Satan's Circus by Mike Dash

Satan's Circus

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 co...

Details Satan's Circus

TitleSatan's Circus
Release DateJun 12th, 2007
GenreHistory, Crime, True Crime, Nonfiction, Mystery, New York, Historical

Reviews Satan's Circus

  • Judy
    As I said earlier, there is just too much information in this book. Not that it isn't interesting, there's just too much of it. The title included something about the Trial of The Century but I read up to about page 127 and as far as I could tell, the trial of the century wasn't covered. (I'm assuming it wasn't the OJ Simpson trial) The book centers around a police officer named Charles Becker, but everyone from ward bosses, to police commissione...
  • BAM The Bibliomaniac
    True Crime Commemoration # 32Setting: 1890s and early 1900s New York City
  • Harold
    I'm impressed by Mike Dash. This is the second book I've read by him. Both were turn of the century (19th to 2oth) non-fiction set in NYC, Both dealt with figures I have heard of but for the most part glancing references in a narrative that took place a little later than these did. Thus I knew little of these issues and assumed they were in the dim past and not much was known. Boy! Was I wrong. Dash brought to life the personalities he wrote of. ...
  • Amber
    I really enjoyed this but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who is looking for a "Law and Order"-type narrative. The murder doesn't happen until almost half-way through the book (and the "order" is anything but). However, I think the back story is necessary to understand the crime and the subsequent trials. I wish I'd have read this before my trip to NYC, as the history of the city was the most interesting part of the book.
  • Colleen
    The only police officer to ever be executed for crimes committed as an officer--and still debated if Charley Becker was the one ultimately responsible for the death of Herman Rosenthal. I think the author presents enough evidence to suggest that no, but Becker was certainly taking advantage of the uniform, terrorizing prostitutes in particular, to the end where he was collecting 20 times his annual take home pay in protection money, and even if h...
  • Tony Heyl
    I got this for my eReader because the story of police corruption and the sentencing of a New York police officer to death row seemed interesting, but I had read some iffy reviews. Thankfully, it was really engrossing and interesting. Dash doesn't so much write a story with one plot point after another, but instead puts the pieces into place like dominoes and lets you watch it all unfold. Nobody is a saint and the devils in the story are more gray...
  • Jack
    This feels like the work of a good writer who was in too much of a hurry. The historical context he provides on city culture in general, and police culture specifically, in turn of the century New York is quite interesting and relevant to Dash's subject matter; the strongest part of the book is Dash's knack for conveying the integral role of corruption in every level of New York City's basic functioning. But these discussions do not feel fully in...
  • Deanne
    Interesting story in a time period where corruption within the NYPD was rampant. Becker the man at the centre of the story wasn't a straight cop, he's involved in making false arrests to make money and works his way up.The crime for which he is on trial for seems shaky at best and eventually seems to be a travesty of justice. Nobody in the whole mess seems to be honest except maybe Mrs Becker.However it's also a very long very dense book which ha...
  • Haydee
    It was soooo dense. Another reader put it down PERFECTLY: "if you put it down for two days, you'll come back wondering who so and so is." It was just over packed with details that seemed so irrelevant that it was hard to feel invested in the history being told. The growth of the different boroughs was really interesting to me, but other then heart wasn't into it.
  • Thomas Paul
    In February, 1894, Charley Becker put on the uniform of a New York City police officer. Twenty one years later, the state of New York executed him for murder. In 1894 the NYC police department was completely corrupt. The department was designed to make it impossible for a police officer to live on his salary, forcing him to accept bribes. Officers who gave trouble to their superiors were sent to outlying parts of the city where access to bribes f...
  • Kathleen
    Charles Becker was the first police officer in the United States arrested, convicted, and executed for murder. I find it interesting that the controversy surrounding his conviction is so enduring, particularly given the state of the modern police. Becker, convicted for enlisting a crew of gangsters to kill a man who'd accused him of graft, probably could have handled his problem more directly and with less consequences. The shaky evidence, unreli...
  • Stacy
    I'm a sucker for historical true crime, especially that of Gilded Age New York. That said, I enjoyed this book immensely. Despite the author giving away the ending on the first page of the introduction (really?!), I found myself thinking of alternate endings as I read. That's a testament to the writing skills. My only issue with the book was it could have used a Cast of Characters. With so many people named Lefty, Red Phil, Bridgey, Big Tim, Litt...
  • Kelsey Hanson
    This book had some focus issues for me. It has TONS of insight on the New York City area known as Satan's Circus and the atmosphere surrounding it. Bottom line, corruption was everywhere and extremely common-place. However, as interesting as all this is, it makes it difficult to keep track of the many details of the case.
