twisted nannies' influence? Nietzche? Sick fantasies? A byproduct of World War I cheapening human life? The "Bad Seed" of an evil ancestor that popped up? Gambling debts? Blackmail? Etc. Obviously a factor in this case, since the crime was so motiveless and all that planning for a random victim, which probably made the debate and thinkers of the day want to discover a root cause even more. Perhaps we've unfortunately grown too accustomed to crimes such on these. Would be interested to read more on this--primarily more on their time in jail.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    Interesting and highly-detailed look at the vicious murder of 14 year-old Bobby Franks by two petulant, rich, amoral teenage boys in 1924 Chicago. Baatz does a solid job of explaining Loeb's and Leopold's backgrounds, their plotting of the murder, and the actual murder. That part of the book was riveting. Then, it slows down considerably when he devotes a chapter each to defense attorney Clarence Darrow, and Cook County State's Attorney Robert Crowe. I understand why he went into such detail abo Interesting and highly-detailed look at the vicious murder of 14 year-old Bobby Franks by two petulant, rich, amoral teenage boys in 1924 Chicago. Baatz does a solid job of explaining Loeb's and Leopold's backgrounds, their plotting of the murder, and the actual murder. That part of the book was riveting. Then, it slows down considerably when he devotes a chapter each to defense attorney Clarence Darrow, and Cook County State's Attorney Robert Crowe. I understand why he went into such detail about both men, but I sort of got distracted from the main storyline. After that, several chapters concerning psychiatric evaluations and the testimony of the psychiatrists brought in by both sides. Again, I understand why all of this is mentioned, yet I thought it made the book start to drag. Finally, Baatz oddly does not talk about Leopold and Loeb's relationship with each other once the trial began, and afterwards while they were both in prison. I would have thought that something would have been said, i.e. did they remain friends? Did they still talk frequently? Baatz does not offer much in the way of opinions here, and I can understand that as he was trying to paint a portrait of how the crime was viewed at the time, and what Chicago was like back then. However, I would have liked to have known his take on the judge's decision concerning punishment. Both boys had serious mental problems and a scary lack of regard for anyone else in society. I especially did not like Leopold and his continuing arrogance, all the way up to the end.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bob Schnell

    The story of Leopold and Loeb has often been told in fictional form, including the films "Rope" and "Compulsion". However, the real story hasn't had a complete telling until Simon Baatz' "For the Thrill of It". Although the author tries to tell it in a literary style, the book comes off as more of a Law and Order-style procedural, but that isn't a negative criticism. The attention to detail as well as using direct quotes to act as dialogue make this a compelling read, more of a narrative non-fic The story of Leopold and Loeb has often been told in fictional form, including the films "Rope" and "Compulsion". However, the real story hasn't had a complete telling until Simon Baatz' "For the Thrill of It". Although the author tries to tell it in a literary style, the book comes off as more of a Law and Order-style procedural, but that isn't a negative criticism. The attention to detail as well as using direct quotes to act as dialogue make this a compelling read, more of a narrative non-fiction. This true tale of two precocious Chicago teens who murder a 14 year old boy for the thrill of it has been remembered as a historically significant crime due to the involvement of the famous criminal defense attorney Clarence Darrow and his progressive stance against the death penalty. Without the moneyed influence of the Leopold and Loeb families and the protracted hearing regarding the sentencing of the murderers, chances are they would have been hanged and forgotten. However, with Darrow examining their philosophical influences (primarily Nietzsche), their mental health and their aloof attitude toward their crime, the story became an international sensation, touching on many points of popular scientific interest at the time. There are many aspects to the case that were never covered in other accounts and it all makes for page-turning reading here. One star off for some sloppy editing that distracted and annoyed me, particularly towards the end.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth Barber

