They called it Satan’s Circus—a square mile of Midtown Manhattan where vice ruled, sin flourished, and depravity danced in every doorway. At the turn of the twentieth century, it was a place where everyone from the chorus girls to the beat cops was on the take and where bad boys became wicked men; a place where an upstanding young policeman such as Charley Becker could become the crookedest cop who ever stood behind a shield.
Murder was so common in the vice district that few people were surprised when the loudmouthed owner of a shabby casino was gunned down on the steps of its best hotel. But when, two weeks later, an ambitious district attorney charged Becker with ordering the murder, even the denizens of Satan’s Circus were surprised. The handsome lieutenant was a decorated hero, the renowned leader of New York’s vice-busting Special Squad. Was he a bad cop leading a double life, or a pawn felled by the sinister rogues who ran Manhattan’s underworld?
With appearances by the legendary and the notorious—including Big Tim Sullivan, the election-rigging vice lord of Tammany Hall; future president Theodore Roosevelt; beloved gangster Jack Zelig; and the newly famous author Stephen Crane—Satan’s Circus brings to life an almost-forgotten Gotham. Chronicling Charley Becker’s rise and fall, the book tells of the raucous, gaudy, and utterly corrupt city that made him, and recounts not one but two sensational murder trials that landed him in the electric chair.
From the Hardcover edition.
About Mike Dash
Mike Dash is a historian with an M.A. from Cambridge University and a Ph.D. from the University of London. A former professional journalist whose work has appeared in numerous national newspapers and magazines, Dash is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including Satan’s Circus, Thug, Batavia’s Graveyard, and Tulipomania. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.
"Satan's Circus is the intriguing, tragic story of New York's most notorious- and most misunderstood- crime scandals. Mike Dash has provided a terrific, lively narrative of one of the city's most colorful eras."
-Kevin Baker, bestselling author of Strivers Row
“High-level corruption, betrayals, political shenanigans, a spectacular murder case, a gruesome execution, and a voyage through one of New York's most exotic demimonde cycles. These are just some of the ingredients Dash injects into an engrossing tale that still reverberates today.”
-Selwyn Raab, New York Times bestselling author of Five Families
"Combining history and entertainment, Satan’s Circus is a fascinating read. Mike Dash artfully describes a grimy Gotham from a century ago with its swarming bars, corrupt pols, and one-of-a-kind underworld forces that sent police lieutenant Charley Becker to the electric chair. Be forewarned, once you pick up Satan's Circus you won't be able to put it down."
—Thomas Kelly, author of Empire Rising and The Rackets
From the Hardcover edition.