August 29, 2017
Mark your calendars, Lexington, Kentucky!
Shadelandhouse Modern Press is proud to announce that Joseph-Beth Booksellers at Lexington Green will host award-winning author, Richard H. Underwood, to discuss and sign his new book Gaslight Lawyers: Criminal Trials & Exploits in Gilded Age New York on Tuesday, September 19th, at 7:00 PM.
“An accessible, marvelously rigorous account of a bygone legal era…Underwood is a masterful researcher.”—Kirkus Reviews
“…Underwood combines thorough research, a gift for narrative, and a sly sense of humor…”—JOHN STEELE, Legal Ethicist and Adjunct Lecturer in Legal Ethics, UC Berkeley School of Law
“A worthy addition to the history of crime and punishment.”—BRUCE GREEN, Professor, Fordham Law School
“…the nineteenth-century equivalent of Better Call Saul – surprising, insightful, and hilarious. Charles Dickens would approve.” —BRIAN L. FRYE, Spears Gilbert Associate Professor of Law, University of Kentucky; filmmaker; Co-Producer of “Our Nixon” (2013)
A fascinating history of crime and punishment, Gaslight Lawyers paints a serious but entertaining portrait of colorful characters, courtroom drama, and the emerging importance of forensic science and medical-legal jurisprudence in Gilded Age New York City. From the 1870s to the early 1900s, post-Civil War New York City was becoming a wonder city of commerce and invention, art and architecture, and emerging global prominence. It was also a city of crime, corruption, poverty, slums, and tenements teeming with newcomers and standing in sharp contrast to the city mansions and the extravagant lifestyle of the rising American aristocracy.
From the 1870s to the early 1900s, post-Civil War New York City was becoming a wonder city of commerce and invention, art and architecture, and emerging global prominence. It was also a city of crime, corruption, poverty, slums, and tenements teeming with newcomers and standing in sharp contrast to the city mansions and the extravagant lifestyle of the rising American aristocracy. The New York City of those days is not just the venue of the intriguing true stories told in this book—it is also a supporting actor in them. The city and its innocent inhabitants needed to be protected. Order had to be maintained. Then, as now, malefactors had to be brought to justice. But not every victim was quite so innocent, and not every defendant was as guilty as he (or she) looked.
The Gaslight Era has been called the Second Golden Age of the New York Bar. Gaslight Lawyers sheds new light on a gallery of notables of the day, including the exploits of famous William “Big Bill” Howe and his archrival, prosecutor Francis Wellman (author of The Art of Cross-Examination), along with trial tactics and ethics of the day—skullduggery on both sides. It tells of the passing of the old guard, exemplified by Howe, and the rise of a new generation of criminal defense lawyers and the aggressive and sometimes ruthless prosecutors William Travers Jerome, William Rand, and James W. Osborne. The book also chronicles judges and politicians, police bungling and corruption, and famous physicians and “alienists,” like Dr. Allan McLane Hamilton, the grandson of Alexander Hamilton. Other characters illuminate the social conditions in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century New York City.
Drawing from the experience of a legal scholar and from a wealth of meticulous research gleaned from trial transcripts, other court records, contemporary newspaper stories, and memoirs, Richard H. Underwood also reconstructs and recounts the absorbing legal drama of a number of spectacular criminal cases. Gaslight Lawyers is a compelling, witty, and insightful account of an important era in American legal history, individual human experiences and tragedies, and society at large. It reminds us to acknowledge and deal with biases that continue to manifest themselves in our criminal justice systems today and to be mindful that we “are the guardians of the law.”
ABOUT RICHARD H. UNDERWOOD
RICHARD H. UNDERWOOD is the Edward T. Breathitt Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky College of Law. He is the award-winning author of CrimeSong: True Crime Stories from Southern Murder Ballads (2016) and the co-author of several books on evidence, trial technique, and legal ethics. Richard has published numerous articles on the law, legal history, perjury, famous trials, and true crime, and he has lectured or presented papers on diverse subjects at conferences across the United States and in London and Amsterdam.