Where Depravity Danced: “Satan’s Circus”

In his Satan’s Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption, and New York’s Trial of the Century, writer and historian Mike Dash brings to life the personalities of one of the city’s most debauched, vice-ridden areas during the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Extremely well-researched, Satan’s Circus gives the wide-angle lens of a square mile of Manhattan between 24th & 40th Streets, and 5th and 6th Avenues where total depravity reigned.  We get to see the election-rigging Tammany Hall machine, crooked cops in action, and New York’s first great gangster boss Jack Zelig.  This fascinating tale describes the only instance of a police officer, New York Police Department lieutenant Charles Becker, to be tried, convicted, and executed for murder in the first-degree in U.S. history.  New York City has seen its share of corruption and this engrossing historical account puts it on full display.

If you’re a sucker for historical true crime, especially against the backdrop of Gilded Age New York, this is your book.