1886 book of crime in New York City available as free ebook

DIzzIE reviews an 1886 book titled Danger! A True History of a Great City's Wiles and Temptations. The Veil Lifted, and Light Thrown on Crime and its causes and Criminals and Their Haunts. Facts and Disclosures which was made available on Project Gutenberg a couple of days ago.

[H]ere are a couple ways commentators have described it:

the two shysters coauthored a book entitled In Danger, or Life in New York: A True History of the Great City's Wiles and Temptations. They explained in the preface that it was published in the interest of justice and to protect the innocent from the guilty, but what they actually turned out was a primer on every type of crime -- blackmail, house burglary, card sharping, safecracking, shoplifting, jewel thievery and, of course, murder.

It became an immediate best-seller, with bookstore owners noticing a lot of traffic in their shops by persons who did not appear to be frequent book buyers. The book became required reading for every professional or would-be lawbreaker, from streetwalkers to killers. More and more when Howe and Hummel asked a new client, "Who sent you?" the stock reply was, "I read about you in the book."

(Frauds, Deceptions and Swindles, Carl Sifakis, 081604422 p. 89)

In 1888 [note that, as aforementioned, an edition of the same tome was actually first published two years prior], Howe and Hummel published In Danger; or Life in New York. A True History of a Great City's Wiles and Temptations, a purported exposé of the New York City underworld. Giving explicit and detailed information about how pickpockets, shoplifters, thieves, and even murderers conducted business [emphasis added], their "exposé" was essentially a how-to manual for would-be criminals. Their book attempted to drum up business by flaunting their success at thwarting the courts and returning their criminal clients to the streets, claims that many Americans believed.

(West from Appomattox, Heather Cox Richardson, 0300110524, p. 240)

Now, while it is certainly true that the tome covers shoplifting, blackmail, gambling, slumming, and much more, I would nonetheless stop short of calling it what it originally sounded like -- a 19th century Steal This Book or Fuck the System. Indeed, one has to wonder if the above authors even bothered reading the tome in question, as murder is only mentioned in passing on rare occasions throughout the book (unless, of course, the aforementioned authors happen to be 'pro life' crazies, as there is indeed a section on abortion). Instead, the book disproportionately deals with cases of upper class infidelity and other bourgeois tripe. Yet, while I was thus initially disappointed with the tome after the false hopes instilled by the afore-quoted descriptions, the book is nonetheless quite a valuable asset, and definitely worth a read (though like, say, the bulk of Marquis de Sade's work, it is overwhelmingly dry in parts, necessitating that one persevere to get to the juicy center).

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