  • Drew Zagorski
    Satan's Circus was a very colorful, interesting read. Mike Dash's style and prose were excellent and very much reminded me of David McCullough's style. It had that rhythm. More than that, this book was an interesting story, and one I'd not really ever heard about. Charles Becker, the main character, was the first American police officer sentenced to death and executed for his crime. The story was full of interesting personalities of the time, and...
  • Kevin A.
    Dash does an excellent job of unraveling the shooting death of gambler Herman Rosenthal on a street in midtown Manhattan in 1912. Charles Becker, who was convicted and ultimately executed for the crime, was a crooked NYC cop who had been reaping protection money from a number of illegal gambling establishments for years. Dash argues that Becker was certainly on the take, and was wrapped up with the gangsters who committed the crime, but had nothi...
  • Cindy
    For the most part, this book seemed about as exciting as jury duty, to me. I wouldn't have finished it had I not listened to it on audiobook. The narrator did have a great deep voice, which added to the fact that I mostly just decided to stick this through to the end for a sense of atmosphere while I did other things. I will say it did pick up a little toward the end, though, and I felt my first tinge of emotional attachment to any of the charact...
  • Jeff
    This is a fascinating tale describing the only instance of an NYPD officer being convicted and executed for murder in the first degree. Dash does a great job detailing the political and societal problems existing in NYC at the turn of the 20th century which led to such widespread corruption in the police department. While the focus is on Lt. Charlie Becker (convicted and sentenced to death for ordering the murder of a gambler who was going to tur...
  • Darel Krieger
    Being a retired LEO I was naturally drawn to reading this book. I read some of the reviews before hand and one person said that she was somewhat frustrated by the amount of information that the author bestows on the reader. After reading the book I am inclined to agree. Mr. Dash cannot be faulted for failure to research this book as the reader is buried under an extreme amount of information surrounding the who, what, where, why, when & how! I fo...
  • Peter Talbot
    Superb history: best treatment of the Croker/Murphy era in Tammany's New York bar none. The extensive footnotes are more fascinating than most other historical treatments of the gilded age and beyond. History of the most criminal trial of the 20th century. You'll learn a bunch, and be thrilled doing so.
  • DD
    Very dry historical read. If you like reading about different eras of city life, you might like this book. The murder doesn't happen until about page 180 or so - so you do get a lot of NYC background before that. Book is more about the times than about the individual characters.
  • Cristobal
    New York sure was a wild place.
  • Jess Honey
    DNF at 50%. Remarkably boring for being set in such a colourful time-period.
  • Kathi
    Interesting book - lots of names and although the actual names themselves were a lot of fun, it was hard to keep track of all the players.
  • Elliemae
    Reading the blurb I thought this would be an interesting read but it was a very slow book, wish I had not purchased it.
  • Eric
    The depths to which powerful law enforcement and political types will go to cover up their skullduggery makes for interesting readig.
  • Mary Beth
    Very well researched. A lot of details. Not a quick read but an easy read. A good book for anyone interested in any New York City history.
  • Bev
    Satan's Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption, and New York's Trial of the Century by Mike Dash does exactly what you'd expect that long title to do....try to cover way too much material in one book. Er, wait, no. That's not what I expected the book to do, actually--although that's what I got. When I picked it up and read the book flap, I expected the book to tell the story of Charley Becker, a NY cop at the turn of the century (turn of last ce...
  • J.
    Satan's Circus by Mike Dash is a little hard to get into. It is a complicated story and Mr. Dash uses the first hundred pages to introduce us to the characters who played a part in the trial of Officer Charles Becker of the NYPD, who in 1915 was executed for the murder of a low level gambler who was making his life difficult. Everything I have ever read on Becker pointed him to be guilty and to have received his just desserts. As Mike Dask's biog...
  • James Rada Jr.
    Satan’s Circus had a cover and title that caught my eye in Border’s. They made me think about The Devil in the White City, which is a favorite book of mine. The book is also set around the same time that The Devil in the White City is set.The book is specifically about the New York City Police Officer Charley Becker’s rise, fall and eventual execution. However, it also does a great job of drawing a picture of a corrupt city and corrupt poli...
  • Leah K
    Satan’s Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption, and New York’s Trial of the Century by Mike Dash 449 pagesThe subtitle of this book is pretty explanatory as to what this book is about – corruption and murder. More so, it is the story about a police officer in the early 1900s by the name of Charley Becker. He would become, to date, the only officer to ever be executed for his crimes. The topic sounds interesting and it had potential. Writin...