    This book details the kidnapping,murder and attempted ransom of 14 year old Bobby Franks in May,1924. The perpetrators were Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. Both were rich, spoiled, and above average in intelligence. The crime was done for the thrill and see if they could get away with it. The victim was chosen at random. The author tells the story of their lives, the planning of the crime and its aftermath. The author developes the society as it existed at the time and puts the crime in context This book details the kidnapping,murder and attempted ransom of 14 year old Bobby Franks in May,1924. The perpetrators were Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. Both were rich, spoiled, and above average in intelligence. The crime was done for the thrill and see if they could get away with it. The victim was chosen at random. The author tells the story of their lives, the planning of the crime and its aftermath. The author developes the society as it existed at the time and puts the crime in context. He follows the investigation and apprehension of Leopold and Loeb. He then relates the legal aspects as the accused plead guilty and durining the sentencing phase try to keep the defendants from being hung. At this point we meet the prosecutor Crowe and the defense lawyers primarily Clarence Darrow. Each of these men have their agendas they are pursuing. Crowe wants to be mayor of Chicago and Darrow to eliminate the death penalty and prove mental disorders as a defense for crime. The author then follows the lives of Leopold and Loeb after the trial. He also gives the reader a sense of the public reaction to the crime and its aftermath.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    The first part of the book I liked. It covered the lives of Leopold and Loeb and their planning and execution of the killing of Bobby Franks. Then....the book got a little slow for my tastes. Chapters describing the history of the defense lawyer and district attorney, of which I had no interest. Chapters discussing advances in psychological studies, of which I had no interest. Then the court proceedings and the aftermath, which even though it was back on the subject of the killers, the crime and The first part of the book I liked. It covered the lives of Leopold and Loeb and their planning and execution of the killing of Bobby Franks. Then....the book got a little slow for my tastes. Chapters describing the history of the defense lawyer and district attorney, of which I had no interest. Chapters discussing advances in psychological studies, of which I had no interest. Then the court proceedings and the aftermath, which even though it was back on the subject of the killers, the crime and the trial, I was so bored of reading stuff I really didn't care about that it was hard to get back into it like I was in the beginning. A good book, just didn't use the course of writing I would have preferred. To much time on things I just didn't care about. Wouldn't highly recommend it but if you have an interest in the book I'd say go for it. You may like it better than I.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    An incredibly well researched, meticulous account of the murder, but especially the psych exams and hearing (not trial) of these two teenage murderers. The problem is, it’s a bit too meticulous. Too much detail, whole sections of the hearing transcriptions are here. The psych exam results are especially dry. I can appreciate the historical significance of this book, apparently the only legitimate history there is. But it doesn’t make all that compelling of reading. I’d have liked more context. W An incredibly well researched, meticulous account of the murder, but especially the psych exams and hearing (not trial) of these two teenage murderers. The problem is, it’s a bit too meticulous. Too much detail, whole sections of the hearing transcriptions are here. The psych exam results are especially dry. I can appreciate the historical significance of this book, apparently the only legitimate history there is. But it doesn’t make all that compelling of reading. I’d have liked more context. Why was this a trial of the century, 1924’s OJ trial? Was it the nature of the guys--wealthy, intelligent, motiveless, gay? The backdrop of 1920s gangsters and Chicago’s extremely high crime rate? Not here.

  30. 4 out of 5

    J.M.

    Recommended to me by a Goodreads friend (thank you, jv poore!) who saw it listed in a HuffPost article titled, "9 True Crime Books That Will Absolutely Disturb You." Interesting, though I will admit I got a little bored during the long and (in my opinion) drawn out section dealing with the courtroom testimony. Much was made of Leopold's and Loeb's mental capacity at the time, when psychoanalytic research was still fairly new in and of itself. From the murderers' lack of emotion or empathy, they'r Recommended to me by a Goodreads friend (thank you, jv poore!) who saw it listed in a HuffPost article titled, "9 True Crime Books That Will Absolutely Disturb You." Interesting, though I will admit I got a little bored during the long and (in my opinion) drawn out section dealing with the courtroom testimony. Much was made of Leopold's and Loeb's mental capacity at the time, when psychoanalytic research was still fairly new in and of itself. From the murderers' lack of emotion or empathy, they're clearly sociopaths, but the author never comes out and says as much because that wasn't terminology used in the 1920s. Still, a good read.

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