Noted historical true-crime expert Schechter (The Devil’s Gentleman) traces the divergent paths of the Colt brothers in a saga that falls short of the author’s usual high standards. Samuel Colt, born to a prosperous Connecticut family in 1814, was fascinated by weaponry from an early age and was determined to make a mark in the field. His older brother, John, drifted, until finally he settled in Manhattan as an accountant. Sam, who allegedly whittled his prototype of a revolving firearm while at sea, received foreign patents though American success was slower. But his life was shattered when, on September 24, 1841, John was arrested for the murder of Samuel Adams, whose decomposing body was found stuffed into a box in the hold of a ship bound for New Orleans. In a high-profile trial—witnesses testified that the financially pressed John bludgeoned Adams over a debt—John was convicted and sentences to hang, but in 1842 he was found in his cell with a knife in his chest. Despite the lively material and fascinating characters, Schechter fails to adequately explore the tragic irony of the situation wherein one brother revolutionizes a handheld killing machine and the other becomes a killer. 7 b&w illus. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/2010 Release date: 09/01/2010 Genre: Nonfiction
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