The Thief-Taker Hangings: How Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Wild, and Jack Sheppard Captivated London and Created Scandal Journalism

Aaron Skirboll. Lyons, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7627-9148-4
Skirboll (The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven) masterfully weaves the captivating stories of three Englishmen and how one’s newspaper coverage of the other two “birthed a genre.” Most readers will recognize Daniel Defoe as the author of Robinson Crusoe, but he also started one of the first newspapers in England and was deemed the father of literary journalism. Skirboll details Defoe’s early life, including how he ended up in prison and how that influenced his writing of Moll Flanders and gave him credibility as an interviewer. As the targets of Defoe’s journalistic endeavors, the burglar Jack Sheppard caught the romantic attention of the public during a manhunt for him, while Jonathan Wild, the veritable inventor of organized crime, fell from having the underworld of London (and sometimes the establishment) in the palm of his hand to swinging from the gallows. In the course of his storytelling, Skirboll also covers the early history of publishing, runs through the grisly details of the English justice system of the early 18th century, and details how brutish life could be for the average person of the time. A rollicking romp through London’s underbelly, Skirboll’s rich, multilayered account reveals the birth of society’s fascination with criminals. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/14/2014
Release date: 09/01/2014
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4930-1423-1
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