"dave in milwaukee"
I eagerly awaited this book because of my fascination with the subject matter. I ended up being disappointed. First, on a strictly cosmetic level, the book gives an overall impression of being a low-budget, amateurish production. The runny-appearing print, poor layout (see page 220, for example), and the cheap, poor-quality reproduction of photographs, all suggest that the book was printed on an old photocopier that was running low on toner.
Next, on a more substantive level, it seems that most of the book does little more than restate what prior authors had to say on the subject. Those books include Warden Lewis Lawes' books, Scott Christensen's "Condemned," Ted Conover's "Guarding Newjack," and Ralph Blumenthal's "Miracle at Sing Sing." Particularly in regard to the "Missing Archives" (covered in Chapter 11), it would have been interesting to read some information that added to Scott Christensen's painstaking and excellent research. Unfortunately, all the book does is quote the exact same information, and copy (quite poorly) some of the same photos already contained in Mr. Christensen's original (and far superior) book. It adds nothing new to the body of existing material on this fascinating subject.
Another level on which the book was disappointing was in its numerous errors, some minor and some substantial. These are indicative of sloppy fact-checking and proofreading. Some of the book's more substantial errors include the mention, at page 153, of executioner Robert Elliott's electrocution of outlaws Irene Schroeder and Glenn Dague in 1931. However, the book fails to mention that those executions ocurred at Rockview Penitentiary in Pennsylvania, not at Sing Sing (Elliott served as the executioner for several states, including Pennsylvania). The omission of this fact, together with the context of the paragraph, imply that the execution took place at Sing Sing, which is incorrect. Further evidence of this factual error is the mention of Schroeder and Dague at the top of page 154, again in a context that suggests the author was not aware that their execution took place in Pennsylvania rather than at Sing Sing.
Other factully incorrect statements appear at page 158, with the mention that Murder Inc.'s "motto" was "We Only Kill Our Own." This was never the "motto" of any crime organization. The actual quote was "we only kill each other," a quip allegedly made by mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel to a "civilian" friend, construction contractor Del Webb. Additionally, hit men Martin "Buggsy" (he spelled it with two g's, not one) Goldstein and Harry "Pittsburgh Phil" Strauss were never "surely in the running" to be the "boss" of Murder, Inc. or any other crime organization. They were strictly low-level functionaries, albeit highly prolific ones.
Other factual errors include a statement, at page 219, that Eddie Lee Mays, the last man executed at Sing Sing, died on August 15, 1953. The correct date of his execution was August 15, 1963. And, at page 220, the book refers to Dow Hover as "Sing Sing's last executioner, from 1953 to 1962." But according to the 2005 Village Voice article that the book cites, Mr. Hover also served as executioner in 1963, handling the last two executions at Sing Sing. Another error is the statement, at page 185, that murderer-rapist Edward Eckwerth was executed was May 23, 1958. The actual date of his execution was a year later, on May 22, 1959.
This book could have been much better than it actually was, if some of these problems had been avoided.